Run time: 81 mins
In the 1940s and 50s, high-stakes westerns were inclined to the epic, with Technicolor deserts, and hordes of cowboy and Indian extras, but High Noon did something very different.
Eschewing panoramic landscapes and colorful action sequences, High Noon generates claustrophobic suspense. Guns aren’t drawn in anger until the last five minutes, when the streets are clear for one of the best gun fights in the movies.
At the film’s center is Gary Cooper’s iconic performance as Will Kane, a popular small-town sheriff whose wedding to a beautiful young Quaker gal (Grace Kelly) on the day of his retirement represents his attempt to leave his old life behind. But then Kane learns that an old enemy, Frank Miller, who has sworn revenge has been released from prison, and that his old gang members are awaiting him on the noon train.
Fred Zinnemann’s taut, meticulously crafted Western – largely played out in ‘real time’ with an emphasis on ticking clocks palpably cranking up the tension – still stands as one of the greatest examples of the genre. (Jack Whiting)