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Hour of the Gun

John Sturges

Hour of the Gun
There's not much to this 1967 Tombstone redux other than grim, manly posing, but damn if some of the posers don't strike some nice ones. In the aftermath of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Ike Clanton (Robert Ryan) plots revenge on Wyatt Earp (James Garner) and Doc Holliday (Jason Robards); when flimsy legal manoeuvring doesn't work, murder will, and so his men start picking off Wyatt's brothers like flies and tin cans. Earp is more than their match, and with cynical alcoholic Doc by his side he considers his options, which may involve bringing people to justice or may just be an excuse for bloody vengeance. The script is well-written but unoriginal — though the shadow of the '60s hangs over it like the Angel of Death, it resists full-on revisionism and is content just to ratchet up the severity of a standard Western death feud. Still, director John Sturges has been down this road before (having directed the prelude to this showdown in Gunfight at the O.K. Corral) and knows the genre iconography well enough to sell the deal and keep you watching. If there's something a little perfunctory about the tacked-on animosities, there's still the magnificent performances by Robards, who takes what could have been the standard "pitiful drunk" role and invests it with tragic grandeur, and Ryan, who gives his clenched fist all as the vengeful Clanton. Casual viewers won't get too much out of this, as it doesn't have much to recommend outside of a genre follow-up, but fans of the genre will probably enjoy the return to a favourite shoot-out, as well as the "blink and you'll miss it" appearance by a pre-stardom Jon Voight. (MGM)


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