The Spikes Gang (1974) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
17 Reviews
Sort by:
Good and unknown western shot in Almeria , Spain , with a great cast by young man actors and a sensational Lee Marvin
ma-cortes22 June 2006
After escape home , three young man friends (Gary Grimes , Charles Martin Smith , Ron Howard) form a strong alliance , a dynamic trio combining raw untamed youth . Later on , they meet an old man named Spikes (Lee Marvin) with the experience only a master gunfighter can offer . As three boys wanted to be like their hero and they got their wish . They create his own band and carry out a great number of bank robberies and murders and soon they were worth a fortune . They are become as outlaws with a price on their heads . But they are trapped in Mexico , and while awaiting a trial they are released on bail by the bandit Spikes . The three young men accompanied by the veteran crook on the raid bank again , in which two of them are severely wounded . Then , the lawmen form a posse and engage to hunt down the gang.

This exciting film packs Western action , rider-pursuits , thrills, emotion , shootouts and results to be quite entertaining . Besides , it contains good feeling , such as friendship , faithfulness and companionship although it was betrayed by one of them at the end . The young players who wear extremely low holsters are phenomenal , they will have too much successes in their future , especially Ron Howard (American Graffiti) with a successful career as a nice director (Beautiful mind , Cinderella man , Da Vinci Code) , Charles Martin Smith as a prestigious secondary (Starman, Untouchables) , and Gary Grimes (Summer of 42, Class of 44) as a Western starring in similar role as a naive cowboy (Cahill US Marshal , CulpepperCattle) , though he is nowadays retreated . And , of course , the great Lee Marvin , he gives a terrific acting as a tough gunslinger . Furthermore , there also appears two notorious secondary actors from numerous Westerns : Noah Beery Jr and Arthur Hunnicut . Robert Beatty , despite being credited as The Sheriff , is nowhere to be seen . And some Spanish secondary actors , usual in Pasta/Chorizo Western , such as : Ricardo Palacios , Adolfo Thous and Rafael Albaicín . The film was shot in Tabernas , Almeria (Spain) , a location where was filmed hundreds of Spaghetti/Paella Westerns during the 60s and 70s . The motion picture was well directed by Richard Fleischer . The movie will appeal to Lee Marvin fans and twilight Western enthusiasts.
33 out of 35 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A Good Movie
tightspotkilo26 January 2006
Warning: Spoilers
The Spikes Gang was made back in the days when Ron Howard was your prototypical golly gee whiz teenager, just a number of months after American Graffiti, and in the same year which Howard's TV sitcom Happy Days premiered. So there he was, still right smack dab right there in the midst of being the golly gee whiz teen-aged lad. He was what he was, and that's exactly what he was. Howard stayed with his acting career for awhile after this, through the 70s, but he never really broke out of that mold. If he had stuck with acting a little longer perhaps he might have been able to broaden his range. Or, on the other hand, maybe it's for the best that he didn't, since he actually did go on to have a remarkable career behind the camera.

The point being is that there is a bit of a surprise here, a difference between this and other Ron Howard acting vehicles, because here Ron Howard actually plays slightly against type, not entirely the innocent lad we usually see. This story has an edge, a serious steely edge, sometimes subtle, sometimes not, but definitely always there, and Les (Ron Howard's character) and his two buddies learn some things about life the hard way, harder in fact than one might have expected in a Ron Howard movie in those days. Another edge this film dances on is a precarious edge, at times the film dangles towards being a comedy of sorts, an amusing coming-of-age story, but at other times towards a deadly-serious drama. Robert Fleischer was an experienced and accomplished director. He knew what he was doing, and he did it well.

Lee Marvin is very good in this movie, as he usually was in most all of his performances. That alone is enough to commend it. And that's not all there is.

I would compare this movie to The Shootist. While certainly the stories and the themes they paint are very different, and the the dynamics of the characters are very different, the two films nevertheless operate on about the same plane, and some similarities do exist. Ron Howard learning hard truths about life from Lee Marvin. Ron Howard learning hard truths about life from John Wayne. The Shootist is noted for being John Wayne's last movie. The Spikes Gang has no such hook, and so it fell into obscurity. But my guess is that someone who likes one film one would like the other, and I like them both. I recommend The Spikes Gang.
22 out of 23 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
What a surprise!!
dan_in_denver28 September 2002
I happened to catch this film on a late night showing on a classic movie channel. I was REALLY surprised by this film!! I have seen other comments on it that refer to the movie as "under-rated", and I couldn't agree more!

