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: Flaming Star (1960)  ( 472 )

« : March 09, 2017, 06:21:58 PM »

He's Kiowa. Clint's all right, but watch out for Pacer.

Flaming Star is directed by Don Siegel and adapted by Nunally Johnson and Clair Huffaker from Huffaker's own novel Flaming Lance. It stars Elvis Presley, Barbara Eden, Steve Forrest, John McIntire, Dolores del Rio and Rodolfo Acosta. Music is scored by Cyril J. Mockridge and cinematography by Charles G. Clarke.

Plot has Presley as Pacer Burton, the son of a Kiowa mother and a white father. The Burton's family contentment out on the Texas frontier is torn apart when a nearby Kiowa tribe begin raiding local homesteads. Pacer soon finds himself caught between two worlds as the neighbourhood white folk he has grown up with turn against him, while the new leader of the Kiowa's, Buffalo Horn (Acosta), courts Pacer for fighting the Kiowa cause.

A glorious CinemaScope production in De Luxe color, filmed on location in the San Fernando Valley, Presley's sixth film is one of his best. With the canny Siegel in the directing chair, a very good racism tinged screenplay on the page and Presley playing it straight, Flaming Star has good quality about it. Originally intended as a vehicle for Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra to play the Burton brothers, Huffaker's story would eventually change titles and put the character focus on the one mixed race brother. Enter Presley, who eager to tackle more serious acting roles than the comedic musicals favoured by his manager Tom Parker, grabbed the opportunity with both hands.

With Siegel stripping two songs from the piece, Flaming Star only has one actual musical number in the story (he also sings the title song over the opening credits), and that song, A Cane and A High Starched Collar, comes very early on and well before the narrative turns darker in tone. This opens the film up to the film lover not exactly enamoured with Presley's usual filmic fun and frothery. File it alongside King Creole and Jailhouse Rock as Presley movies with much more to offer from the star for the audience.

If you are not with us, you are against us!

What unfolds is a tightly constructed Oater that tackles racial themes that were a welcome part of the Westerns scene in the 1950s. It's hardly ground breaking stuff, and the topic had certainly been produced better previously, yet Presley makes the picture bristle with a moving performance that is tinged with a raw, volatile and sexy magnetism. Siegel and the writers insert some complex morality into the story, even an ideological struggle, and Presley rises to the challenge and carries the film with skill. Around him are a few very good performances, notably McIntire (Sam "Pa" Burton), del Rio (Neddy Burton) and Acosta, while Forrest (Clint Burton) improves later in the picture.

Inevitably budget restraints affect the production at times, some scenes aren't convincing (a great leap of faith is needed to accept one character's week long crawl through the desert) and the day for night filming is annoying. Arguably more irritating is the fact that some of the characters look like 1960s characters! But the exteriors are gorgeous and Siegel is a dab hand at action scenes, giving us here fist fights, chases, flaming arrow assaults and a good old battle. And with a bitter mood pervading the plot, coupled with an ending that's thankfully bold, there's just too many good things in the picture to let the flaws prevent this being a two thumbs up recommendation. 8/10

Viewed via Region 2 DVD - Studio Classics Collection.

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« #1 : March 09, 2017, 10:31:43 PM »

Saw it a long time ago and I don't know if I would give it today a 8/10, but surely something from 7/10 up. Presley's best acting performance which, unfortunately, bombed and led van Kuijk to nix all serious movie projects from then on.


« #2 : March 10, 2017, 01:56:54 PM »

Presley's best acting performance which, unfortunately, bombed and led van Kuijk to nix all serious movie projects from then on.

Yep, he was used and abused by those around him.

We can't get away from the frothy bubbles that surrounded Presley, but this one definitely shows he had something considerable to offer the acting sphere. Of course he needed all the cards to fall into place (director/writer), but it's there in this one.

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