The Naked Spur (1953) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
99 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
8/10
very entertaining Western
MartinHafer9 February 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I run very hot or very cold about most Westerns. In general, I don't like them because they are so formulaic and contrived but when film dares to be different, I really appreciate the efforts! This film is one such different film--as the plot and acting help to elevate it above the mediocre.

While Janet Leigh is fine in the movie, the film really belongs to Jimmy Stewart and Robert Ryan, as they are engaged in a battle of wits as well as between right and wrong--and Leigh is the pawn. In particular, Ryan is the standout as he is one of the most menacing and rotten villains I have seen. The way he laughs really makes the blood run cold!

The only shortcoming of the picture is that the interest between Stewart and Leigh comes awful suddenly. It's kind of a movie cliché, but I could never imaging them agreeing to ride off together in the end. It was just too easy a conclusion. Still, it's a heck of a film. Give it a try--the action may be less than some Westerns (there's no shoot out in the town square or silly sidekicks) but it really struggled to raise itself above the norm.
4 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Marvellous
TheLittleSongbird5 June 2011
True, some of the themes and conflicts presented in this movie are very well-worn, and while Janet Leigh looks absolutely gorgeous I couldn't help thinking that this gorgeous presence jarred just a bit seeing as the film in its tone is very tough and melodramatic with themes of greed and bitterness and the rest of the characters intentionally pitiful. That said, Mann directs very assuredly, James Stewart is wonderfully ferocious and Robert Ryan is very charismatic in a more convoluted role. The film looks great, with wonderful sets, scenery, costumes and photography, the music adds to the mood of each scene without feeling too intrusive, the dialogue is excellent and the story even with the well-worn themes and such is very compelling. Overall, a marvellous film. 8/10 Bethany Cox
7 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Four Men And A Girl on the Trail
bkoganbing13 August 2005
The Naked Spur is another fine western put together by the team of Director Anthony Mann and player James Stewart. Spectacular location photography in the Rocky Mountains lend a ring of authenticity to the story.

That story being Stewart as a bounty hunter on the trail of outlaw/killer Robert Ryan who has a girl a long with him in the attractive form of Janet Leigh. Getting Ryan proves too much so he has to enlist the aid of prospector Millard Mitchell and army deserter Ralph Meeker.

Getting Ryan and Leigh back to collect the reward makes up the bulk of the film. Ryan is one evil, but very sly rogue as he works to turn the men against each other. His is the best performance in a small cast of seasoned performers each of one is fine in his/her part.

The final shoot out is a really well done climax of the story. Alliances shift and not everyone is among the living when the film is over. In fact the title of the picture gives a hint of how James Stewart uses a spur in a unique manner against Ryan.

For fans of westerns and I think non-western fans will find the drama and interaction among the characters entertaining.
21 out of 30 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
solid old western
SnoopyStyle17 February 2019
Hired bounty hunter Howard Kemp (James Stewart) has tracked Ben Vandergroat, wanted for a murder in Abilene, Kansas, to the mountains of Colorado. He encounters a lone prospector Jesse Tate and hires him as a guide for $20. They run into former soldier Roy Anderson who insists on joining them when they corner Vandergroat on top of a cliff. They find Vandergroat who has run out of bullets and the daughter of his friend Lina Patch (Janet Leigh). When Vandergroat reveals the bounty on him is $5000, the other two demand an even split. Along the way, Anderson reveals the normally friendly Blackfoot Indians in pursuit are following him seeking revenge.

