High Noon


Three desperadoes await their revenge-crazed leader, arriving at an isolated frontier town on the 12 o’clock train. Their target is the marshal, an honor-bound man of conscience who, despite this day being his wedding day, is committed to stand and fight rather than spend the rest of his life running. The impending gunfight will be four against one, so our hero seeks to form a posse, only to fail in every attempt as the fateful hour draws nearer.

The weight of the movie, like the weight of the responsibility, rests squarely on the shoulders of lawman Will Kane (Gary Cooper), whose increasingly furrowed brow displays each disappointment and betrayal like a dagger to the heart. Tension builds as we feel the gravity of his mounting problems and growing despair as he moves toward a violent, unforgettable climax. High Noon shocked audiences with its bleak but timeless themes, echoing Hollywood’s blacklist of the period. If fact, screen legend John Wayne’s disgust with the script ultimately led him to make a more traditional, “American” western, Rio Bravo, in direct response to this movie.

Kino Lorber Studio Classics has undertaken its own 4K/Dolby Vision master off a fresh scan of the 35mm black-and-white camera negative with stellar results. Fine details abound in the pillarboxed image: perspiration beaded faces, the weave and tight stripes of clothing, and seemingly every pebble on the dirt roads. Backgrounds, including delicate patterns in wallpaper, are rock-solid, though some shots are undeniably softer, likely dating back to the original photography. Contrast is reliably bold, with inky shadows organically resolved. Film grain is well preserved, although in some shots it combines with swirling dust to yield a touch of video noise, while camera pans over vertical lines (such as in a railing or fence) introduce modest flicker.

Mono audio is presented in split two-channel and serves the movie just fine with clear dialogue and minimal pops and hiss. Despite the soundtrack’s limited dynamic range, Dmitri Tiomkin’s musical score comes across as full and clear, effectively emphasizing the drama of key scenes.

The 4K disc carries a pair of new audio commentaries by historians Alan K. Rode and Julie Kirgo, also available on the Blu-ray Disc along with four featurettes and a text essay ported from Olive Films’ 2016 “Signature” Blu-ray. In a happy surprise, Leonard Maltin’s long-missing 1992 “making of” program returns here. The discs arrive in a slipcase with reversible cover art, and this might be the first time I’ve actually reversed it.

STUDIO: Kino Lorber Studio Classics, 1952
HDR FORMAT: Dolby Vision, HDR10
AUDIO FORMAT: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono
LENGTH: 85 mins., NR
DIRECTOR: Fred Zinnemann
STARRING: Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly, Katy Jurado, Lloyd Bridges, Lon Chaney Jr., Harry Morgan

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