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Fox Home Entertainment presents
Pa: Don't you ever tell anybody anything?
DVD ReviewYou know something ain't right when there's a girl as hot as the young Barbara Eden, and she doesn't have eyes for Elvis. Flaming Star isn't the finest Elvis movie, and it's certainly not the most fun; it's a pretty by-the-numbers Western enlivened by the presence of the King and a rather unflinching viciousness displayed by many of its characters.
If it's Elvis singing you're looking for, you can leave after the first five minutes. He performs the title song over the opening credits, and in the first scene a guitar is on hand, conveniently enough, for him to strum and belt out a cowboy tune, but that's the extent of Presley's musical contribution. He plays Pacer Burton, a man caught in a bind, for his father, Sam (John McIntire), is a white man, and his mother, Neddy (Dolores Del Rio), is a Kiowa. We're in Texas shortly after the Civil War, and the tensions between the Kiowa and the white settlers are running high; Pacer's loyalties are very much in question. The same cannot be said for his brother, Clint, played by Steve Forrest; he's the son of Sam's first marriage, and there's no Kiowa blood running in his veins.Things heat up over small slights, as they usually do when both sides are itching for a fight, and Pacer, with his torn loyalties, is asked to choose up sides—should he go out and kill his father's people, or his mother's? There's no good answer to that one, and Pacer's reluctance to jump into the fray gets him labeled as a coward and a half-breed; of course his efforts to throw off those names and slurs results only in more violence.
It's a pretty nihilistic little Western, full of petty vengeances carried around by hotheads with guns looking to shoot, and it's a little startling at first to see Elvis in the middle of all this. Some of the violence is pretty unsettling, especially considering that this was made in 1960, and the portrait of the Native Americans varies—sometimes they're ambushing white men with axes to the head and flaming arrows through the belly and eyeing their women, and at other times they're articulately defending themselves against the relentless encroachment on their land in the name of manifest destiny.
Elvis was never a great screen actor, but it's a testament to his stature that this whole movie is built around him. He acquits himself pretty well, though there's a decidedly Oedipal subtext to his relationship with his mother—Dolores Del Rio is the embodiment here of exoticism and otherness, but she's still Mommy, so Pacer uses the business end of his rifle when, for instance, a couple of transients try to corner Neddy in the kitchen for a little extra action. Elvis is of course a man's man, and can administer an ass whuppin' with the best of them.
Still, without a guitar and a girlfriend, Elvis seems almost lost. Eden plays Roz, the local girl waiting to be asked by Clint for her hand in marriage, and only far too late in the story do we learn that Pacer has harbored a crush on her for years. (Well, who wouldn't? I Dream of Jeannie was a staple of my childhood.) Her family and her boyfriend are, inevitably, on opposite sides of the battle, but because this is an Elvis Presley movie, it's Pacer who has to be at the center of every event, narrative be damned. The opening credits clue us in that the technical advisor on the movie is Colonel Tom Parker, and while it's easy to dump on the Colonel (and many have), Elvis is such a terrific screen presence that it's hard not to get angry about the series of cut-rate movies he made, instead of finding material more worthy of his talents.
Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: B-
Image Transfer Review: The colors are rich in this transfer from the original Cinemascope, though as with many movies of the period, things can be a little monochromatic. Specks and imperfections occur with some frequency, spoiling the otherwise decent transfer. The group shots fare poorly on home video—the director seems to favor shooting slightly down, which tends to obscure actors' eyes, unless your television is the size of a barn door.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: The English-language Dolby track is a very poor one, with dialogue breaking up at the tops and bottoms of the actors' registers—there's a very narrow range within which the words are comprehensible, and you'll be keenly aware when somebody strays out of the zone. Similarly, ambient noise levels alternate between being outrageously high and nonexistent. It seems as if the transfer to digital was not a carefully engineered one.
Audio Transfer Grade: D
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Love Me Tender, Wild In The Country
Extras Review: One of the original trailers is in English; the other is in Portuguese. (Was Elvis especially big in Lisbon?) Unfortunately, the word "Portuguese" is misspelled on the DVD case. A couple of other Elvis trailers are the only additional extras.
Extras Grade: D
Final CommentsRecommended more for Western aficionados than Elvis fans, this is a pretty straightforward genre piece that looks fine on DVD, but sounds pretty poor. At least the couple of Presley songs transferred nicely.
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