Man Without A Star is directed by King Vidor and adapted by Borden Chase & D. D. Beauchamp from the Dee Linford novel. It stars Kirk Douglas, Jeanne Crain, Claire Trevor, William Campbell & Richard Boone. Photographed by Russell Metty in Technicolor around the Thousand Oaks area in California, with the title song warbled by Frankie Laine.
Dempsey Rae (Douglas) is easy going and a lover of life, so much so he has no qualms about befriending young hot head Jeff Jimson (Campbell). The pair, after a scare with the law, amble into town and find work at a ranch owned by the mysterious Reed Bowman. Who after finally showing up turns out to be a lady (Crain), with very ambitious plans. As sexual tensions start to run high, so do tempers, as the boys find themselves in the middle of a range war.
It's all very conventional stuff in the grand scheme of range war Western things, but none the less it manages to stay well above average in spite of a tricky first quarter. For the fist part Vidor and Douglas seem to be playing the film for laughs, with the actor mugging for all he is worth. Add in the wet behind the ears performance of Campbell and one wonders if this is going to be a spoof. But once the lads land in town and the girls show up (Trevor classy, Crain smouldering), the film shifts in gear and starts to get edgy with Vidor proving to have paced it wisely. The thematics of era and lifestyle changes, here signified by barbed wire, are well written into the plot. While interesting camera angles and biting photography keep the mood sexually skew whiff. Boone lifts proceedings with another fine villain performance, and Jay C. Flippen in support is as solid as he almost always was. 7/10