An unorthodox and small-scale-designed western drama centers on a newly-wed-and-just-retired marshal (Cooper) who has to fence off a vengeful quartet of gunslingers all by himself after the townsfolk cold-shouldering his solicit for help. Directed by Oscar winning director Fred Zinnemann (JULIA 1977, 8/10; FROM HERE TO ETERNITY 1953, 7/10), HIGH NOON runs a succinct 85 minutes which neatly synchronizes with the storyline, after the arrival of the culprit of the gangsters, a heroic face-off sets the old scores with an annihilation of either side.
It is a 1 Vs. 4 predicament for our lone hero when number matters, Zinnemann launches an absorbingly direct route to unfold how the weathered-but-merry man suddenly plunges at his wits' end in less than 90 minutes (aided by Dimitri Tiomkin's fantastic Oscar-crowning score), his wife (Kelly) threats to leave him after her persuasion falls flat, his deputy marshal (Bridges) hangs up the badge due to some trivial jealousy issues, the judge (Kruger) is eager to flee, the mayor (Mitchell) doesn't want to spoil the veneer of peace and his mentor (Chaney Jr.) sympathizes him but refuses to get involved, while among the village people, some hold grudge towards him for self-serving reasons, others righteously offer their help but either is chickened out by the lopsided situation or too clumsy to wield a weapon. So more or less the huddled masses are complicity of the revenge plan of the quartet, a reluctant truth we have to admit and we are among them too if we are placed under a similar context, the downsides of human nature has been wondrously encapsulated by this compact piece of work. On the other hand, the execution of the gunfight can only be quoted as mediocre, anyway Zinnermann is never a keen action planner.
Cooper won his second Oscar for the film and gratifyingly carries the emotional curve from principled confidence to disillusioned cold feet, he is a good man who is too proud to overcome his own self-importance, he learned the lesson in a hard way. Kelly was on the cusp of her glory, her role as an anti-violence Quaker is a borderline controversy since finally she has blood on her hands too apart from a liability and hostage in the plot; the Mexican Jurado has a more intense presence although shamefully we never have a chance to hear the story from her side. Lloyd and Chaney Jr. stands out among the rest by a barn fight and one-liner delivery respectively. On a whole HIGH MOON is a genre-breaker among the Western pictures, its influences will last thanks to its morality-challenging acuteness.
PS: Have any one noticed the name of Kelly's role is Amy Fowler Kane, with Gary Cooper, is it this film THE BIG BANG THEORY's Shemy pair names after?