(On TV, June 2018) There is, at first, not a lot to distinguish High Noon from countless other westerns—there’s the hero (getting married), there are villains waiting for their boss. A confrontation is coming to a small Western town, and that seems to be the extent of it. But High Noon does go farther than that—first, by taking place in near-real time, it does create more tension than a less time-compressed film, especially as our retiring hero fails to find allies in confronting the coming threat. It culminates in a classic shootout in which help comes from an unlikely place, and concludes with a highly skeptical look at some of the Western’s most cherished clichés. It helps that rock-solid Gary Cooper (looking a bit older than his prime) stars as a good man forced to take one last stand. Grace Kelly is merely fine as the newlywed bride, but Katy Jurado is more eye-catching as a source of wisdom. Keep your eyes open for smaller performances from Lloyd Bridges and Lee van Cleef. Director Fred Zinnemann keeps things stirring until the climactic shootout, and High Noon has survived admirably well even today.
(On Cable TV, March 2018) Holy dullness incarnate… Not all Best Picture Oscar winners are created equal, and if some are offensive and others have successfully baited the Academy for feel-good recognition, some are dull and few are duller than Fred Zinnemann’s A Man for All Seasons. An intensely specialized drama set in King Henry VIII’s time, this is nothing more than a theatre play filmed indifferently, and doomed to excruciating lengths if you’re not a fan of historical pieces made with as little flair as possible. The portrait of Sir Thomas More as a quasi-perfect person faced with a difficult choice, A Man for All Seasons is intense in costumes, religious quandaries, matter of states and despite everything it’s remarkably boring. I’m not a good public for period pieces to begin with (especially those who use old English), and this film left me colder than I would have thought possible. As with other underwhelming Oscar Winners (and there’s a long list of those), the best I can do is sigh, scratch A Man for All Seasons off the list and say that I don’t have to watch it again.