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"Today's audience" will probably enjoy the original "High Noon" more than the TNT re-make created especially for them.

Western Redux


TBS makes much of the fact that its remake of the classic Western "High Noon" brings the story to a new audience of TV viewers who aren't familiar with the original motion picture.

Sorry, but that idea holds water about as well as a dribble glass.

The original "High Noon," starring Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly and Lloyd Bridges, is a complex psychological drama about a man torn between his Quaker wife's opposition to violence and his desire to protect his town for no greater reason than that it was where he had chosen to make his life. Too proud to run when nobody will join in his fight, he continues alone, out of a sense of honor that is independent of the cowardice of those around him.

Cooper, as Will Kane, won an Oscar as Best Actor in the 1952 movie, which also won three other Academy Awards. Grace Kelly, in one of her early roles, was ideal as Kane's young wife, Amy. Bridges was just right as Harvey Pell, the boy-in-a-man's-body deputy sheriff who refuses to join in Kane's showdown without a payoff. Black-and-white film was the perfect medium for "High Noon," and the movie's haunting theme song was a hit even with those who never saw the film.

So why remake it? Why not just show the original to "today's audience"?

To be sure, there's nothing wrong with TBS's new "High Noon." While he's no Gary Cooper, Tom Skerritt ("Picket Fences") is perfectly adequate as the retired sheriff. Ditto for Susanna Thompson ("Once and Again") in the Grace Kelly role, and for Reed Diamond ("Homicide") in the Lloyd Bridges role. And to give him his due, Michael Madsen ("Reservoir Dogs") brings a touch more menace to his role as the gunslinger who's returning to town on the noon train than Ian McDonald did in the original.

Plus, the remake is in color — "today's audience" likes color - and the production benefits from having been shot in Calgary (on the same set as "Lonesome Dove"), where sweeping exteriors with snowcapped mountains in the distance serve to open up the feel of the movie. (The original was shot in Los Angeles.)

But unless a remake is going to bring new meaning to the story or exceed the quality of the original, why do it?

There was one aspect of the 1952 production that could have been improved in a remake, but producer David Rosemont missed his chance. "High Noon" happens in real time: The story begins at 10:35 a.m. and ends at noon. Eighty-five minutes of plot occupies 85 minutes of screen time. In 1952, audiences were content with a slower pace. Today, they're not. Rosemont might have shortened the time span or added action to pick up the tempo. He did neither.

If you've never seen the original, rent it. It'll cost more than watching the remake, but it'll be worth it.

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