Johnny Guitar

Director: Nicholas Ray
Year Released: 1954
Rating: 3.0

This is an undeniably strange "Western" that has women dressing up like men, playing cowboys and in full ruthless-vendetta mode. I had trouble following exactly why Mercedes McCambridge's character hates Joan Crawford's venture capitalist so much, although feminist critics have probably had a blast elaborating on how it has something to do with homosexuality and the film's not-so-subtle hints at how the two may be ex-lovers. Sterling Hayden does a typically fine job with pretty awful dialogue (you try calling yourself "Johnny ... Johnny Guitar" without looking like a dope) and the supporting cast plays it completely straight as well. Maltin notes that there's a lot of symbolism, and he is absolutely right, though I'm still not sure the screenplay is complex enough to withstand the weight. Still, it's a joy to see material this wacky shot so well with cast this graceful - it's campy but fulfilling.