A new movie’s perspective (actually 6 perspectives) on the O.K. Corral gunfight

Arizona Sonora News

(Location photo: Tombstone Rashomon, Alex Cox Films)

Like most Americans with an interest in Old West history, you probably think you know the basic story of the Gunfight at O.K. Corral that made Tombstone famous in the late 19th century, and continues to be the centerpiece of Tombstone’s attraction for visitors today.

But like many fables, there are various ways to look at things. Was the shootout a heroic, deadly confrontation between law abiding townsfolk led by the Earp brothers against cowboy ruffians and cattle rustlers personified by the Clanton brothers? Was it a dramatic metaphor for post-Civil War conflicts between monied northern mining interests represented by the likes of the ruthless Wyatt Earp, against outlaws defending their lucrative cross-border smuggling commerce, all culminating in a 30-second explosion of gunfire on Oct. 26, 1881?

Almost immediately, the shootout became famous as big city newspapers, keenly aware of readers’ appetites for dramatic accounts set in the Wild West, followed the initial news reports in The Tombstone Epitaph. During the 20th century, most of a dozen or so movies that featured the shootout have presented the heroic view, though with some varying perspectives. 

Now a prominent independent filmmaker, Alex Cox is about to release a new movie, Tombstone Rashomon, that presents six different versions of the

(Courtesy of Tombstone Rashomon)
(Scene from the movie: Tombstone Rashomon, Alex Cox Films)

incident – as told to a time-traveling documentary crew that basically arrives on the wrong date in Tombstone, three days after the gunfight.

 “The town of Tombstone is a character as well,” Cox said. The movie was shot at the Old Tucson Studios west of Tucson, though Cox and others in the crew spent time in Tombstone carefully retracing the steps, and trying to recreate the thoughts, of the gunfight participants.

Old Tucson Studios has a western set that looks like 1881 Tombstone, Cox said. “It’s a really substantial set, with interiors, exteriors and several streets,” he said enabling filmmakers to block out scenes leading up to the gunfight.  Old Tucson also provided costumes, catering and assistance with stunts, Cox said in an interview on Monday as he was making last-minute soundtrack mixes in a Tucson sound studio.

Since it opened in 1939, more than 300 movies and TV shows have been filmed at Old Tucson, which still is an active filming location, although much of the business is in tourism and even trail rides. The studio also does commercial production and provides backgrounds for commercial photo layouts.   

(Photo: Tombstone Rashomon. Alex Cox Films)

Cox, a British native, also wrote the screenplay for Tombstone Rashomon. Previously, he directed independent movies such as the 1984 hit Repo Man and the 1987 “acid western” Walker. 

Tombstone Rashomon, now in post-production, will be featured at Tucson’s Loft Cinema on Friday night, Nov. 11, at a “Work-in-Progress Premier Screening.” 

The presentation, which will also feature Cox and some actors and crew from the production in a discussion, is part of the Loft Film Fest from Nov. 9-13, which features 40 films and cinematic shorts.

In its title, Cox’s movie evokes the 1950 Japanese film masterpiece Rashomon, director Akira Kurosawa’s thriller that examines the nature of truth, employing four different perspectives on a murder and a rape. That movie, released in the U.S. in 1951, routinely appears on critics’ lists of top favorites.

Cox describes Tombstone Rashomon, which is largely being financed through as the crowdfunding source Indiegogo, as “a homage to the structure of Kurosawa’s film.”  

(Courtesy of Tombstone Rashomon)
(Photo: Tombstone Rashomon, Alex Cox Films)

The movie will be set for theatrical release once a distributor is found after the premier at the Loft on Friday. “We’re still in the process of making little changes so this is an opportunity for us to get feedback from the audience at the Loft before we lock it down,” he said.

The movie was made “pretty much with local people that I had worked with before. Our cinematographer, Alana Murphy, is a Tucson native. So we did it with mostly local people, but also with a number of people from outside. The cast was mostly local, again with some from outside. Especially in terms of actors, there are some very, very good ones here,” Cox said.

Download high resolution images here.

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