Lee Marvin does a fantastic job portraying bank robber Harry Spikes who meets and befriends three teen aged boys who gradually come to admire Spikes and his lifestyle. After Spikes leaves the boys, circumstances lead them to run away together and begin what they thought would be the adventure of thier lives. They soon find that adventure, life, and Harry Spikes are not all they seemed to be! Ron Howard, Gary Grimes and Charlie Martin Smith play thier parts perfectly. The film also benefits from the reality lent by the dilapidated and run down buildings in the various towns shown in the movie, rather than the cheesy 'gunsmoke" type sets that are normally seen in films of this genre and time.

I can't recommend this movie highly enough!! 8/10
17 out of 18 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Between Heaven and Hell
dbdumonteil13 July 2008
This is probably Richard Fleischer's last good movie;it's considered polite to say that all he did after "solyent green" is worthless.Richard Fleischer made lots and lots of great movies from " follow me quietly" to " the narrow margin" ,from "20,0000 leagues under the sea" to "The Vikings "and from "Barabbas" to "the Boston strangler" to the stunning (and perhaps his masterpiece) "10 Rillington Place" After "Solyent green" which featured the extremely moving scene of the death of Edward G.Robinson (who eventually died some months after),only "Spikes gang" shows something of the unqualified brilliance that accompanies Fleischer in his career through "Solyent green" .It is a western which has nothing to do with the epics of Ford,Daves or Walsh or Mann.It has also (fortunately) nothing to do with Peckinpah.

Filmed in Spain,its spirit is actually close to that of Arthur Penn,particularly "Bonnie and Clyde".When Grimes is daydreaming and sees his father tell him :"you're no longer my son;you're dead" ,it recalls that scene when Bonnie meets her mom for a picnic and the old lady says "you're already dead ,Bonnie Parker" .

The three lads are in search of a father ,which is very Pennesque ,notably in "the left handed gun" .even in a non-western film such as "the miracle worker" Ann Sullivan was Helen Keller's second mom. Grimes' father was a religious man ,perhaps not far from being a fanatic (his part is too underwritten).Remember that scene in the bank where the ticking of the clock merges into the memories of the whip coming down .Lee Marvin is their new father and I go as far as to write that Grimes is some kind of father to his two mates too when he is absent.

The three lads are amateurs and cannot free them of the concept of right and wrong ,coming from a religion which does not give any answer;when they're eating hosts and drinking sacred wine,one of the youngest speaks of blasphemy but their leader tells them so "Christ would give them to us if He were here" .

Lee Marvin's character is extremely interesting.Lee Marvin never overplays and the discovery that he was once married to an educated wife ,a teacher who spoke several languages and played the piano comes aside as a shock.This memory is necessary ;without it,the ending would not make any sense.

An inferior director would have made "men" of the three teenagers ;but they can't :their dreams ,their remorse,the letter one of them sends to his mom,the trust they put in Marvin,all indicates that when they die they will still be big children.

Like this?try this.....

"Run for cover" Nicholas Ray 1955
15 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A very rare underrated Classic!
Tommy Phillips13 October 2000
I saw this movie about two years ago while I was up studying at around 4:00 A.M. Lee Marvin plays an outlaw that takes three runaway teens under his wing. He teaches them the tricks of the trade in bank robbing. The movie takes on a surprising twist towards the end. A very nice movie that almost NEVER comes on TV. If anyone knows how I could get the VHS version, please email me. Thanks. I give it a 10.
20 out of 25 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Apprentice bandits.
bkoganbing21 June 2004
Three miscreant youths, Gary Grimes, Ron Howard, and Charles Martin Smith find a wounded Lee Marvin on the road and take him to the barn of Gary Grimes father's farm. They patch him up, feed him, Grimes gives him his horse and he makes a getaway.

That doesn't sit well with Grimes' father who has lied to a posse about Marvin not being around. He takes off his belt and tans the hide off Grimes back. Grimes runs away then and there and the other two join him.

Like a lot of youth back then, when I was young, when this picture was made and today; these kids are bored. But back then there just weren't any diversions. Life was hard on those homestead farms, Grimes' father is a hard man, he had to be. The story of these kids is the story I'm sure of a lot of youth in the west.