There is great tension with Kemp's mistrust of the other two for good reason. It's a solid western with a standard wipeout of an Indian war party. I wish Anderson start scheming against Kemp early in the film without the need of Vandergroat's interference. It's more compelling to have those two looking side-eyed at each other because of their characteristics. There is also the final climatic gunfire at the river. The location is compelling and the stunts may be dangerous. It is however not visually intense. The location has great visual potential but the cinematography lacks inventiveness. The action also feels disjointed. It's a small complaint in an otherwise compelling traditional western.
3 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
"You've got him, but he's got you too."
classicsoncall18 November 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Sometimes I think screen writers take an idea and run with it even if it wouldn't hold up in a real life situation. To add some meaning to the title of this picture, Jimmy Stewart's character Howard Kemp uses a spur from one of his boots to claw his way up a rock wall. But how exactly would that work? The tines of a spur could never take that kind of abuse, much less find harbor in a rock face. Then, when Howard struck Ben (Robert Ryan) in the face with it, the logistics of it seemed to stretch credibility to the max. Suspending disbelief though, it was kind of cool and almost made sense.

I haven't seen Stewart in this kind of characterization before. I've seen him mean but here he was downright nasty at times. During his first encounter with prospector Jesse Tate (Millard Mitchell), it took a while to figure out if he was an outlaw or a good guy. And even when it's established he's a good guy, we find that he's part of what some would consider a dishonorable profession, a bounty hunter trading lives for money.

I'm kind of puzzling over the scene in which Roy Anderson (Ralph Meeker) shows Howard his dishonorable discharge. I had an impression that maybe Howard couldn't read because he didn't react to it and simply handed the document back to Roy. A similar scene occurred later on in the story as well to leave that ambiguity intact.

The interesting dynamic in the story for me was the transformation of Janet Leigh's character. I didn't quite get the impression that she was Ben's 'girl' so to speak. After all, Ben explained that Lina's father was his best friend, so there was quite an age disparity there, not to mention one of temperament. But you still had that age differential with Howard, so how the two 'found' each other over the course of the picture made for a compelling story.

Say, did you catch that crazy horse spill during the Indian attack? At one point Howard shoots one of the warriors riding away from him and the horse topples over sideways, rolls over the rider and stands up straddling him. There's no way that could have been planned and it's one of the wilder stunts I've seen that couldn't have been pulled off any better. I wonder what the stunt-man thought of it when it was all over.
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
Stewart as a Bounty Hunter?
gavin694211 June 2012
A bounty hunter (James Stewart) trying to bring a murderer (Robert Ryan) to justice is forced to accept the help of two less-than-trustworthy strangers.

This film is an odd one. While very, very good and commendable for its focus on characters rather than gunfights (though we have those, too) it has an odd feeling about it. And I think that, for me, it is James Stewart.

I love James Stewart. Just about everything he touches is gold. And I know he has done his share of westerns. But it is weird, I cannot see him as a bounty hunter. I see James Stewart as a man in a costume, where all the others looked like they belonged in their clothes. Especially the character of Jesse Tate (Millard Mitchell) -- you cannot be more stereotypically western than him.

The music also left a little to be desired. Still a great movie, though. Even if Jamie Lee Curtis' mom is in it.
1 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
The Naked Spur
jboothmillard19 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
On TV, it was either this western, or the apparently rubbish fantasy film by Sir Ridley Scott starring Tom Cruise called Legend, and I think I made the right decision. From director Anthony Mann (Winchester '73), this western sees Howard Kemp (James Stewart) meet Jesse Tate (Millard Mitchell), and then sheriff Roy Anderson (Ralph Meeker). He doesn't explain why for a little while, bu Howard is looking for and trying to catch wanted criminal Ben Vandergroat (Robert Ryan), and when he catches him after a little gun battle, along with Lina Patch (an attractive Janet Leigh), he reveals the high reward for Vandergroat's capture, and they all (apart from Lina) make a deal to split the reward when they reach the town. On the journey they encounter disagreements, a great Indian battle that ends with Howard hallucinating from a gun wound, and the film ends with all but Howard and Lina dying, and eventually forgetting the reward completely (for love, duh). Typical and predictable in a couple of places, but still a good film, and obviously I love almost anything with James Stewart (one of my most favourite actors). Good!
5 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
2/10
Ryan's Laugh Was Stupid & Ruined The Film
ccthemovieman-117 February 2008
Why one famous critic called this "possibly the greatest Western ever made" is mind- boggling. Not only is it NOT that, it's not even a good movie. In fact, it stinks!

