Flaming Star is a surprisingly ambitious, if ultimately unsatisfying, Western flick. Nunnally Johnson and Clair Huffaker's screenplay attempts to take a serious look at the conflict between white settlers and Native Americans, and it deserves points for not branding either side as entirely right or wrong, all good or all evil. At the same time, it isn't able to rise above certain melodramatic clichés (or mechanical plot turns) in its dissection of this difficult issue, and lacks the breadth and scope that could imbue the issue with a greater context and deeper meaning. Part of this is due to the casting. Elvis Presley's performance is adequate, but what is called for is something that is elemental and commanding; the character must embody the conflict that is the central core of the movie, and Presley can only indicate this quality, not live or express it. Similarly, Steve Forrest is also good, but lacking in size. Not having to carry such a burden, the supporting cast comes across better, especially Dolores Del Rio, whose turn as the mother is affecting and nuanced. Don Siegel's direction only occasionally achieves the poetry for which the film aims, but it's taut and effective.
by Craig Butler review