They take up bank robbing like their new hero Lee Marvin and make a botch of it. They kill a State Senator accidentally and don't even get away with the money. Fleeing to Mexico, they meet up again with Marvin who takes them under his wing now, to show them how to do it right.

The rest of the movie is the unfolding of their disillusionment. They've killed a State Senator and they're hot. Lee Marvin does not turn out to be the hero they had in mind. But by his lights, he's operating quite logically.

The three young actors convey nicely what it must have been like to grow up on a bleak prairie homestead and to get a chance at what they perceive will be adventure. Lee Marvin strikes the right note in a difficult part. In some ways at first he appears to the kids to be just like his character in Monte Walsh, a rugged individualist who lives by his own code. He has to be that to appeal to the kids in the first place. He tries to make them shuck their boyish illusions about outlawry, but when push comes to shove the kids can't do it. Marvin is not like Liberty Valance in this film, a sadistic bully. But he does what he has to in order to survive as an outlaw.

The kids fail their apprenticeships, but they and Marvin give the audience some great entertainment.
14 out of 17 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
good movie with real morals
Naturalessence17 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this movie when I was up late. I was bored one night. It was one of the only interesting-looking thing on. I absolutely love this movie! I wish this was the "must watch" for the wanna be gangsta rappers, the way Scarface is.

Even though basically they end the same, there is an underlined sense of repentance in this movie's end that is completely absent from movie themes today. It was real.

Getting half way in something (especially crime) and then wishing you hadn't started it is a real factor. This is something rare to see in these movies. Instead of leaving the movie thinking "I could do that, I just won't make those mistakes," the way other gangsta flicks make people feel, you leave thinking "maybe this isn't at all what I thought or want."
5 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Good lessons in life.
Mike8 December 2003
Imagine, a movie that gives a lesson right from the bible, 'Those that live by the sword shall die by the sword'. It was amazing that none of the 3 boys ever said to one another, 'we were better off with our parents'. After doing some of the dumbest things imaginable for young boys and doing it badly you would think

they were smart enough to realize they weren't cut out for being out on their own. Anyhow, the movie was well done, gave you a real feel for what it must

have been like living in the 'Old West'. Plus how hard it must have been to be accepted by a community that knew every detail of every citizen that lived in the area. Maybe the reason for such a poor showing at the box office was the title. Lee Marvin plays himself and does it superbly.
9 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
One of Three Grimes True West Depictions
kjeroh-15 November 2011
The Spikes Gang is a very good western that shows what probably happened to a good many youngsters who struck out on their own in the expanding west. It is one of three westerns that Gary Grimes starred in that gave a darker and truer view of life in the old west for teenager. The others are The Culpepper Cattle Co., 1972 and Cahill, U.S. Marshall, 1973.

Lee Marvin plays a wounded bank robber, (Spikes) on the run from a posse, whom three teens find (Grimes, Ron Howard and Charles Martin Smith) and nurse back to health. The three youths, small community and under the heavy hand of discipline, become enthralled with Spikes and soon strike out on their own soon after he departs.

After a series of misadventures, the youngsters meet up with Spikes again, who, against his better judgment, takes them under his wing.

The Spikes Gang is a fast paced movie and seems to play upon the anonymity of three teenagers, ill-prepared for a brutal and unforgiving way of life. The one drawback to the pace is that it does not give a good sense for the passage of time, but is effective in emphasizing the few sparks in mundane lives.

As part of the Grimes Western trilogy, one can get a good look at an overly romanticized part of history.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Great Movie
cm98122626 February 2002
A gem of a movie.Very realistic and exciting.A good combination of an established actor (Marvin) combined with up & coming actors (Grimes,Smith & Howard).It portrays the american west in a realistic manner (like most westerns from the late 60's & early 70's)
10 out of 13 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
The name's Spikes, Harry Spikes. I'm a bank robber boys.
Spikeopath2 September 2013
The Spikes Gang is directed by Richard Fleischer and adapted to screenplay by Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank Jr. from the novel The Bank Robber written by Giles Tippette. It stars Lee Marvin, Gary Grimes, Ron Howard and Charles Martin Smith. Music is by Fred Karlin and cinematography by Brian West.

Happening upon an injured man, three boys nurse him back to health and learn that he is bank robber Harry Spikes (Marvin). Enchanted by his tales and way of life, the boys decide to form their own gang and eventually linking up with Spikes who then teaches them the tricks of his trade. However, the outlaw life is not as romantic as the boys first envisaged...