The first 15 minutes leads you to believe this might be a great western, but by halfway through this yawner I had lost my interest....both times I tried. Yeah, I gave it two attempts.

What ruined the film? Robert Ryan's laugh. Ryan, playing his usual villain role, laughed every time he talked. At first, that was kind of different and almost fun to hear but, man, did that wear thin quickly. In no time, Ryan got so annoying to hear that any pleasure from watching this movie was disappearing fast.

The sad thing was the rest of the attractive cast was comprised on unlikeable characters, too! You would think you could root for someone here. Whether it was James Stewart, Janet Leigh or Ralph Meeker playing a character, there wasn't a "good guy" in the bunch.

There are hundreds of westerns better than this one.
18 out of 44 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
Good cast in Western journey.
rmax3048232 May 2008
Warning: Spoilers
After World War II, Jimmy Stewart's career seemed to stall. He was no longer the piping-voiced naive youngster, and it's difficult to believe that his war experiences hadn't affected his real character in some way. This was one of a series of Westerns Stewart made under the direction of Anthony Mann, one of the best and probably the most brutal. There had been an undercurrent of an unstable passion in Stewart's post-war movies, hinted at in "It's a Wonderful Life," especially the scene in which Stewart is on the phone, about to accept a job that will take him out of Bedford Falls, and decides instead to stay in town as Donna Reed's husband. When he grabs her, trembles, and sobs into her hair, Donna Reed -- the actress, not the character -- seems almost embarrassed by Stewart's intensity. That's the part of his personality that this movie cashes in on.

What a cast! Jimmy Stewart is a bounty hunter driven by revenge. Robert Ryan is the prey he captures, along with the girl, Janet Leigh. Ralph Meeker is an ex Army officer, thrown out because he was judged "morally unstable." Millard Mitchell is a wretched prospector. And what odious characters they play! Stewart is haunted by his demons and is not a superman by any means. He can't climb a rope up a sharp cliff face but Ralph Meeker can. Meeker himself is a scuzzbag who almost gets everyone killed because of his treatment of a Blackfeet woman. Leigh thinks she loves the outlaw and murderer. Mitchell is one of life's losers -- fundamentally decent but willing to do just about anything to strike it rich. Ryan is superb. He transcends himself as the unshaven, sloppy, jocular, philosophical captive who is worth a lot of money, dead or alive. Everyone joins in to bring him to the law but things fall apart and only the center can hold. After all the bullets and treachery and skulduggery, only two survivors are left. Guess who.

It's relatively realistic, unlike, say, a Gene Autry or Randolph Scott or early John Wayne Western. As these folks travel through forests and up and down mountainsides, they look dressed for the part, in thrown-together dusty wardrobes of no particular distinction. Stewart -- the hero, mind you -- wears unglamorous chaps while he rides his favorite horse, Pi. Ryan looks the worst of all, his black hat tilted back on his head, all smiles and laughter. The script even gives him a bit of dignity. When Stewart unties Ryan's hands and challenges him to draw, Ryan claims his hands ain't fit, and says, "If you want to murder me, Howie, you'll have to make it look like what it is." Ryan's range was greater than he's sometimes given credit for. Even strictly as a heavy, he could inform the role with a variety of characteristics. His heavy in "Crossfire" is polite and subordinate except when crossed, when his eyes seem to glitter with menace. His heavy in "On Dangerous Ground" is coldly psychopathic. His heavy here, had he been in a contemporary movie, would have been one of those happy-go-lucky killers with "BORN TO BE BAD" tattooed on his upper arm.

