Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Bill Hunt
  • Review Date: Feb 21, 2024
  • Format: 4K Ultra HD
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Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (4K UHD Review)


John Sturges

Release Date(s)

1957 (February 27, 2024)


Paramount Pictures (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
  • Film/Program Grade: B+
  • Video Grade: A
  • Audio Grade: B+
  • Extras Grade: C+

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (4K Ultra HD)

Buy it Here!


The year is 1881, the place Fort Griffin, Texas. U.S. Marshall Wyatt Earp (Burt Lancaster) arrives in town in pursuit of gunslingers Ike Clanton and Johnny Ringo, but comes up empty-handed. Yet before leaving, he helps a scoundrel named Doc Holiday (Kirk Douglas), and his girl Kate Fisher, escape a lynch mob that means to take justice into its own hands. After returning home to Dodge City, Earp is surprised when Holiday eventually appears there, having been run out of everywhere else. Down on his luck, Holiday intends to win back his good fortune at poker, but also means to repay his debt to Earp. This he eventually does when a band of cowboys led by Shanghai Pierce, who has a longstanding grudge against Earp, stirs up trouble in town.

After settling the score with Pierce, Earp decides to head west and settle down, knowing that he can’t buck the odds forever. This decision is made easier by the appearance of a strong-willed East Coast gambler and socialite named Laura Denbow (Rhonda Flemming), to whom Earp quickly takes a liking. But when his brother Virgil (John Hudson), a fellow lawman in the Arizona Territory, requests help cleaning up the town of Tombstone from a gang of local cattle rustlers led by Clanton, Earp heeds the call and is surprised when Holiday chooses to go with him. There, the fate of the Earps and the Clantons will collide in the most famous gunfight in Old West history.

A handful of genuinely great films have been made about the infamous events of October 26, 1881, including Tombstone (1993) and John Ford’s legendary My Darling Clementine (1946). Produced by Hal Wallis and efficiently directed by the prolific John Sturges (The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, Ice Station Zebra), Gunfight at the O.K. Corral is not quite one of these, but it remains a solid contender nonetheless, in large measure due to a pair of fine performances by Lancaster and Douglas, appearing here with charm and charisma a-plenty in only their second of several big-screen collaborations. The film also benefits from lavish production design, period-accurate props and costuming, efficient location production work (at Old Tucson Studios and the Paramount Ranch), and one of composer Dimitri Tiomkin’s finest scores, with its eponymous title song featuring Frankie Laine.

The film’s script, by novelist Leon Uris (Exodus), is a bit overlong and takes a number of liberties with the real historical events, but strong dialogue helps to make up for it. The ensemble cast is solid across the board, including Earl Holliman (Police Woman) as Earp’s deputy in Dodge City, Frank Faylen (It’s a Wonderful Life) as an ex-sheriff that betrays Earp, a young Dennis Hopper (Easy Rider) as Billy Clanton, Ted de Corsia (The Lady from Shanghai) as the flamboyant Pierce, John Ireland (My Darling Clementine) as Johnny Ringo, Jack Elam (Once Upon a Time in the West) as Tom McLaury, Lee Van Cleef (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) as Ed Bailey, and of course the film’s female leads, Jo Van Fleet (East of Eden) and Fleming (aka the “Queen of Technicolor,” A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court) as Holiday and Earp’s romantic interests. Star Trek fans may wish to keep their eyes peeled for an able turn by DeForrest Kelly as Wyatt’s brother Morgan in the third act. Kurt Russell’s father Bing also appears in a small part as a bartender early in the film.

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral was beautifully photographed by cinematographer Charlies Lang (A Farewell to Arms, The Magnificent Seven, How the West Was Won) on 35 mm photochemical film in 8-perf VistaVision format, using VistaVision cameras (provided by Mitchell) with spherical lenses. It was finished via Technicolor in the 1.85:1 flat aspect ratio for theatrical release. For its debut on Ultra HD, Kino Lorber Studio Classics availed themselves of a new 4K scan of the original camera negative by Paramount, complete with new digital remastering and a Dolby Vision color grade (HDR10 is also available). The result has been encoded onto a UHD100 disc to allow for maximum video data rates (which average around 38 Mbps). The 4K image here is absolutely gorgeous, rife with rich detail and texturing. The film’s interior lighting is bold and striking, with genuinely deep shadows and bright highlights that obviously benefit from Lang’s years of working in film noir. The palette is generally warm and earthy, but colors are accurate and well-saturated at all times, with occasional bold splashes in costuming (seen in women’s dresses in particular). Grain is light to light-medium, yet always organic, with crisp focus and only optical titles and transitions betraying the usual softness. I’ve seen this film many times over the years—and twice projected in 35 mil—yet never have I seen it looking this good before.

The film’s original English audio is provided here in both 5.1 and 2.0 mono mixes, each in lossless DTS-HD Master Audio format. The former really only broadens the soundstage a bit and uses the surrounds for music and light ambience, while the latter faithfully reproduces the film’s original theatrical ‘Western Electric’ mono experience. The dialogue is clear and clean throughout, with little in the way of analog or age-related artifacts, and the score remains rich and full sounding. Optional English SDH subs are available.

Kino Lorber Studio Classic’s new 4K release is a 2-disc set that includes the film on UHD and remastered Blu-ray. Both discs include:

  • Audio Commentary by C. Courtney Joyner and Henry Parke

To this, the Blu-ray adds the following:

  • Gunfight at the O.K. Corral trailer (SD – 2:13)
  • The Devil’s Discipline trailer (SD – 2:57)
  • Vera Cruz trailer (SD – 3:03)
  • The Train trailer (HD – 4:26)
  • Valdez Is Coming trailer (HD – 2:53)
  • The Indian Fighter trailer (SD – 2:26)
  • Paths of Glory trailer (HD – 3:03)
  • Lonely Are the Brave trailer (SD – :54)
  • Backlash trailer (SD – 2:10)
  • The Great Escape trailer (HD – 2:45
  • The Satan Bug trailer (HD – 2:13)
  • Joe Kidd trailer (HD – 2:23)

Joyner (director of Trancers III and Lurking Fear, and the author of Shotgun and The Westerners: Interviews with Actors, Directors, and Writers) and Parke (a film historian and a contributing editor for True West magazine) deliver a lively audio commentary that’s packed with trivia, production anecdotes, and context. The pair definitely knows both this material and the genre at large, making their conversation an entertaining listen. Unfortunately, there’s little else here save for a dozen trailers for other action and western films available on disc from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, some of which also star Douglas and/or Lancaster. But hey, the slipcover and cover art are lovely.

While its story meanders a bit from time to time, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral remains an entertaining western with a bit of fine character drama thrown in and some good guns-blazing action along the way. Interestingly, Sturges would revisit its subject matter a decade later with Hour of the Gun (1967), a film that’s perhaps too faithful to historical events but that features one of actor James Garner’s better performances. (“I don’t care about the rules anymore. I’m not that much of a hypocrite.”) In any case, Kino Lorber Studio Classics’ new 4K release offers Gunfight with a splendid transfer and remaster that should thrill longtime fans. Light though its extras might be, if you love the film, this Ultra HD is a must-have title.

- Bill Hunt

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