Antihero Westerns HOUR OF THE GUN (1967) and LAWMAN (1971) Ride Onto Blu-ray

James Garner and Burt Lancaster write the law in blood in this excellent pair of Twilight Time releases

Twilight Time recently released Hour of the Gun and Lawman on Blu-ray. While separate and unrelated releases, I’ve elected to review them together. Both discs were released on the same day and the films share thematic elements, and have even been paired in prior MGM DVD releases.

Hour Of The Gun

The famous gunfight at Tombstone’s O.K. Corral is usually the climax when telling the Wyatt Earp story (case in point, director John Sturges’ own Gunfight at the O.K. Corral) but for Hour Of The Gun, that’s just the beginning! The shoot-out opens the picture, which deals with the aftermath. Earp (James Garner), along with his brothers and pal Doc Holliday (Jason Robards), reap the enmity of Clanton clan led by patriarch Ike (Robert Ryan).

Tensions mount as Ike’s gang launches a series of violent retaliations against the Earps and their allies, causing Wyatt to become increasingly enraged. His lifelong guiding principle has been upholding the law strictly by the book, but his thoughts are consumed with vengeance and justice — even vigilante justice. The gang smartly carries out their crimes without witnesses or evidence, making it impossible to sentence them.

The cast is stellar all-around, but special mention should be given to Jason Robards, who is doing some of the best work of his entire career as the fiery and temperamental but endlessly loyal Holliday, who advises his friend and sticks by him even when that advice is ignored.

This is my first time viewing Hour of The Gun, but for me it has not only joined the ranks of top Wyatt Earp films like Tombstone and Wichita, but the greater conversation on westerns, period. It’s that good.


Michael Winner’s vicious Lawman similarly explores the idea of a vengeful sheriff, albeit with a more brutal and devastating results.

The inciting incident is the inadvertent death of an old man by a stray bullet — that bullet fired by a gang of ranch hands shooting off their guns in a drunken revelry. Not realizing what they’ve done, they return home to the next town over, none the wiser — but Marshal Jared Maddox (Burt Lancaster) is coming for them.

The ranchers are shocked and remorseful to hear what has happened, but unwilling to face justice. Their employer Bronson (Lee J. Cobb), a powerful and benevolent town influencer, makes every effort to negotiate a peaceful restitution, but Maddox is uninterested. His only concern is to see the accused stand trial.

(Yep, that’s Robert Duvall in a supporting role)

Whereas Hour Of The Gun explores breaking the rules, Lawman is critical of strict adherence to doing things by the book. In response to an accident, and deaf to the cries of an entire town begging him to demonstrate mercy, Maddox doggedly pursues the accused, eventually drawing them into confrontations.

Robert Ryan costars as the town’s own peace officer, who both helps Maddox to dispense his legal duties and sympathizes with his constituents’ appeals for clemency. It’s a complex and layered supporting role that’s very different from his villain in Hour Of The Gun — and to his credit, he is terrific in both.

Lawman is a violent meditation on justice and fairness, and the ending packs a weighty and undeniably mean jolt. It’s certainly a good film, but not in the “universal recommendation” way that Hour Of The Gun pulls off so effortlessly. Like many Michael Winner films, this one is bleak and ugly.

The Packages

Both Lawman and Hour of the Gun are Twilight Time Limited Editions of 3000 units. Each comes in their usual frost-colored cases and includes an 8-page booklet with written thoughts on the film from Julie Kirgo.

Special Features and Extras — Hour of the Gun

Isolated Music & Effects Track
Original Theatrical Trailer (2:18)

Special Features and Extras — Lawman

Isolated Music & Effects Track
Original Theatrical Trailer (2:40)

A/V Out.

Except where noted, all 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the disc(s) in question with no editing applied, but may have slight compression inherent to file formats. All package photography was taken by the reviewer.

Get them at Twilight Time

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