Tavern owner Vienna (Joan Crawford) has all but given up on old flame Johnny Logan (Sterling Hayden) when he reappears under the guise of Johnny Guitar. Her arch enemy Emma (Mercedes McCambridge), a cattle baron, is with the ‘Dancin’ Kid’, and is jealous of his apparent affections for Vienna.
The real sexual tension however exists between Vienna and Emma, and themes of bisexual desire crackle throughout this heightened, florid pseudo-western, one of Nicholas Ray’s (Rebel Without a Cause; Bigger Than Life) strangest, most psychologically complex films. Vienna’s saloon is on the outskirts of town, and with the railroad being laid, the townsfolk fear it will go right past her door and soak up all their potential business. Needless to say, gunfights ensue, but it is the high-camp dialogue and astonishing costume changes that makes Johnny Guitar a one of a kind.