It's filmed in DeLuxe Color and the location photography is out of Tabernas, Almería, Andalucía in Spain. Yet the colours and landscape contours are not vivid, they are deliberately pared back so as to not give the impression this is a vibrant yeehaw tale of young spunkers on the lam. The Spikes Gang is ripe with a foreboding atmosphere about the innocence of youth corrupted by stretching too far for romanticism. The boys home life out there on the frontier is painted as sad, even grim, with bad or absent parents featuring strongly, it's not hard to buy into the fact these impressionable young men in waiting yearn for adventure.

Once out there striding for fortune and notorious glory, the lads find the harsh realities of outlaw life. No money means no food, and to rob people you have to be prepared to use violence, and to then take the consequences of those actions, be it emotionally or by having a price then put on your own young heads. Hooking up with Spikes seems the cool thing to do, he becomes a surrogate father and he at least gives them skills to survive a basic outlaw way of life. There's hope dangled, even much humour inserted into the narrative, but there's always an air of disillusionment lurking around the corner as this character study unscrews the myths of the West.

Which leads to what? A moral lesson? Perhaps? Well what we do know is that it builds gently, with Fleischer adroitly forming his characters and garnering superb performances from his cast (one of Marvin's best turns actually) in the process. Once the finale plays its hand, it's of such sadness to leave an indelible impression that anyone of sound heart will find hard to shake from the memory bank. Western legends Arthur Hunnicutt and Noah Beery pop in to the picture to add some weight, the former quite excellent with a pitiful characterisation that really kick- starts the emotional wattage, while the contributions of Karlin and West are faultless in terms of screenplay alliance.

Judged harshly by the jaded critics of the time and mostly ignored at the box office, The Spikes Gang may just be one of the most under valued Westerns of the 70s. Whether it was bad timing due to the direction the Western genre was taking at the time of release I'm not sure, but this is an elegiac treat waiting to be rediscovered by the Western lover. 8/10
6 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Lost Potential
bux13 April 2003
Warning: Spoilers
A great cast, and a great idea, however the lack of character development makes this one a coulda-been great movie. The story and action flow along fast and furious, perhaps too much so, and we never really get to know the three wayward youths. When the first one is dusted, early on, it's hard to work up much emotion. A little more background and foundation on the character of the young ones would have made this a much better flick, otherwise it was a good watch.
7 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Little-known western is worth a look
Leofwine_draca28 May 2017
Warning: Spoilers
THE SPIKES GANG is a moralistic, low budget western and something of a vehicle for the great Lee Marvin, playing his usual drunken, ne'er-do-well character. The western is also a showcase for a number of youthful stars including Ron Howard and Charles Martin Smith, moving on from their work on American GRAFFITI. The story sees bank robber Marvin taking the youths under his wing as part of his gang, but of course the story gets complicated after that.

This film is one of the less well-known works of director Richard Fleischer but at times it's just as interesting as something like TORA! TORA! TORA!. Marvin is great value and the young actors do well, and the narrative structure which begins with idealism and ends with pessimism is handled adroitly. The ending is particularly hard-hitting and effective.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
"Funny how things work out."
classicsoncall15 July 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Here's something you wouldn't expect but it's true for the moment, Charles Martin Smith has four more acting credits to his name here on IMDb than his contemporary Ron Howard. Of course there's no matching Howard's career output since he also appeared in so many TV series episodes that don't count individually, but I thought that was interesting. Both are still active so I guess their stats will be a moving target for a while, but at least at the time I write this, Smith has Howard edged by four.

Well this one's a tough call. You'd think the three farm boys would eventually come around to the error of their ways, and they did actually, but in one of those 'careful what you wish for' sort of ways. At least one of them should have been wary enough to figure Spikes (Lee Marvin) would turn on them after he told them about killing his wife. OK, in a convoluted way he made it sound like she had it coming, but that would have been a hint that once there was a bounty on their heads, all bets of friendship would be off the table.

I wonder if it was inadvertent or intentional, but at one point Spikes tells Will (Gary Grimes), Les (Howard) and Tod (Smith) that the citizens of Uvalde "ain't expectin' a wild bunch like us". Either way it was kind of a neat tribute to the 1969 film.

