Director: King Vidor
Runtime: 89 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Man Without a Star is just about as generic as westerns get. Take note that I didn’t say “bad,” just “generic.” The story’s about drifter Dempsey Rae (Kirk Douglas) who settles down to become a ranch-hand and, you guessed it, gets involved in a range war. This picture was directed by King Vidor, who, according to IMDb, was the uncredited director of the Kansas scenes in The Wizard of Oz (1939).
This is a pure, unadulterated western flick with few frills. It greatly benefits from the presence of Kirk Douglas, a real movie star, who makes the whole thing a lot livelier than it would’ve been with a lesser actor. His character’s obsession with indoor bathrooms and aversion to barbed wire are nice touches. Kirk is so charismatic that the filmmakers felt the desire to give him a semi-musical number. It’s not much, but he does sing a ditty in a saloon.
Man Without a Star isn’t an action-packed tale, but there are just enough moments of that sort of stuff to keep the audience in their seats. Don’t expect much and you’ll end up having a reasonable time. The film climaxes with an impressive stampede sequence and a tough fist fight between Douglas and the villain, Steve Miles (Richard Boone).
Keep your peepers peeled for the unmistakable Jack Elam in a small, uncredited role at the beginning. This feature also has one of the most melodramatic scar reveal scenes I’ve ever seen. It’s a highlight. Man Without a Star is pretty standard-issue stuff, but the Kirk Douglas Factor prevents it from ever becoming boring. For what it’s worth, it’s a Hell of a lot better than director King Vidor’s next project, the dire War and Peace (1956).
My rating is 6 outta 10.