Two years prior to the release of this film, Zinnemann made High Noon, and a year before Stevens made Shane, both classic Westerns. What does Nicholas Ray do? He shoots a Western from another planet, offering one of the genre’s strangest works of the 1950s, only superficially based on the classic schematic. Ray plays with the film’s visual aspects (color variations), sexual symbols, as well as men’s and women’s figures. The lead heroine is a hard-hitting saloon owner (Joan Crawford), a sometime vamp deprived of sex appeal, who is struggling against thugs (not necessarily of the opposite sex), aided by her lover and superb gunslinger (the precious Sterling Hayden), who would gladly forget about having ever held a gun. The film flopped in America, while Godard and other French New Wave filmmakers hailed Ray a genius.
Nicholas Ray is a Hollywood legend and outsider beloved by French New Wave filmmakers, who saw in him one of the most important auteurs of American cinema. He shone with Rebel Without a Cause starring James Dean, and his oeuvre brims with existential and fatalistic noir films (In a Lonely Place, They Live by Night), Western variations (Johnny Guitar, The True Story of Jesse James), bold social commentary (Knock at Any Door, Bigger than Life), war movies (the great Bitter Victory), and even high budget biblical cinema (King of Kings). He stopped directing regularly in the 1960s, but would return with unusual films such as his avant-garde take on America in We Can’t Go Home Again or the mockumentary Lightning over Water made (on his deathbed) with Wim Wenders.
1948 Żyją nocą / They Live by Night
1949 Pukać do każdych drzwi / Knock on Any Door
1950 Pustka / In a Lonely Place
1952 Nieokiełznani / The Lusty Men
1954 Johnny Guitar
1955 Buntownik bez powodu / Rebel without a Cause
1956 Ponad życie / Bigger than Life
1957 Prawdziwa historia Jesse Jamesa / The True Story of Jesse James
1957 Gorzkie zwycięstwo / Bitter Victory
1961 Król królów / King of Kings
1976 We Can’t Go Home Again
1980 Film Nicka / Lightning over Water