In his latest film, Alex Cox (Repo Man, Sid and Nancy) both directed and wrote this peculiar but intriguing take on the events that took place at the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Told in the multiple-perspective style of the 1950s Japanese classic film Rashomon by Akira Kurosawa Tombstone Rashomon is a Western story with a bit of a science-fiction twist. Through TriCoast Entertainment, Nerds and Beyond was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to screen this film for review.
Alex Cox started this project on the crowdfunding website Indiegogo, where fans could contribute. For those who participated, some of the available perks included T-shirts, DVDs, Blu-ray, signed scripts, signed posters, and more. There he mentions that he is “going to attempt the most comprehensive and unusual gunfight picture ever made,” and after watching it, I can honestly say that he succeeded. It was very unusual but still kept with the historical event that Alex Cox summed up fittingly.
“Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan Earp each had his story, and Doc Holliday his; Sheriff Johnny Behan was present at the shootout, having tried to prevent it; Ike Clanton and Billy “the Kid” Claiborne survived the gun battle and told their tale; Kate Fisher, Holliday’s partner, was lodging in the adjacent building and said she witnessed the shootings. They are our cast of characters—the town of Tombstone is a character as well.”
In Tombstone Rashomon, time-traveling filmmakers who wanted to travel back to film the events of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral instead show up one day after the famous gunfight on October 27, 1881. They set up and interview six conflicting central historical figures of the survivors and witnesses to figure out what happened on the day in question. The filmmakers interview Wyatt Earp (Adam Newberry), Doc Holliday (Eric Schumacher), Kate (Christine Doidge), Ike Clanton (Benny Lee Kennedy), Johnny Behan (Jesse Lee Pacheco), and Colonel Hafford (Richard Anderson). Also featured in the film are Jason Graham, Shayn Herndon, Haydn Winston, Bradford Trojan, James Miller, Rogelio Camarillo, and more.
There will be spoilers beyond this point.
The gunfight at the O.K. Corral was a shootout between some lawmen mainly the Earps and some outlaws called the Cowboys. It took place on October 26, 1881, in Tombstone, Arizona Territory, and lasted 30-seconds. The result of the confrontation saw Billy Clanton, Tom McLaury, and Frank McLaury perish. Who wouldn’t want to go back in time and see it in motion? After all, the gunfight’s regarded as one of the most famous shootouts in the American Wild West history. This story has been told numerous times on various platforms, so I was not sure what to expect from this film’s version.
To start, one thing I will say is to prepare for not finding out how they were able to time travel, if they were able to get back to their time, or if their presence disrupted anything. At the start of the movie, it almost appears like they are showing us a behind-the-scenes clip of them getting ready to film. But actually, it is the time-traveling film crew getting ready to begin their interviews. Aside from arriving in Tombstone, Arizona, a day late, they did come prepared with equipment, a backdrop, and make-up used to touch up Behan before they spoke with him. While the woman was touching up Behan’s make-up, he was carrying on as if it was normal. He did not wonder what it was or question the era of her clothing – jean shorts and a plaid shirt. None of the interviewees seem to be bothered or are questioning their presence there. They are all pretty much helpful and willing to share. The only non-helpful person seemed to be Wyatt Earp. He came to the interview with a statement and proof to support it. We never see the face of the woman performing the interview, but her voice does sound and reminds me quite a bit of Siri or Alexa.
Before we see each re-enactment story, the characters are in a room telling their version/side of what took place that day in a documentary film style. Each re-telling varies in consistency with sometimes something modern or not from that era appearing. My favorite example of this would be when Doc Holliday is telling his version, and they arrive at the corner where the outlaws are in a Police SUV vehicle, sirens going, and using the intercom. Something that is definitely not part of the Old West.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised. It fully embraces the Rashomon style, which makes it stand out on its own. I enjoyed the frame story aspect – a story within a story. If you are going into this film, expecting it to be along the lines of or are going to compare it to the 1993 Tombstone version, you will be disappointed. Watch the movie as it is, a satire-ish and unique telling of this gunfight, and you will have some laughs.
You can purchase and watch Tombstone Rashomon on DVD and online starting April 21, and with a future release date of July to VOD platforms. You can pre-order it here. In the meantime, be sure to watch the trailer below.