Combining colorized footage from the television series The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp (1955) with new scenes shot in Tombstone, Arizona, this film shows the return of the legendary former Marshal Wyatt Earp to his old stomping grounds. He visits old friends, teaches bad guys some manners and reveals secrets about his early life. Written by
Why did they plaster Hugh O'Brian with pancake make-up to depict the elderly Wyatt Earp? Was Earp a mutant whose face only got wider with age instead of wrinkling? Or was the idea that the photo quality of the new footage shouldn't differentiate it too harshly from the old colorized footage? Anyway, even painted an inch thick, O'Brian didn't need his standing bolstered by the voice of Johnny Cash on the theme song and narration. On the contrary, I think the movie was weakened by its clutch at Cash's coattails. The original TV series used a choir as musical backing, and that was the show's uniqueness. Sometimes the best form of emphasis is not the predictable form but a contrast instead.
I don't remember the original TV series very well, but maybe given the advantage of many more hours of storytelling, it managed better with the large configuration of individuals and factions that comes with the Wyatt Earp story. In this movie version, they required close attention and the viewer didn't get much insight in return for that attention.
Nonetheless, the emergence of this material from the vaults has got to be cause for celebration. This was the Wyatt Earp of a whole generation, and deserves to be remembered together with the older and newer ones.
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