Originally intended as a vehicle for Marlon Brando, this immensely dignified and astoundingly violent (for its time) western – based on Clair Huffaker’s Flaming Lance novel – became the second movie after King Creole (1958) to prove Elvis Presley could act.
Here he plays Pacer Burton – an unhappy half native American misfit, who must take sides when his mother’s people, the Kiowa tribe, decide to go on the warpath.
The glamorous Dolores Del Rio makes a Hollywood comeback as his ma, and his pa is John McIntire.
The tension, under the brilliant direction of Don Siegel, is beautifully sustained, and the outdoor colour and CinemaScope photography is outstanding.
This was to be the last shot Presley would get at a decent acting role with a major director. After this, his film career took a major turn for the worse.
The box office receipts were reasonable, but not startling, partly because the film totally lacked songs apart from the title number and a folksy dance tune, both in the opening minutes.
Dolores Del Rio
L Q Jones