MGM's THE NAKED SPUR (1953) is another much treasured classic western from the fifties. It was one of six collaborations between director Anthony Mann and James Stewart set in the great American west that began in 1950 with the brilliant "Winchester 73" and ended with the disappointing "Night Passage" in 1957. Although he was in a western before in 1939 with "Destry Rides Again" "Winchester 73" would change the screen image of James Stewart forever. Now he would become a formidable western icon joining the ranks occupied by John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Randolph Scott, Joel McCrea and perhaps to a lesser degree Henry Fonda and Glenn Ford. James Stewart became a great screen presence in westerns and his characterizations in them suited him to perfection and arguably never more so than in THE NAKED SPUR. Produced by William H.Wright for the studio the Acadamy Award nominated script was by Sam Rolfe and Harold Jack Bloom. With an atmospheric score by Polish composer Bronislau Kaper (one of his few scores for a western) and stunningly photographed in colour by William Mellor on locations in the Colorado Rockies it was all stylishly directed by Mann.
Stewart plays Howie Kemp a bounty hunter on the trail of wanted killer Ben Vandergroft (Robert Ryan) in the rough terrain of the Rockies. He crosses trails with an old prospector Jesse Tate (Millard Mitchell) who joins up with him as a sort of pathfinder and later by a disgraced decommissioned ex-cavalry officer Roy Anderson (Ralph Meeker) who enlists himself as a helper in catching the killer. On hearing there's a reward of $5000 for the capture both Jesse and Roy now want their share. Howie needs help to bring the killer in so he agrees to splitting the money. They eventually take Ben prisoner and start the journey back. But the return trip is long and fraught with danger from inside and outside of the group. First they are attacked by a hostile band of Indians (an excellent action sequence) and later Ben starts to slyly play each member of the group against each other creating jealousy and suspicion among them. This results in Roy wanting to cut Howie out of the reward money entirely while Ben bribes Jesse to help him escape. It all comes to a tragic and watery end in an action filled finale at a rapid flowing river.
There is a cast of only five players in the picture and the performances of all concerned are quite brilliant. Stewart is superb as the main protagonist. His temperamental angst filled and Ah! Shucks demeanour is as appealing as ever. Good too is Millard Mitchell (reunited with Mann and Stewart after "Winchester 73") in a Walter Brennan type role as the likable but ultimately ill-fated Jesse and Ralph Meeker plays a great part as the sly and dishonourable ex cavalry officer. But it is Robert Ryan who steals the show as the wanted killer. His viciousness and devious nature well concealed behind a sniggering and playful false persona. Curiously there is the presence of a female in the shape of Janet Leigh as a feisty tomboy girl who accompanies Ben on the run. But her being with him is somewhat implausible and isn't really convincing. However she was probably cast to provide the movie with a little romance and be someone our hero could ride off into the sunset with in the final frame. Nothing wrong with that I suppose!
THE NAKED SPUR is an outstanding western and has lost none of its glow over the years and like all classic westerns it just gets better and better with the passing of time.
The Naked Spur
Drama / Thriller / Western
The Naked Spur
Drama / Thriller / Western
Howard Kemp is a bounty hunter who's been after killer Ben Vandergroat for a long time. Along the way, Kemp is forced to take on a couple of partners, an old prospector named Jesse Tate and a dishonorably discharged Union soldier, Roy Anderson. When they learn that Vandergroat has a $5000 reward on his head, greed starts to take the better of them. Vandergroat takes every advantage of the situation sowing doubt between the two men at every opportunity finally convincing one of them to help him escape. —garykmcd
Uploaded By: FREEMAN
September 28, 2021 at 03:27 PM