The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral is familiar territory for westerns with at least four versions available. Frontier Marshall (1939) directed by Allan Dwan, was followed by John Ford’s iconic My Darling Clementine (1946) with Henry Fonda. Just over a decade later,
The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral directed by John Sturgesin 1957 surveyed the same terrain. In 1993, Tombstone looked at the same incident and was popular with audiences, but less so with critics. The series was capped with the elephantine Wyatt Earp in 1994 showed that bigger was not necessarily better with a sweeping adaptation.
So we have Alex Cox entering the field in 2017, with Tombstone Rashomon is a Western film directed by Alex Cox and starring Adam Newberry and Eric Schumacher. It tells the story of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona Territory from multiple differing perspectives in the style of Akira Kurosawa’s 1950 film Rashomon.
Taking on the legacy of Ford and Kurosawa in one film might appear to be a little daunting, but Cox is adventurous to say the least.
It begins with a crew traveling back in time to film the shootout. With a small budget, we do not see the technology involved in such time travel. The group arrives one day late and have to start interviews – hence the reference to Rashomon – the Kurosawa film, where characters are based upon Akutagawa Ryunosuke’s Rashomon story in which every element is mostly identical, from the dead samurai speaking through a Shinto psychic, the bandit in the forest, the monk, the rape of the wife and the dishonest retelling of the events in which everyone shows their ideal self by lying.
It is an intriguing idea, but the result on the screen is often incoherent, and the delivery of the various accounts is flat. Some of the acting looks barely rehearsed. It might work in a history special, but not in a film. Actors appear to be reading lines, and there is something odd about the neatness of their dress. Throw in an SUV for the Tombstone Marshall and you are watching a film that is bordering on crazy. It may have worked a a play, but what translates well to theatre, just does not work in this case.
Alex Cox looked like being a promising director in the 1980s, and to his credit, he is still out there swinging. Using crowdfunding, he is still making independent films. All credit to him, but the film leaves a lot to be desired.
TriCoast Entertainment has also released ‘Tombstone Rashomon’ onto DVD in-store and online.