Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Flaming Star

What a surprise this 1960 color movie was! Elvis Presley stars, playing a half-white, half Kiowa man who is forced to choose between the "civilized" life of his white father and stepbrother, or the Indian ways of his mother. His torment over what to do propels Flaming Star to its haunting conclusion.

Flaming Star is a fast-paced movie filled with action as well as philosophical comments about whites settling on land in Texas that traditionally belonged to the Kiowas, who have been steadily losing it to the newcomers. It's 1878 and the Burton family, with John McIntire as the father, Dolores Del Rio as the mother, Steve Forrest as stepbrother Clint, and Elvis as Pacer, are celebrating Clint's birthday with friends who have gone to their homestead for the evening.

But tragedy strikes some of the guests upon their return home, and that is the catalyst for everything else that happens in the movie. Despite the Burtons' well-meaning attempts to find a peaceful solution to the problems, another calamity occurs and as a result, everything worsens exponentially. Caught in the middle, Elvis doesn't know which people he "belongs" to, and the pain he feels is palpable. Elvis is excellent and completely believable in this role.

Ford Rainey (appearing in six episodes of ASJ, most notably as Warren Epps in Exit from Wickenburg, Christine's father in Never Trust an Honest Man, and the rancher Collins in The Biggest Game in the West) and L.Q. Jones (Clint Weaver in Stagecoach Seven and Peterson in McGuffin) have small roles as a craven doctor and one of the birthday guests, respectively. Barbara Eden plays a sympathetic role as a girl who tries to help Pacer.

The stark landscape is filmed in a beautiful, severe manner. Elvis sings two songs in Flaming Star. At one hour and forty-one minutes long, the film is tautly directed and well worth the time. There are no bonus features except two trailers for other Elvis movies.