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Do not forsake “High Noon” 4K remaster!

Updated: May 8


(1) Gary Cooper won the Academy Award for Best Actor as Marshal Will Kane. (2) Outlaws James Pierce, Jack Colby and Ben Miller wait for the noon train and passenger Frank Miller.

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4K Ultra HD & Blu-ray; 1952, PG for some Western violence and smoking


Best extra: “Imitation of Life – The Hollywood Blacklist and High Noon” featurette

ITS NEARLY high noon and Marshal Will Kane is alone.

Amy (Grace Kelly), his bride of less than 90 minutes, has abandoned him; so has the town he’s served for years. Gary Cooper (“Sergeant York,” “The Pride of the Yankees”) played Kane with profound conviction as he walks the dusty streets of Hadleyville, N.M., just before an appointed gunfight with killer Frank Miller (Ian MacDonald) and his three gunslinging pals.

Five years earlier, Kane sent Miller to prison for murder. The outlaw was supposed to hang, and the town folk are shocked when a telegram arrives Sunday morning at 10:40 a.m. announcing Miller is a free man and will be arriving on the noon train.


Kane, who had just turned in his tin star and six-shooter to start a new life with his young Quaker wife, Amy Fowler Kane (Grace Kelly), feels obligated to confront the situation. Wedding guests try to convince the newlyweds to leave before it’s too late, but halfway out of town, Kane turns the horse buggy around.


“It’s no good,” Kane says. “I’ve got to go back, Amy. They’re makin’ me run. I’ve never run from anybody before.” Amy, who witnessed the death of her brother and father, wants nothing to do with his heroics. “I’m not trying to be a hero,” he says. “If you think I like this, you’re crazy.”

(1) High Noon was filmed in the summer and fall of 1951 in several locations in California. The production was under the direction of producer Stanley Kramer, screenwriter Carl Foreman, and director Fred Zinnemann. (2) Miller, Colby, and Pierce ride into the town of Hadleyville. (3) Marshal Will Kane (Gary Cooper) marries Quaker Amy Fowler (Grace Kelly). (4&5) Kane hands over his tin star before he and Amy start a new life. Left, Co-stars Lon Chaney Jr., Thomas Mitchell and Frank Morgan.


Kane plans to deputize a posse but is only met with unresponsive cowards. Even the judge who sentenced Miller folds up his American flag and packs up his scales of justice. The judge reminds Kane what Miller said: “You’ll never hang me. I’ll come back. I’ll kill you, Will Kane. I swear it. I’ll kill you.”


A simple Western filmed in stark, gritty black and white, “High Noon” is regarded as one of cinema’s finest. It is more complex and packs a bigger punch than most imagine. Named twice as one of the American Film Institute’s 100 Greatest Films of All Time, its biggest fans have included Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush. No movie has been screened more at the White House.

It received seven Oscar nominations, but, in one of the biggest upsets in Academy Awards history, lost Best Picture to Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Greatest Show on Earth.” Cooper won his second Best Actor statue, which gave the Montana native a real shot in the arm after back-to-back flops. He suffered stomach ulcers during the production, adding to his onscreen anguish.

At 85 minutes, “High Noon” is masterfully paced: It was one of the first dramas filmed in real-time. Director Fred Zinnemann (“From Here to Eternity,” “The Day of the Jackal”) used three visual icons – a ticking clock, empty railroad tracks, and Kane’s constant movement – to amplify suspense. Editors Elmo Williams and Harry W. Gerstad also won Oscars.

But when it bombed at its sneak preview, producer Stanley Kramer had composer Dimitri Tiomkin and lyricist Ned Washington write a song, with longtime cowboy/actor Tex Ritter providing the vocals. “Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin’” won the Oscar for Best Original Song. Its heartbeat tempo mirrored the film’s real-time tension.

An excellent supporting cast includes Lloyd Bridges as the vengeful deputy, Mexican actress Katy Jurado as Kane’s ex-lover Helen Ramírez, Lon Chaney Jr. as the retired marshal and, making his film debut, is Lee Van Cleef in a non-speaking role as gunslinger Jack Colby. Cast as a ‘heavy’ in so many Westerns, Van Cleef reportedly said, “I was grateful for having beady eyes and sharp cheekbones,” in an interview before his death.

(1) Businesswoman Helen Ramírez (Katy Jurado) and lover Deputy Marshal Harvey Pell (Lloyd Bridges). Helen was once Frank Millers girlfriend and Kanes lover. (2-4) Will and Amy head out of town to start a new life. But, Will turns the wagon around and heads back to Hadleyville to face Frank Miller. I expect hell come looking for me, he tells Amy. (5) The men in the barbershop notice the newlyweds racing back into town.

(1&2) Amy threatens to leave on the noon train whether or not he accompanies her. (3&4) Judge Percy Mettrick (Otto Kruger), who had sentenced Miller to be hanged, packs his American flag and belongings and flees before the noon train rolls into town.


