Picks and Pans Review: High Noon

08/21/2000 01:00AM

TBS (Sun., Aug. 20, 8 p.m. ET)

In the dusty, tumbleweed-strewn pantheon of classic big-screen westerns, 1952's High Noon still stands alone—much like its beleaguered protagonist, Will Kane (Oscar-winner Gary Cooper). A beloved small-town marshal, Kane suddenly finds himself shunned—and outgunned—when an outlaw he once jailed shows up with his gang to wreak revenge. Accompanied by a hauntingly forlorn theme song (Tex Ritter twanging "Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling"), Kane has just 84 minutes—the film's running time—to prepare for the climactic showdown.

This inferior TV-movie remake casts as its citizen Kane former Picket Fences sheriff Tom Skerritt—not a bad choice, given Skerritt's craggy features and quiet dignity. But what once seemed the epitome of cinematic suspense has now been watered down into a high-minded civics lesson as Skerritt wastes his precious 90-odd minutes (not counting commercials) engaging in endless debate ("It's my fight, my town," he reckons) with his mostly cowardly neighbors, who rationalize that a gunfight would be bad public relations for the town and so urge Will to skedaddle. So do his pacifist bride (Once and Again's Susanna Thompson, who gets to pout prettily in the role that Grace Kelly made luminous) and skittish ex-mistress (Maria Conchita Alonso, taking Katy Jurado's part). The shootout, when it finally arrives, is a textbook compilation of western clichés, including—yup—the stuntman tumbling off the roof.

Bottom Line: Forsake this one, darlin', and rent the original

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