Before the duelling biopics of "Tombstone" and "Wyatt Earp" in the
1990's, this 1971 effort had already decided to set the record
straight about John "Doc" Holliday, Earp's best friend and
participant in the gunfight at the OK Corral.
Just over an hour and a half, this film skips a lot of the epic
western cliches and goes right into its meaty story. Doc Holliday
buys prostitute Katie Elder (Faye Dunaway) from local bad boy Ike
Clanton, and takes her to Tombstone, Arizona. He meets up with
his best friend Wyatt Earp, played by Harris Yulin. Earp has
political aspirations in the territory, and wants to control the law
while Holliday would control the gambling. Elder and Holliday
break up briefly, but then shack up on the edge of town, much to
the chagrin of Earp's upstanding wife.
A young Clanton hand, known as the Kid, decides to be just like
Holliday, gun fighting and all. Soon, a stage is held up and the
Clantons are accused. Earp makes a deal with Clanton to
exchange the reward money for the Kid, but Holliday bails him out
instead. Earp and Holliday begin drifting apart, both over Elder and
law enforcement, but become friends again in time for the
climactic shootout in the infamous corral, resulting in the deaths of
some major characters.
A few scenes are played a little too quietly, and move a little too
slowly. The real success here is with the lead actors,
professionals all. Stacy Keach is excellent as a Doc Holliday we
have never seen before. His physical moves are smooth and
suave, like a professional gambler should be, and Keach takes us
along on an acting job that looks effortless on his part.
Faye Dunaway is Katie Elder, the lifelong prostitute who finds it
hard to change herself just to please everyone else's idea of what
a couple should be. Dunaway is unglamorous, and never trips into
the "hooker with a heart of gold" stereotype. Harris Yulin, who is
better known as a character actor today, is great as Wyatt Earp. He
is mean, delivering threatening lines with menace, and also not a
clearcut hero. His speech to the crowd after the gunfight, as he
stands near his brother's body and renews his promise to clean
up Tombstone, is great.
Aside from a couple of slow spots and spotty editing, "Doc" is a
terrific and underrated western that deserves a cult audience. I
highly recommend it.
This is rated (PG) for physical violence, gun violence, mild gore,
some profanity, and sexual references.
One night of 1881, Doc Holliday, a famous poker gambler, enters the 'No Name Saloon'. There, he challenges a man to poker, betting his horse against his opponent's wife. Doc wins and from now on, Katie Fisher, also known as Katie Elder, will follow him wherever he goes. Their next destination is Tombstone, where the law is represented by Sheriff Wyatt Earp. When they arrive, the election campaign is in full swing. Earp runs for candidate but the Clantons, a family gang of outlaw cowboys, are not among his keenest supporters. Conflict erupts following the failure of some shadowy bargaining and Doc decides to join Wyatt and his brothers. The four of them gather at the O.K. Corral where the seven Clanton brothers are waiting for them.
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