Western? Romance? Political allegory? Gender shoot-out? Cult psycho-drama? Er, all of them? Maverick director Nicholas Ray subverts Hollywood's most beloved genre in possibly the strangest cowboy film ever made.
The storyline sees lugubrious drifter Johnny Guitar (Sterling Hayden) roped into a roaring battle between his ex-lover, saloon-owner Joan Crawford, and the bull-dyke cattle queen (Mercedes McCambridge) who wants to lynch her before the railroad comes to town.
Meshing with Ray's startling use of colour, stylised sets and haunting score, the rippling script finds as much violence in the seething lovers' tiffs as in the blasting and brawls. From Freudian calling-cards to anti-McCarthyism, the whole genre twist-up is rife with symbolism. In fact, Guitar plays out in a place all of its own - - a haunting psychoscape where the men dress in pink while black-clad women rage.