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“Tombstone” {Blu-ray}
Wayne Klein
Studio: Buena Vista Home Video
Release Date:
Special Features:

Featurettes, storyboard sequence


Wyatt Earp became a legend before the OK Corral showdown but that cemented his reputation as a lawman. “Tombstone” was one of two Earp projects released in the 90’s. Originally set to star Kevin Costner the actor pulled out Kevin Jarre’s project electing to work with Lawrence Kasdan again (the duo had worked on “Silverado” and “The Big Chill”)on his film “Wyatt Earp”. Kurt Russell became the second star interested in the project and Jarre’s original brilliant script convinced him to commit to the project even as Costner’s team tried to block “Tombstone” from finding an avenue for release. ***

During shooting Jarre (who was originally to direct his own script)was fired from the project by the producers leaving a void in a film that was already shooting and had a deadline to make it into theaters because of the rival project. George Cosmatos (“Cobra”)volunteered to step in but what wasn’t known at the time was that he was the director in name only with Kurt Russell being the actual director of the project with Cosmatos working as his assistant calling action and supervising the camera set ups to predetermined shot lists put together by Russell. This little known fact (which came to light in a 2006 article) was recently uncovered again by The Digital Bits Editor Bill Hunt for his review of this title (Hunt is a huge fan of this film as am I). Since this is the only project that we know of that Russell directed couple with the fact that there is a Director’s Cut that was put together by Cosmatos before he died 4 years ago, makes “Tombstone” a unique film—it exists in TWO versions on home video neither one of which was truly supervised by the actual director of the film. ***

“Tombstone” arrives on Blu-ray in a curious form. We don’t get the extended (and superior) “Director’s Cut” but the original (and still very good) theatrical version of the film BUT we get the film with many of the extras that were put together for the “Director’s Cut”. It’s curious that Disney elected to reissue only the “Theatrical Cut” (much like New Line’s curious decision to only issue “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy in its theatrical versions not the “Extended Edition” that appealed to hardcore fans of the film)given the cult following of the film AND how the “Director’s Cut” is regarded as the superior version of the film by most fans. ---

Image & Sound:

Although a decent looking transfer this version is fairly dark. I haven’t had time to compare this to the DVD versions but I don’t recall this being quite that dark on home video. I don’t recall how this appeared theatrically so can’t say if this is an accurate representation of the film. Detail often gets lost in this transfer as a result. Skin tones are pretty decent. In fact the film has all the characteristics of an older HD transfer where edge enhancement and DNR were used more prominently. ***

Audio survives this shoot out with nice clarity and a lovely sounding lossless 5.1 mix that is always quite active. The music score really benefits from the presentation. ---

Special Features:

This is where things turn bizarre. While we get the theatrical cut of the film we get the some of the extras ported over from the “Director’s Cut” except for the commentary track. That’s good news for fans who never upgraded to the “Director’s Cut”. ***

“The Making of Tombstone” runs just under 30 minutes and because it’s an older extra avoids the question of who truly directed the film. “Making of” is broken into three sections—“An Ensemble Cast”, “Making of An Authentic Western” and “The Gunfight at the OK Corral”. ***

The original extras were 4x3 If I recall correctly but they’ve been stretched to fill out the 16x9 frame which is like the opposite an old fashioned anamorphic widescreen film on TV without the anamorphic lenses used to reproduce the image—everybody looks like they went were attacked by rolling pins. ***

The original TV spots are presented correctly. We also get the storyboard sequence for the “OK Corral Shootout” ---

Final Words:

I’m a bit perplexed by the transfer here; it’s like the person that was running the movie never got around to adjusting the contrast for the film. It’s clear that whoever was involved in the transfer wasn’t on the original shoot because I doubt that THIS is what they wanted the film to look like. Hopefully Kurt Russell will supervise a new transfer for the film to Blu-ray (credited director George Cosmatos passed away about two years ago)because “Tombstone” deserves much better than this so-so transfer. ***

In many respects the “Director’s Cut” of this film is better than Lawrence Kasdan’s “Wyatt Earp” as it focuses on the OK Corral conflict and how it shaped the lives of those involved. The drawback here is the transfer—I’m a bit surprised because Buena Vista has done so much better with most of their other Blu-ray transfers.


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