Of course, today the fist fights and shootings seem tame -- hardly a drop of blood in sight -- but at the time it was pretty dark stuff. Interesting film. You probably won't be bored.
10 out of 13 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
Impressive James Stewart Western
Tweekums5 May 2012
Warning: Spoilers
When I saw this advertised I thought it would be a Typical B-western given its Saturday afternoon timeslot; it was much better than that though. As the film starts it looks as if James Stewart is a Sheriff, named Howard Kemp, on the trail of murderer Ben Vandergroat; at least that is what he tells elderly prospector Jesse Tate. Jesse agrees to help him catch the killer for twenty dollars; it won't he easy though as he is holding out at the top of a crag pushing rocks down on anybody who tries to climb up. While figuring out what to do they are joined by a third man; a former cavalry officer, Roy Anderson, who has recently been dishonourably discharged. Between they manage to catch Vandergroat which is where the story really begins... he informs them that Kemp isn't a sheriff; he is a man after a five thousand dollar bounty; something he neglected to tell the others. With the potential to gain a cut of that much money Jesse and Roy insist on accompanying Howard back to Abilene, also with them is Lina Patch who had been travelling with Vandergroat. As they head back to Kansas Vandergroat constantly tries to sow distrust between his three captors. After a run in with a group of Blackfoot Indians, who where after Roy because he 'helped himself' to the chief's daughter, Howard is wounded making the journey even more perilous. It is just a matter of time before one of them gets killed!

This is an interesting film, not because it contains a great hero with likable sidekicks, but because all the men are deeply flawed; Howard is willing to see a man die just to earn some money, Jesse believes he has wasted his life searching for gold while less deserving men stumbled across it and while the word 'rape' isn't used it is clear that Roy raped the chief's daughter... and that is just the 'good guys'... Vandergroat may be stirring up trouble to save himself but it is clear he enjoys the trouble he causes. The cast put in fine performances; especially James Stewart who played Howard; a once good man who is bitter after betrayal by the woman he loved. Janet Leigh was good as the feisty Lina and Robert Ryan, Ralph Meeker and Millard Mitchell weren't bad as the other three men. Having a small cast that were almost always together kept the action tight and the tension high. The Colorado scenery provides a stunning backdrop to the story which is beautifully filmed by director Anthony Mann. If you are a fan of the western genre I think this is a must see!
4 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
Brilliant and taut Western with wonderful use of locations and top-of-the-range cast
ma-cortes15 March 2013
An awesome rugged Western masterfully directed by Anthony Mann including his ordinary star, James Stewart . A bounty hunter called Howard Kemp (James Stewart) trying to bring a murderer to justice is forced to accept the help of two less-than-trustworthy strangers (Millard Mitchell , Ralph Meeker) . As he tracks down a vicious and cunning outlaw called Ben Vandergroat (Robert Ryan) accompanied by his gorgeous sweetheart (Janet Leigh) . The ordinary dramatic framework about three men attempting to bring another back to justice is compellingly maintained . Entertainment and excitement increases until a surprising climax .

This exciting Western contains tension-filled , juicy atmosphere , thrills , suspense , gun-play and an impressive final on a high cliff which was one of filmmaker Mann's best moments . Magnificent western from the Anthony Mann/James Stewart team and their third collaboration and considered one of their best . Colour , music , scenarios , landscapes all marks well in this thrilling story about a compulsive bounty hunter who deals with four different roles . It describes a long journey in which there are extreme characters combined with psychological observations and enriched by eventual ambiguity and a tense picture about dishonesty and badness . This particular Western only starred by 5 characters contains an interesting screenplay by Sam Rolfe and being nominated for an Academy Award . By that time (1953) the picture was considered quite strong , tough , surprisingly violent and brutal ; today is deemed a classic film . And seems to be a great influence of wide range such as violence and scenarios . Filmed in Cinemascope in colorful cinematography by William Mellor ; Anthony Mann gets to take from nature the maximum impacts as rivers , valleys , mountains , being wonderfully photographed . Breathtaking background scenarios , dramatic close-up along with shining illuminations , all of them perfectly mingled with a tale full of violence , tension , intrigue and shoot'em up . 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 . The filming took place on location in Durango, Colorado , Rocky Mountains, Colorado, San Juan Mountains, Colorado, and Lone Pine, California . Nedless to say , the main and secondary cast is first-class . Top-of-the-range acting by the great James Stewart as a lone bounty hunter obsessed with hunting down the outlaw . There are top-notch acting from old-stagers as Millard Mitchell playing an aging prospector , as well as from Ralph Meeker as an ex-soldier and special mention to Robert Ryan as a leering killer . And delicate Janet Leigh , pretty much deglamourised here and sporting a new cropped haircut . Emotive as well as thrilling musical score performed by Bronislau Kaper .

