Thursday, June 6, 2024

Elvis turned in a strong acting performance in Flaming Star, a Western set in the 1800s

I was listening to a podcast recently with Quentin Tarantino discussing the films that had influenced him at an early age and I was surprised to hear him speak so glowingly about a movie starring Elvis Presley.

Of course I love "Suspicious Minds," "In the Ghetto," Don't Be Cruel," and many other Elvis songs, but I never found his movies much worth discussing. I recently switched my streaming live TV from Sling to Fubo and I was excited that Tarantino's suggestion, Flaming Star, from 1960, is available there. I really enjoyed it and it's easy to see the similarities with Tarantino's work (incidentally, he's my favorite director behind Alfred Hitchcock).

It may be a little nonsensical, but, in the movie, you never want to utter the sentence “I saw the flaming star of death.” That apparently means you are dying and need to crawl off into the wilderness to do so. Elvis plays a mixed-blood character named Pacer Burton who lives with his white father and brother and Kiowa Native American mother in the open hill country of Texas. He is torn between staying with his peaceful ranching family or siding with the Kiowa to avenge the racism by many of the other nearby white people.

Elvis is noted by many critics and fans for turning in one of his best acting performances. Another reason I really enjoyed the movie is that the acting overall is better than most Westerns, including strong performances from I Dream of Jeannie's Barbara Eden and John McIntire as the dad, who also famously played Sheriff Al Chambers in my favorite movie Psycho, also released in 1960.

Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando had been pegged to play the brothers in Flaming Star, but Elvis ended up getting the lead role as he was seeking more parts with less singing (he does sing and play a little guitar early on in the movie).  

Oh, and Elvis's song "Flaming Star" as part of the soundtrack is a really good galloping number that I had somehow never heard before.

4 out of 5 stars

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