I love Tombstone so, so much. It's a movie I watch annually, possibly even more often than that. I love the swift dialogue, the vast, dusty feel to it, every single performance. All three Earp brothers are perfectly cast: Kurt Russell is laconic and conflicted as Wyatt; Sam Elliott is wise and gentle as Virgil; Bill Paxton is wonderfully wide-eyed as Morgan. Michael Biehn is powerfully gripping as Johnny; Powers Boothe is charismatic as Curly Bill. And absolutely every moment of Val Kilmer's performance as Doc is marvelous. I love the taciturn yet unchanging friendship between Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, the desperate rage of Johnny Ringo. I love the complicated bond between the Earp brothers, and Wyatt's helpless guilt. I love the epic cinematography by William A. Fraker and the beautiful score by Bruce Broughton.
I once found an old Premiere magazine from '91 or '92 that was bemoaning Tombstone's inevitable failure after the announcement of Kevin Costner's Wyatt Earp biopic, to be released only six months after Tombstone. After all, Tombstone featured schlock star Kurt Russell as Earp, whereas Wyatt Earp was bringing out the big guns with Kevin Costnor, who was enjoying a do-no-wrong run at the time. Earp would be written and directed by the (pre-Dreamcatcher) respectable Lawrence Kasdan, while Tombstone would be directed by Cobra and Rambo: First Blood Part II director George P. Cosmatos and written by virtual unknown Kevin Jarre. Wyatt Earp's budget of $63 million would lap Tombstone's puny $25 million and then some.
Despite all these factors, Tombstone proved itself to be the far superior film. It more than doubled Wyatt Earp's domestic gross and received much more critical praise across the board. I think Wyatt Earp actually looks better - in fact, DP Owen Roizman would be nominated for a Best Cinematography Oscar - but the film is overlong and humorless. Lifeless, even.
Tombstone has life to spare. It's witty and riveting, boasting equally compelling narratives of romance and friendship and the inutterable need for vengeance. It also has some of my favorite lines in any film ever, including:
"Look, it's Johnny Ringo. Deadliest pistoleer since Wild Bill, they say. What do you think, darlin' - should I hate him?"
"Your friends might get me in a rush, but not before I make your head into a canoe, you understand me?"
"I have two guns, one for each of ya."
"You gonna do something, or just stand there and bleed?"
"Maybe poker's just not your game, Ike. I know! Let's have a spelling contest!"
"So run, you cur, RUN! Tell all the other curs the law's coming. You tell 'em I'M coming. And hell's coming with me, you hear? HELL'S COMING WITH ME!"
So! As you can imagine, I'm geeking out over the prospect of showing this movie at the Houston Alamo Drafthouse Mason Park this Sunday at 6:30 pm. I'm co-hosting with Alamo Programmer Robert Saucedo as part of our Badass Digest Presents: Badass 101 series. Here's more about the series, and about our special guests for Sunday's screening:
The world is getting soft. We are getting soft. As civilization slowly marches towards a future full of politically correct, health food conscious, light beer sipping emotional marshmallows that don't know how to take a punch, it is becoming evident that we, as a society, need to relearn how to be a badass. The Alamo Drafthouse is here to help with a new monthly series at Mason Park dedicated to teaching the art of badassery.
Every month, we’ll screen a film that has proven itself to be badass. Screened from a 35mm print, these movies are the cinematic equivalent of wearing sunglasses, a leather jacket and chewing on a toothpick.
In conjunction with each month's screening, we will host a special guest from the community as they teach the audience a badass technique. If humanity is to survive long enough into the future to enjoy flying cars and colonies on Mars, we are going to need to learn how to toughen up. Starting this May, class in in session — one movie at a time.
Kurt Russell. Val Kilmer. Sam Elliott. Bill Paxton. Powers Boothe. Michael Biehn. Charlton Heston. If this movie had anymore raw, uncut machismo, it would be 100 percent hairy knuckle. Wyatt Earp has just rolled into the town of Tombstone – hoping to get rich and live a quiet life after the long grueling years he spent cleaning up Dodge City. Unfortunately, a band of criminals called The Cowboys have other ideas in store and it all leads to a final shoot-out at the OK Corral. Before the film, we’ll have members of the Austin Facial Hair Club on hand to discuss the necessary steps towards growing truly badass facial hair. In addition to being members of the Austin Facial Hair Club, Allen Demling, Michael Schrader, and Miletus Callahan-Barile have all appeared on IFC's hit show "Whisker Wars."
Join me! Get your tickets here, and tell me your favorite Tombstone quote in the comments.