This top-drawer Western was stunningly realized by the master Anthony Mann , infusing the traditional Western with psychological confusion , including his characteristic use of landscape with marvelous use of Rockies Mountains which is visually memorable . Mann established his forte with magnificent Western almost always with James Stewart . In his beginnings he made ambitious but short-lived quality low-budget surroundings of Eagle-Lion production as ¨T-men¨ , ¨They walked by night¨ , ¨Raw deal¨ , ¨Railroaded¨ and ¨Desperate¨ . Later on , he made various Western , remarkably good , masterpieces such as ¨The furies¨ , ¨Devil's doorway¨ and ¨Man of the West¨ and several with his habitual star , James Stewart, as ¨Winchester 73¨ , ¨Bend the river¨ , ¨The far country¨ , ¨Man of the West ¨. They are characterized by roles whose determination to stick to their guns would take them to the limits of their endurance . Others in this throughly enjoyable series include ¨Tin star ¨ that is probably one of the best Western in the fifties and sixties . After the mid-50 , Mann's successes came less frequently , though directed another good Western with Victor Mature titled ¨The last frontier¨. And of course ¨Naker spur ¨ that turns out to be stylish , fast paced , solid , meticulous , with enjoyable look , and most powerful and well-considered . This well acted movie is gripping every step of the way . It results to be a splendid western and remains consistently agreeable . Rating : Above average , the result is a magnificent Western . Well worth watching and it will appeal to James Stewart fans .
10 out of 13 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
Irascible western treatise on the moral consequences of greed...
moonspinner5518 December 2010
A salty prospector in 1868 Colorado is recruited by whom he believes to be a peace officer tracking down the killer of a marshal in Rocky Mountain terrain...turns out the officer is actually a mercenary, unsympathetic bounty hunter, determined to bring in his prey dead or alive. Character-driven western, an original from Oscar-nominated screenwriters Sam Rolfe and Harold Jack Bloom, is beautifully mounted by director Anthony Mann. In the lead, bull-headed James Stewart does his usual shouting thing; supporting cast, however, is exceptional, particularly Millard Mitchell, Ralph Meeker as a dishonorably discharged officer (being chased by Blackfoot Indians!), and Robert Ryan as their target. First-rate dramatic entertainment, despite minor problems with the sound recording, a few lapses in the visual continuity, and a disappointing final reel. **1/2 from ****
5 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
for the most part a very fine western thriller, good characterizations, but a frustrating ending
Quinoa198413 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The Naked Spur marks a good note in James Stewart's career, as, up until the very end, he seems like a real anti-hero, if hero at all. He lost his land, his wife is gone, and now all he has is money on his mind- and a bounty to catch in the form of Robert Ryan's character Ben. But at some point- namely the end- the film suddenly loses its really convincing, haunting grip on Howard Kemp's downfall: a good man with a good family that soon drifts away as he becomes a quiet, distrusting loner, doomed to collect money from the soon-to-be-departed.

It's not that the sudden change in morals is startling in and of itself- people change their minds everyday, even if it is about something they got shot in the leg by Indians over or if every member aside from the Wanted's little lady is dead. But it's that there's almost a plot contrivance in it being because of Leigh's character. There's a darker undercurrent throughout the Naked Spur, mainly because we're seeing James Stewart in this kind of role of a greedy bounty hunter. But the ending tries to make everything too tidy when the chance of Kemp's fate is what is really most compelling (the scene when he takes Ryan's character out of the water was also included in the section on westerns in Scorsese's doc on American movies).

