Though his early films dealt more head-on with various social issues, director Edward Dmytryk's later work, particularly the big-budget CinemaScope productions, often presented elements of injustice on a more epic scale. "Warlock" deals with the bickering members of a small town, but the film's gloss and grand widescreen photography somewhat betray the actual intimacy of the drama. Dmytryk's direction, however, maintains a solid balance of action, unwavering tension, and the turmoil of two specific character threads: Henry Fonda's realization that his breed of hired lawman is on the way out; and Richard Widmark overcoming peer pressure by assuming a vital community position for the benefit of the town.
Adapted from the Oakley Hall novel by teleplay writer Robert Alan Authur, this is an enjoyable western generously evoking the conflicts and action set-pieces of the O.K. Corral incident, and film fans will get a kick in catching a few Fox contract players that subsequently moved on to more recognizable careers, including DeForest Kelley (who's quite good in an upscale, bit part), Frank Gorshin (as another fence-sitting psycho), character actor L.Q. Jones, and a young Gary Lockwood in his pre- "2001: A Space Odyssey" years.
Extras are basically a trailer gallery, and a vintage Movietone newsreel with star Henry Fonda (nice tie) at a ball, kicking off a fundraiser with Queen Frederika of Greece (nice crown), for a global adoption charity.
Fox' DVD contains a lovely transfer of "Warlock," and a pseudo-stereo and mono mix of the original soundtrack, with Leigh Harline's score giving the film an omniscient sense of tension.
© 2006 Mark R. Hasan
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