dir. – Nicolas Ray – 1954 – 110 Minutes – 7.07
If Nicolas Ray had asked me I would have changed the title to Vienna, not Johnny Guitar. He didn’t. I say this because while Johnny is A character Vienna is THE character. The heart and soul. Vienna is the point.
Johnny Guitar tells the story of capitalism and the foresight to build where transportation routes will eventually benefit your company. Boy-oh-boy that sounds horrible. The film revolves around Vienna’s saloon on the outskirts of town. The townsfolk don’t really care for the saloon both because of the railway and because she doesn’t refuse business to hooligans. Maybe also because she is a she.
Joan Crawford plays Vienna, a strong willed business owner who welcomes anyone who doesn’t cause a ruckus. Sterling Hayden plays the eponymous character who comes into town to work the room. You will also see western staples John Carradine, Scott Brady, Mercedes McCambridge, and Ernest Borgnine.
What I find interesting about the film is how there are two interlaced stories. One of a bank heist, your western blueprint, and the primary story of Emma Small (Mercedes McCambridge) and her dislike of Vienna. Emma twists the minds of the townsfolk to thinking that Vienna is a problem that needs to be surgically removed from Emma’s situation.
Johnny Guitar is unlike many westerns you can see. While they lace the story with tired old genre clichés what I saw was the deeper emotional story of two women, one who wanted domination and the other who just wants to run a bar. The film is a fantastic experience. This experience is one of the key features holds my score along with Joan Crawford and the beautiful photography.
Which brings me to this Olive Signature Edition of the film. Remarkable is probably the correct word for what you see. The film is gorgeous from the opening frames all the way through to the end. This is a new 4k scan of the film with incredibly rich colors, and it turns out, the correct aspect ratio. Along with the film there are several well produced supplements including a talking head discussion over the feminist overtones throughout the film and a feature length informational commentary.
This Blu-ray is well worth the time and, alone with High Noon, is a welcome introduction of Olive’s Signature line of releases.