I am a little embarrassed to own a VHS tape of Tombstone -- not because it's a videotape but because it's a terrible movie overall. The 1993 Western is too long, the pacing is dreadful, and I feel sorry for many of the actors involved. It's considered far inferior to My Darling Clementine, the John Ford-directed drama about that same legendary gunfight at the OK Corral.  And yet I can't get rid of the videotape, and every so often I pop it into the dusty VCR to enjoy the true guilty pleasure that is Tombstone.

You have to watch Tombstone the right way in order to truly appreciate it: with the remote control in your hand at all times. You'll want to fast-forward past long scenes featuring lugubrious Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp and an appalling performance from Dana Delany. But as soon as you catch a glimpse of Val Kilmer (as Doc Holliday) or Michael Biehn (as Johnny Ringo), play the movie at its natural speed, sit back, and enjoy the fun. When you slow down, you may catch glimpses of a surprisingly well-known supporting cast, generally wasted in this clunker: Sam Elliott as the oldest Earp brother, Billy Bob Thornton as a faro dealer, Thomas Haden Church and John Corbett as members of the Clanton gang, Billy Zane in an atypical role as a traveling actor ... even Charlton Heston turns up briefly.

But the movie truly springs to life around Kilmer, and to a lesser extent, Biehn. It's as though the writer (Kevin Jarre) slept through the script and awoke only long enough to devote the best lines, the only wit in the movie, to Doc Holliday. Or perhaps it's Kilmer's delightfully charming delivery of the lines that makes them so irresistible. Who would have thought that I would swoon over a guy saying, "I'm your huckleberry." (I also have been known to swoon over "Give me some sugar, baby," however.) Looking at the quotes on paper, they appear unmemorable, so it must have a lot to do with Kilmer. Tombstone is available on DVD, and it might be worthwhile to rent it sometime and check out those lovely performances from Kilmer and Biehn. Just make sure your remote is nearby.
categories Features, Cinematical