Tired of waiting for the Hollywood studios to release discs of your favorite ’50s Westerns? Look East, young man, about eight thousand miles to Germany, where the Western genre has traditionally been just as popular as here in America.
Their pulp authors were grinding out Deutsche sagebrush tales almost before our own became popular.
Excepting an operetta or two, they may have beaten the Italians in putting big money into their own films set in the American West.
Man Without a Star: Explosive Media’s Vintage Hollywood Blu-ray Releases
The German label Explosive Media, known for initially focusing on Spaghetti Westerns, has recently released several vintage Hollywood films on Blu-ray with new HD transfers.
Among these releases is King Vidor’s “Man Without a Star” (German title: Mit stahlharter Faust), an energetic Western that showcases Kirk Douglas in the lead role.
The film exudes a strong sense of masculinity and features Douglas portraying a charismatic, sharpshooting womanizer.
Despite using Universal Library music, the movie begins with a title song by Frankie Laine, a clear indicator of its appeal to a broad audience.
Laine’s credit is prominently displayed alongside the producer and director in the opening titles, emphasizing the film’s matinee appeal.
The last screenplay penned by Borden Chase is nearly as chaotic as his script for Robert Aldrich’s Vera Cruz, featuring frequent occurrences of anti-social, aggressive, or violent acts.
Dempsey Rae, a wandering cowboy portrayed by Kirk Douglas, arrives in a Wyoming town and becomes embroiled in conflicts with law enforcement due to a murder committed by a menacing individual named Jack Elam.
Rae takes the aspiring cowboy Jeff Jimson under his wing and secures work for both of them on a large ranch.
As he mentors Jeff in cattle herding and marksmanship, Rae discovers that neighboring ranchers fear the intentions of the new owner, Reed Bowman, who plans to expand her herd at the expense of the smaller spreads.
Reed, a shrewd Eastern businesswoman played by Jeanne Crain, aims to profit from the land before moving on to other ventures.
She admires Rae’s marksmanship and subtly hints at a potential romance while offering him the role of foreman.
However, she also employs the unscrupulous Steve Miles, portrayed by Richard Boone, and his gunmen to enforce her dominance over the free range.
As tensions escalate and conflicts arise, Rae finds himself torn between opposing forces, grappling with his disdain for Miles’ brutality, distrust of Reed, and a deep-seated aversion to barbed wire adopted by the smaller ranchers.
Man Without a Star portrays a world where petty disputes often escalate into violent confrontations, with corrupt law enforcement officers and unscrupulous gunfighters contributing to the chaos.
Lighthearted Tone and In-Depth of “Man Without a Star”
The character of Dempsey Rae, played by Kirk Douglas, exhibits signs of psychological turmoil due to past trauma involving barbed wire, leading to his erratic behavior.
Despite his aversion to barbed wire, he ultimately defends the smaller ranchers who are compelled to use it for protection.
The film features numerous violent altercations, including stabbings, fistfights, and gun showdowns, alongside themes of lawlessness and the ruthless pursuit of profit.
Ultimately, the movie conveys the message that life in America is a relentless struggle for survival and financial gain.
The movie “Man Without a Star” takes a lighthearted approach to most of its scenes, showcasing the exuberant character Dempsey Rae, played by Kirk Douglas, who uses humor and music to navigate through various challenges.
The film features comedic interactions with different characters, including the town’s strumpet Moccasin Mary and the hostess Idonee, portrayed by Mara Corday and Claire Trevor, respectively.
However, the focus shifts when Rae becomes infatuated with the boss lady, Reed Bowman, played by Jeanne Crain, leading to a sexually charged dynamic between them.
Notable director King Vidor’s distinct visual style brings dynamism and vitality to the film, creating captivating compositions and sequences.
The movie’s themes are neatly resolved, except for the unresolved tension between Rae and Bowman, hinting at a potential power struggle through subtle means.
The film’s depiction of crime and punishment in lawless America may resonate with European audiences due to its accurate portrayal.
The Blu-ray release by Explosive Media and Alive offers a visually impressive presentation with stunning colors and image quality.
The disc includes additional content, such as animated stills, trailers, and liner notes, providing a comprehensive viewing experience.
Ulrich Bruckner’s contributions to the release reflect his expertise in Italian Westerns, akin to Robert S. Birchard’s knowledge of Western film actors.