And yet even with this ending the Naked Spur is a worthwhile viewing, not just because of a sturdy cast- Robert Ryan, whom I usually pegged (thanks to On Dangerous Ground mostly) to be not very expressive as an actor, is great as a chuckling, unsympathetic scoundrel who may or may not really be a killer- but because of Anthony Mann's strong sense of simple storytelling. The tension always mounts whenever violence is on the horizon, like when the calvary-man climbs up the mountain ledge after Ben, or during a good fight (or the threat of violence).

Nothing more than a sharp pan or a low angle here and there makes up Mann as a real 'stylist', however it's this simple layer of direction that makes him a notable filmmaker of the period. Even if it's not up to his very best (Raw Deal for example), it has some real brains and guts within its conventional innards. And if you are a Stewart fan, you might find this to be one of his most interesting performances in the 50's: going past a specific good-guy image, here is a man compromised by fate and hope for better, even if it's by the pull of a gun.
3 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
One of the great ones
JohnHowardReid15 October 2012
Warning: Spoilers
The photography is a standout. In fact, "The Naked Spur" looks like a 3-D film, complete with lots of deep focus compositions and even objects thrown at the camera! The natural locations are surely mighty impressive, although location movie-making does have its disadvantages -- such as the necessity to post-sync dialogue. Millard Mitchell's timing is way out of sync, but fortunately his role is not all that large. Stewart delivers a characteristic performance in his tailor-made role; Robert Ryan excels as usual; Ralph Meeker and Janet Leigh are competent enough to get by. Anthony Mann's astute direction keeps his audience on a knife edge. His action scenes pack a wallop. The screenplay comes across as tautly suspenseful, characters are skilfully delineated and the plot builds to a stunning climax. Admittedly, I can think of a more powerful ending. The one we actually have is a bit too conventional. Kaper's music score is one of his best.
5 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
This Spurs Us On for More ***
edwagreen28 June 2006
James Stewart in a classical psychological western of greed and ambition.

As a bounty hunter, Stewart meets up with a released Army vet (Ralph Meeker) and an aging saddle tramp, the last role of Millard Mitchell, who died in the year this film came out.

Robert Ryan is the usual villain here. Janet Leigh portrays the daughter of one of his friends who has stuck around Ryan.

The film depicts how Ryan will try to turn the 3 against each other so that he can escape. Greed cause decent men to do things that a moral person would not do. As Mitchell says, "I will have to pay the devil for what I have done."
1 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
On Ryan's Express
wes-connors26 July 2008
Looking at the IMDb "Awards" link will reveal this outstanding Anthony Mann western was nominated for a single "Academy Award", for the "Story and Screenplay" by Sam Rolfe and Harold Jack Bloom. The story (and much about the film) is excellent. Certainly, the writers deserved recognition for the intriguing story, and complex characters. But, to see "The Naked Spur" was not nominated for "Best Color Cinematography" is shocking. William Mellor's photography is truly superior. Perhaps, they felt one nomination was enough for a movie about greed...

James Stewart (as Howard Kemp), Janet Leigh (as Lina Patch), Robert Ryan (as Ben Vandergroat), Ralph Meeker (as Roy Anderson), and Millard Mitchell (as Jesse Tate) are an outstanding Colorado quintet. With Mann and Mellor directing, the small cast appears sprawling. Of the five, Mr. Ryan's intensely malevolent "Ben" reigns supreme; it's difficult to envision "The Naked Spur" without Ryan's psychological thorn throwing. Recipient Stewart is also at his best. The other three are great; though, more should have been to done develop and/or explain the relationship. Leigh had/has with Ryan and Stewart; she is underused. That, and a couple of continuity and/or editing problems may distract, slightly. We shouldn't be to be too greedy about great movies, after all.

