Frontier Marshal ★★★½

Tombstone's legend
Told over 24 hours.
Opposite forces
As unlikely allies
Mending a wound together.

Greatest strength is also the greatest weakness. That is, accomplishes enough plot for a two hour film in under 70 minutes, and the majority of the story is told within a 24 hour period. Dwan’s economy is astonishing in many ways – he’s in and out of scenes faster and always on to the next dynamic plot element without any excess. He often lets simply the stare of a character speak everything about the relationship before we see it unfold. But this speed also means that the emotions can get a bit short changed. Without the time to sink in, some of the violent shifts in the narrative can feel a bit undersold. Comparisons to My Darling Clementine are inevitable, especially because Ford’s pacing is pretty much the opposite (and that film’s film’s best sequences – Fonda at the grave, the Sunday Mass dance, the barber gag – have no room in the Dwan). Plus, Dwan simply can’t shoot action (the stagecoach battle in the middle is really marred by the arduously bad rear projection). However, Dwan has at least one stand out sequence, where Doc and the two women work together to heal the wound of a young child, which felt almost like something from a Hawks movie in the way he emphasized the team dynamic.

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