An English woman and her daughter enlist the aid of a cowboy to try and get their hardy hornless bull to mate with the longhorns of Texas, but have to overcome greedy criminals and the natural elements.
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.Written by
When this film was released in Spain, its title was changed to "Colorado Jim" and the name of James Stewart's character was also changed from "Howard Kemp" to "Colorado Jim", for unknown reasons. See more »
In the cave face-off scene, after Stewart (Kemp) gives Ryan (Vandergroat) the pistol, in 5 subsequent scenes the pistol alternates from being inside his vest, to outside his vest, to inside, to outside, and finally to outside but leaning way over about to fall out of his pants. In the scene changes, Ryan supposedly didn't move except to lower his hands during the first sequence of the scene, but when the camera changed from Stewart to Ryan and back several times, each time the pistol position alternated from inside the vest to outside. See more »
[Betrayed by Ben]
I deserve it. Do business with the Devil and you get it every time.
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The Naked Spur, modestly budgeted, with a big-name cast, is among other things almost an experimental film, as it was shot almost entirely outdoors and uses no standing sets. Directed by Anthony Mann, it is one of the several pictures he made with James Stewart in the fifties, most of them westerns. It is a simple tale of complex characters. That the action takes place against the backdrop of the West cleverly conceals that the movie is a drama as much as anything else; almost Bergmanesque in its spareness, it deals more with the psychology of greed and revenge than with more traditional western themes, such as honor, which scarcely figures in the story.
Stewart plays a bounty hunter who is chasing after outlaw Robert Ryan for personal as much as monetary reasons. Even after he captures Ryan his emotionalism gets the better of him, as the outlaw preys sadistically on his vulnerabilities. Ryan's girl, Janet Leigh, is along for the ride, as are Millard Mitchell, as a crafty old codger, and Ralph Meeker, a disgraced army officer. None of these characters is admirable, as one would not want to encounter any of them (aside from Miss Leigh, that is) in a dark alley, or for that matter a bright one. Everyone in the film is deeply flawed and shows conflicting emotions. Aside from Ryan, each character has his good points, and some are likeable in spite of themselves. One never knows where Stewart stands with any of them till the end, as the power struggles that ensue are continuous and unrelenting, driving Stewart to near nervous breakdown.
This is neither a happy nor optimistic movie, and its high quality is typical of so many westerns of the fifties, managing to deal with serious psychological, moral, even economic issues in ways that were nearly impossible in films set in contemporary times. Yet for all its grimness the movie is a wonder to behold, as William Mellor's photography is stunning; and Mann makes excellent use of the rocky, mountainous terrain, so like the interior states of the characters. The depth of the film comes from the way it unfolds, and how well we get to know the people in it, rather than the plot, which tends to follow the characters rather than the other way around, unusual in a western. All the actors are fine, though good as he is as the villain I wish that Robert Ryan's part had been cast with another actor,--Barry Sullivan for instance,--whose dandyishness would have made a nice contrast to the others in the film, while Ryan's pathology, though perfectly embodied by the actor is also a bit predictable if one has seen Ryan in other films, as he had, at this point in his career, gone this way perhaps once too often.
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