Flaming Star Elvis: 75th Birthday Collection (Fox Home Video; $39.98)

sep10_elvisElvis Presley made a lot of movies in a relatively short time, and most of them were bad.

Elvis sings, Elvis dances, Elvis fights and flirts—most of the real battles were of Elvis fighting to look less stupid than the scripts he was given and the characters he played.

Arguably, the best movie Elvis ever made was the Western Flaming Star, produced in 1960, shortly after he left the service. Clint Eastwood’s future mentor and the man who made 1968’s Coogan’s Bluff and 1971’s Dirty Harry, Don Siegel, directed it from a script by two pros, Nunnally Johnson and Clair Huffaker. Legend has it that the lead role was passed from Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra down the ladder to Elvis.

As a half-blooded Kiowa, Elvis does good, lean work, and he looks great. His character Pacer is caught on the one side by the new Kiowa chief, who thinks that Pacer would bring good medicine in the coming war against the whites, and on the other by his half brother (Steve Forrest) and father (John McIntire). The wonderful Dolores Del Rio came back to Hollywood to play Pacer’s Indian mother, and veteran Western villain actor Rodolpho Acosta played Kiowa Chief Buffalo Horn. The fine, modest-budget picture is sympathetic to the Kiowas, but not to the extent that it looks away from their own brutality.

This new collection of Elvis movies also includes a couple of Elvis’s other more serious pictures, such as 1956’s Love Me Tender, which is also a Western, but which is neither a good Western nor a good Elvis movie; 1961’s Wild in the Country, which was written by Clifford Odets and costarred John Ireland and Tuesday Weld; and a remake of a Warner’s boxing picture from the 1930s called Kid Galahad, costarring Charles Bronson and Gig Young.