One thing I noticed here is something I never had before, and it's probably due to Lee Marvin's look as the outlaw Spikes. He had that uncharacteristic bushy white mustache and whenever he was positioned a certain way he looked the spitting image of my next door neighbor. The next time I see him in the yard I'll have to let him know. Marvin had more hair though.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Infinitely quotable and superior to most .......
merklekranz5 July 2016
Lee Marvin has played the role of crusty gunslinger many times, and he does not disappoint here. The story of three farm boys throwing in with the wily bank robber is both believable and different. The film is never dull, with Marvin spewing forth quotable lines throughout. This is not some sugar coated view of their desperate situation as hunted men, but rather a realistic look at the downside of breaking the law. Of course the boys elicit sympathy, even though they are killers, no different than their mentor. "The Spikes Gang" is one of those movies that far exceeds expectations, is worth seeking out, and not easily forgotten. - MERK
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Sinister Moralizing
Bolesroor29 March 2009
Warning: Spoilers
There is an old myth about the country girl who finds a poisonous snake freezing in the snow. She picks him up and brings him home, nursing him back to health, at which point he bites her on the cheek. As she lays there dying she asks, "Why have you done this to me?"

He answers while slithering off, "Look, bitch, you knew I was a snake."

"The Spikes Gang" begins with three teenage boys finding outlaw Lee Marvin (Spikes) wounded and dying on the ground, and they hide him in the back of the barn where they can nurse him back to health. Instead of killing them, he thanks them kindly and departs- but maybe his poison seed has been planted because soon the boys abandon their home and set off on the road and an eventual life of crime.

That's the story, and much of it works, but just as much fails. There is a pervading heavy-handed morality lesson at work here, and it takes the joy out of what could have been a great film. The three boys- desperate, penniless, and starving for food- finally decide to rob a bank. Not only does the sheriff walk in during the robbery, they accidentally kill a state senator passing by and lose ALL THE MONEY during the escape. In the next scene they're penniless again begging for food.

Hold the phone, but isn't movie crime supposed to be FUN? Aren't we as the audience supposed to get SOME vicarious thrill from these adrenaline-fueled exploits? The day after the botched robbery the boys wallow in guilt and regret... they've KILLED! They've STOLEN! God is no longer smiling at them! They do everything but turn themselves in, surprising since they actually discuss the possibility.

Eventually they catch up with Spikes who becomes their surrogate "evil" father-figure (is he what happens if you accept Satan as your lord and master?) Spikes liberates the trio from their feeble attempts at straight jobs and gives them a proper makeover so they can join his gang. We get a montage/training sequence of Marvin buying them new clothes, fancy meals and teaching them to shoot. Is THIS sequence any fun? Naw, we know the boys are Hellbound and therefore incapable of joy.

The joy comes from Lee Marvin. He is pitch-perfect in a role that could have easily been hokey or over-the-top. Marvin plays Spikes as a human being, the product of his environment. He slips seamlessly between malicious mentor and cold-blooded killer... he is as he says, "just a man trying to survive."

(As a side note I must nominate this film for "Worst Blood In A Motion Picture" category. It appears as thick, gloppy paint so bright it might burn your retinas. One character uses his hand to clot a wound but looks more like he's squeezing a tomato through his fingers.)

By the time the film comes to its' drawn-out finale (the movie's at least twenty minutes too long) I had given up hope for a happy ending, given up hope for a satisfying ending... we got the message early on that crime doesn't pay and we're just waiting for the period. Guilt-ridden, morally tortured, spiritually defeated cowboys rarely appear in good Westerns.

There's a reason.

2 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Lee wasn't Marvin at this
ptb-82 March 2005
I ran this film in my cinema as a double feature with a western called BILLY TWO HATS. I apologize. I shouldn't really because only 4 people came on the two nights it showed. BILLY TWO HATS featured Desi Arnaz Jnr as an Indian. It was filmed in Israel. Maybe Desi Jnr was making this in between takes of this glorious musical nobody saw either, called MARCO about.....Marco Polo. I am just aghast at all this. Anyway, THE SPIKES GANG is a rustic teenage crime drama from the B grade school of drive in movie-making that saw Bonnie and Clyde...Bloody Mama... Bullet For Pretty Boy...Boxcar Bertha or whatever. It has a good cast and solid production values. But nobody really wanted to see it and it was probably always doomed to be half of a double feature in a bumpkin drive in. Ron Howard in this and Desi Arnaz Jnr in the other. The local kids just thought this was nothing. In the 80s we had Matt Dillon films to take their KANSAS.
4 out of 21 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews