All for Nothing

One piece of paper is nailed to Marshall Will Kane’s jailhouse wall. Bold letters proclaim, “War is Declared,” and the subhead reads, “President asks for 75,000 volunteers.” That article was written in a different time and era than High Noon, a movie that spends much of its running time with Kane (Gary Cooper) trying to find even a single person to help defeat a small gang.

“There’s got to be a better way for people to live,” says newlywed Amy Kane (Grace Kelly), sickened by late western society’s continual churn of violence and it’s a line in any context, any era, any time, that still holds power. The townspeople feel similarly.

This is a genre typically rushing toward conflict and action; not High Noon

John Wayne hated this film. That’s not surprising. It’s an honest western that shows fear is real, men under duress emotionally breakdown, and violence halts cultural progress. Wayne saw communism in this script and co-writer Carl Foreman was eventually blacklisted. Yet, it’s an absurd notion that somehow individualism can (or will) root out all evil, as if a community divided by fear is some form of ideal anywhere else but the movie screen.

High Noon moves urgently, close to real time, with but an hour left until a noon train brings with it a notorious killer. It’s a hot, sweaty film, sun-drenched as it is dusty from the dirt roads. Cooper’s unexpected casting turned into a brilliant touch, despite the age difference between himself and co-star Kelly (if not out of line with the historical era). What results is Cooper looks weathered from the outset, and his growing hopelessness shows on his face. High Noon is the type of movie where people have an entire conversations with their eyes, their honest feelings visible regardless of their words.

This is a genre typically rushing toward conflict and action; not High Noon, where a single shootout at the finale will suffice. Tension is driven solely by the urgency and desperation that Kane projects as his options evaporate. In the final frames, Kane drops his badge. He’s done. People wouldn’t even help protect their own lives or property. Society is changing. He’s no longer needed, or rather, the entire function of law enforcement changed so drastically, his style no longer applies.


A fresh 4K master greets viewers of High Noon, and generally, it’s fine work. Clearly, a crisp grain structure hovers over the images appropriately without compression issues. In close, the facial texture defies High Noon’s age. In the mid-range though, it’s not as precise, even slightly murky with a barely perceptible digital tinge that suggests some overly aggressive clean-up. The benefit? Damage is reduced to zero.

Varied and balanced well, mid-tones in the gray scale tend to clump up. Again, this is primarily in medium/long shots where detail already tends to waver. This isn’t ruinous and hardly a mess. In fact, High Noon overall looks absolutely magnificent outside of this hiccup, likely visible only to those sitting close or on larger screens.

For the vast majority, this is a wonderful presentation with all the right visual attributes for the format. High Noon unarguably never sported this much definition on Blu-ray, and enhancements to black levels increase image depth. The Dolby Vision pass doesn’t add a spark to the contrast, creating an image that’s bright but respectful.


Opening with a landmark song sung by Tex Ritter, the quality is marvelously analog. The smooth voice, the reverb, and pure (if thin) dynamics sound utterly natural in their vintage ways. DTS-HD preserves this piece perfectly. The rest of the score is clearly aged, muffled at the top-end without any real support until the clock strikes noon with a tension-rising, drumbeat that produces bass aplenty for the era. Luckily, the dialog doesn’t suffer, clear and defined.


Doubling up on commentaries, the first is from author Alan K. Rode. The second comes from writer Julie Kirgo. On the included Blu-ray, an older 22-minute making-of joins some basic featurettes, a text essay, and a trailer.

High Noon
  • Video
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  • Extras


Doubt, stress, tension, and cowardice define High Noon and its elegant thriller structure.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 38 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD:

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