The enclosed 4K and Blu-ray includes two new commentaries with film historian Julie Kirgo and the best with film historian Alan K. Rode. Rode gives a complete recount of the production recalling that Cooper was 50 years old when production began on September 5, 1951. “He looked older since his career and health were flagging,” he says. Cooper’s contract was below his normal $250,000 per picture deal, signing somewhere between $60,000 - $100,000, but got a percentage of the profits – which became the biggest part of the paycheck as “High Noon” was the third biggest box office movie of the year.


The 28-day production was based on Collier's magazine short story “The Tin Star,” and filmed in and around Columbia and Jamestown, California, former gold rush towns on the western slopes of Sierra Nevada. The Hadleyville sequences were filmed at the Melody Movie Ranch north of Hollywood.


The ailing Cooper threw his back out while lifting Grace Kelly onto a piece of furniture during the wedding sequence. Kelly was 28 years younger than her co-star, but an experienced stage actress, with only one small role in her filmography. She was only paid $750 a week.


Interesting tidbits: Bruce Church, a wealthy Salina, Calif. lettuce grower (founder of Fresh Express Inc.), and a huge Gary Cooper fan, contributed $200,000 for the $790,000 production and demanded the actor play Marshal Kane. Kramer had debated hiring a number of younger actors, such as Marlon Brando, Kirk Douglas, William Holden, and Gregory Peck.


Character actor Robert J. Wilke, who plays gunslinger Jim Pierce, was a former lifeguard turn stuntman, “was the epitome [of a] western villain.” Around Hollywood, he was known as a ‘scratch golfer.’ Wilke would bet on his matches and won more money on the links than as an actor.


The Blu-ray carries over five featurettes: “A Ticking Clock,” “A Stanley Kramer Production,” “Imitation of Life: The Blacklist History of ‘High Noon,’” “Oscars and Ulcers: The Production History” and “Uncitizened Kane,” an essay from Sight & Sound editor Nick James. There’s a lot of information, some repetitive, on the four previous DVDs and Blu-ray. The most interesting is about the fractured relationship between Kramer and longtime friend and screenwriting partner Carl Foreman (“The Champion,” “The Men”).


During the filming of “High Noon,” Foreman was called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee. When he refused to name names, he was blacklisted and moved to England. Foreman never told Kramer about his short-term membership in the Communist Party during the Depression. They never spoke again, and Kramer removed Foreman’s name as co-producer.


Also ported over is the 1992 22-minute “Making of” featurette hosted by Leonard Maltin during his “Entertainment Tonight” days. He called “High Noon” a “morality play that just happens to be a Western.”  


It features interviews with Kramer, Zinnemann, and Bridges, who was awestruck working with Cooper. “I loved the man before I saw him, and I think I loved him even more after talking with Coop. He was so down-to-earth and simple, no errors of any kind. He was what you saw up on that screen.”

(1-4) Will first seeks volunteers at the saloon and then interrupts the church service to deputize as many men possible to take on Miller and his gang.


Using the Paramount 4K master struck from the original camera negative and best-surviving elements (1.37:1 aspect ratio) originally provided for the 2016 Olive Signature Films’ Blu-ray, Kino Lorber provides a completely new encoding on the 1080p disc with a higher bitrate. The film grain is obviously more structured.


On the 100GB 4K disc, the new HDR10 and Dolby Vision grading provides a more balanced and uniform grayscale and higher clarity. The mid-tones benefited the most, while the highlights are more controlled, extracting detail and texture from Amy’s modest, light-colored wedding dress. The overall toning is slightly darker compared to the new Blu-ray and the Olive Films disc. The added 4K resolution from cinematographer Floyd Crosby’s (father of David Crosby, leader of the 1960s band The Byrds, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young) imagery – especially the wide shots when Marshal Kane enters the church looking for volunteers. Everyone turns around when he opens the doors and you can see their expressions more easily, especially the minister and distant choir members. 


The film grain is more concise, while the Blu-ray has a coarser appearance. HDR10 peak brightness hits a modest 286 nits and averages at a super low 52 nits, while the video bitrates average in the low 70 Megabits per second range.   


The original 2.0 Mono DTS-HD soundtrack has been restored and it is presented front and center. The score from composer Dimitri Tiomkin (“The Guns of Navarone”) with its main song comes through in grand style.  


In 2010, the writers of Wild West Magazine selected “High Noon” as the top film in their 100 Greatest Westerns list. No. 2 was the 1943 classic “The Ox-Bow Incident” and No. 3 was John Ford’s “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” (1962). The closer you examine this restoration, the more delightful it is.


— Bill Kelley III, High-def Watch producer

High Noon won the Academy Award for Best Film Editing for Elmo Williams and Harry W. Gerstad.

Gunfight in Hadleyville

(1) The streets are empty as Marshal Will Kane prepares to go it alone. (2-7) The gun battle sequence was filmed at the Melody Movie Ranch north of Hollywood.


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