Jacques Tourneur’s first and best film in CinemaScope (1955) is also one of his strangest westerns, though the basic materialsfrom the Tex Ritter theme song to the Daniel B. Ullman script, in which Wyatt Earp (Joel McCrea) becomes the reluctant marshal of Wichitaare pretty standard, as is the secondary cast. What Tourneur brings to the story is both visual and metaphysical: distinctive compositions, sets, and interplay between background and foreground; shockingly abrupt and arbitrary violence from raucous cattlemen; an eerie sense of Earp as an angel of death who, like the villains he sets out to disarm, can’t act otherwise or escape his destiny; and an interesting commentary on capitalism whereby the hero upsets the town’s leaders by outlawing all firearms except his own, which is bad for business. With Vera Miles, Lloyd Bridges, Edgar Buchanan, Peter Graves, Walter Coy, Wallace Ford, Jack Elam, and other familiar faces. 81 min. (JR)

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