Blu-ray Review: Flaming Star - Twilight Time Limited Edition

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Hot on the heels of their Blu-ray release of Follow That Dream, Twilight Time is back with another Elvis Presley vehicle, 1960’s Flaming Star. The spiffy new Blu-ray, which boasts an excellent transfer, is strictly limited to 3,000 copies. Director Don Siegel tackled this Western several years after gritty ‘50s classics like Riot in Cell Block 11 (1954) and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), but this was more than a decade before his iconic Dirty Harry. Make no mistake, this is no Elvis Presley musical lark; The King meant business with this one. He knocks out a novelty tune early on, presumably to satisfy those who simply couldn’t bear the thought of a Presley movie without tunes, but otherwise he is here to act.

The story centers of Presley’s Pacer Burton, a settler of mixed ancestry living with his family. His dad Clint (Steve Forrest) is a white man, while his mom Neddy (Dolores del Rio) is Native American—Kiowa specifically. This catches Pacer between two cultures, frowned upon by many whites in his Texas town. Things heat up when Kiowa chief Buffalo Horn (Rodolfo Acosta) pays the Burton family a visit. Violence erupts between the white, Native, and mixed regional inhabitants. Clair Huffaker adapted his own 1958 novel, Flaming Lance, with co-screenwriter Nunnally Johnson. Though plagued by an overall sense of nagging blandness, Siegel treats the material with thoughtful respect. He also wrangles a solid, if ultimately unremarkable, performance out of Presley (in the Blu-ray liner notes, Julie Kirgo mentions that it was Presley himself who 86’d additional music sequences in order to maintain a more serious tone).

Flaming Star cover (215x280).jpgThe late Charles G. Clarke’s earthy, dusty cinematography looks absolutely fine on Twilight Time’s Flaming Star Blu-ray. Elvis fans longing for more of The King in high definition should be pleased with this 20th Century Fox-sourced transfer, struck from a spotlessly clean print. The audio is likewise solid. It’s offered as a straightforward DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono mix as well as a DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround mix.

The main special feature is an audio commentary by film historians Lem Dobbs and Nick Redman. Take note Elvis fans, these guys offer a wealth of information about Presley’s film career and, of course, Flaming Star in particular. If you have enough interest in Presley to seek out this limited Blu-ray edition, you’ll definitely be drawn in by this conversational yet informative track. We also get an isolated score track in DTS-HD MA 2.0. There are two theatrical trailers and a booklet essay, which makes a rather passionate case for Flaming Star’s quality, by film historian Julie Kirgo.

Flaming Star will clearly appeal primarily to Elvis diehards. Though it’s a decently-crafted Western, there are too many real gems of the genre from that era to make this one truly essential viewing. Interested parties should proceed to Screen Archives for ordering information, as once the initial 3,000 copy pressing is gone, that’s it.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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