Produced and directed by star Burt Lancaster, The Kentuckian is a leisurely western occasionally punctuated by spurts of startling brutality. The recently widowed Lancaster heads towards Texas with his son Donald McDonald. Most of the folks he meets, notably winsome schoolmarm Diana Lynn, bondslave Dianne Foster, and Lancaster's down-to-earth brother John McIntyre and sister-in-law Una Merkel, are pretty good souls, despite the raging family feud that motivates the plotline. The same cannot be said of whip-wielding saloonkeeper Walter Matthau (in his film debut), who goads Lancaster into a bloody fight. Matthau wins this round, but he gets his just deserts before the final fadeout. Based on a novel by Felix Holt, The Kentuckian makes excellent use of Technicolor and Cinemascope, as well as the musical expertise of composer Bernard Herrmann.
by Hal Erickson synopsis