High Noon (Olive Signature) Blu-ray Review: One is the Loneliest Number

Created during the period in United States history when the House Un-American Activities Committee was destroying lives under the pretense of protecting the country from Communism, Fred Zimmerman’s High Noon is a classic tale about an individual who must stand up alone for what he believes against seemingly insurmountable odds. Its theme is applicable to many situations where the just path can leave a person isolated because of dangerous consequences.

Three men ride into Hadleyville in the New Mexico Territory and head to the train station. Dimitri Tiomkin’s score and the reactions of those they pass by indicate trouble is brewing. Will Kane (Gary Cooper) and Amy Fowler (Grace Kelly) are getting married. He has decided to give up the job as town marshal to marry her and live under the rules of her Quaker religion. Frank Miller (Ian MacDonald), who Kane had arrested for murder and was set to hang, has been pardoned and is heading to town on the noon train to make good on his promise to kill Will.

Once Will learns the news, he and Amy leave town quickly, but he turns back to face Frank. As a Quaker, Amy rejects the notion of violence and vows to leave him if he goes through with it, but Will knows that’s running away is not an option. He looks for support from the townsfolk he served, worked with, and befriended. For a variety of reasons, from those who fear for their lives to those who don’t like that Hadleyville has been cleaned up, Will stands by himself in the main road when the clock strikes noon.

Will Kane is a great hero. With the odds set against him, he still intends do the right thing, but he’s not immune from being worried about his predicament or the outcome. It increasingly shows on Cooper’s face as noon approaches. Frank Miller, and what he represents, is such an imposing presence it’s surprising that he doesn’t appear until there’s about 12 minutes left. The outcome of the showdown is believable and satisfying.

Mastered from new 4K restoration, the video has been given a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encoded transfer displayed at an aspect ratio of 1.37:1. The blacks are inky and the whites are bright without blooming, leading to a solid spectrum of gray shades and strong contrast. There is great depth and fine texture detail. The image looks free from signs of age or defect.

The audio is available on DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. Dialogue is clear and the fidelity of Tiomkin’s score sounds accurate. The effects can distort when they get too loud, such as when Ben Miller (Sheb Wooley) rears up on his horse outside the Marshall’s office, but usually, it’s a well-balanced track with a good dynamic range. There’s a faint hiss during the opening scene, but otherwise, the track sounds clean.

All the bonus material is presented in HD. Academy Award-nominee Mark Goldblatt (Terminator 2: Judgment Day) discusses the film’s editing in “A Ticking Clock” (6 min). “A Stanley Kramer Production” (14 min) features filmmaker/film historian Michael Schlesinger offering great insight about the film, the career of the legendary producer, and the era of Hollywood in which he worked. Interviewed separately, historian Larry Ceplair and blacklisted screenwriter Walter Bernstein speak about the blacklist and how it affected some of those involved with the film in “Imitation of Life: The Blacklist History of High Noon” (9 min). Narrated by Anton Yelchin, the visual essay “Ulcers and Oscars: The Production History of High Noon” (12 min) tells of the making of the film. It includes rarely seen archival elements. “Uncitizened Kane”, the original essay by Sight & Sound editor Nick James, appears on the disc and in a booklet. There is also the theatrical trailer (2 min).

High Noon is an exciting adventure that entertains and inspires. While a Western from all appearances, at its core, it is a love story that shows compromise has to be made in a marriage. Both Will and Amy have their beliefs, but the true test of a relationship is how they handle it when those beliefs come into conflict. Olive Films has delivered another impressive high-definition presentation in their Olive Signature line.

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Gordon S. Miller

Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of this site.

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