********* The Naked Spur (2/6/53) Anthony Mann ~ James Stewart, Robert Ryan, Janet Leigh, Ralph Meeker
19 out of 26 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
Why should you split the bounty? Can you get the money and the girl?
michaelRokeefe7 December 2002
Anthony Mann directs one of the best filmed westerns ever. A bounty hunter(James Stewart) is on the trail of a murderer(Robert Ryan)who is headed toward California with a lovely younger woman(Janet Leigh). Along the way Stewart picks up the aid of an old prospector(Millard Mitchell)and a former soldier(Ralph Meeker). The prey is captured and bound and his cockiness causes the trio of bounty seekers to start turning on each other. A lot can happen on the way back to Kansas. Filmed in the Rocky Mountains, NAKED SPUR is one of the best cinematic westerns of its time. Stewart is pretty much Stewart, but I am more impressed with Ryans' attitude that almost steals the show. Very good story line, great scenery and expected thrills filmed in beautiful Technicolor.
14 out of 22 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Fine Outdoor Western
dougdoepke28 December 2013
If you can get past the dumb title, this is a heckuva good outdoor western, filmed in majestic southwestern Colorado. It's four untrustworthy guys and one eye-candy woman trying to make it to Abilene, where three of the guys can collect a big reward for the fourth. What's unusual is none of the guys is particularly likable, so it's hard to know who to root for. There's the cashiered army lieutenant (Meeker), the grizzled old prospector (Mitchell), the embittered rancher (Stewart), and the giggling outlaw (Ryan). Then there's Ryan's girlfriend (Leigh) who only looks half-Hollywood. The shifting alliances among the bunch as they travel makes up the plot.

This is the first of the celebrated Mann westerns and it shows in most every aspect: setting, script, photography, directing, and acting. (My only reservation is with the "sitting duck" staging of the Indian attack.) Nonetheless, get a load of that roaring river, too much for even white water rafting (the Uncompahgre, I believe). Then too, the tumbling rapids sort of mirrors the gang's shifting undercurrents. Stewart's never been better as the ornery Howie, basically the same kind of part he played in all his Mann westerns, while Ryan adds color with nervous snickers and giggles, definitely a different kind of bad guy. Ordinarily, I'd figure the girl was added for marquee purposes. After all, who wants to look at ugly guys for 90- minutes. But here Leigh's worked nicely into the plot. The showdown is a really memorable one and makes me doubt I'll do any more rock climbing.

All in all, it's a spectacular western, with a fine cast and a suspenseful drama. In short, not a movie to be passed up
4 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
Indeed, money splits better two ways than it does with three.
hitchcockthelegend21 November 2009
Before setting off to fight in the Civil War, Howard Kemp (James Stewart) had signed his ranch off to his fiancée. Upon returning from the war he found that she had sold the ranch and split the scene. Bitter and twisted, Kemp takes up life as a bounty hunter to hopefully earn the cash to buy back his ranch. Trailing outlaw Ben Vandergroat (Robert Ryan) up in the Rocky Mountains, Kemp falls in with elderly prospector, Jesse (Millard Mitchell), and renegade army officer, Anderson (Ralph Meeker). Capturing Vandergroat, who also has his girlfriend, Lina Patch (Janet Leigh), in tow, this small posse must undertake the arduous journey thru the wilderness-with Vandergroat trying to turn the other travellers against Kemp.

The third film of five remarkable Westerns that director Anthony Mann made with James Stewart as his leading protagonist. The Naked Spur is a taut and tightly scripted picture exploring fractured characters dovetailing towards their respective day of reckoning, with Mann's mountain scenery and rugged terrain acting as physical counterpoint to the mental state of the characters. As is normally the way in the best of Anthony Mann, the troubled "hero" is tormented both mentally and physically as he heads towards his destiny. Stewart as Kemp is magnificent, not only in his portraying of Kemp's borderline hysteria, but also as he deals with the physical battering that Kemp undertakes. Not only spending most the journey in agony from a leg wound, but he's also beaten, falls down a cliff, pushed off his horse, has to dodge rocks and perhaps worst of all, suffers humiliation because Vandergroat (Ryan like a smiling assassin) knows about his past. Compelling stuff as Mann directs it with a claustrophobic tightness belying the magnificent scenery enveloping the characters.

With the exception of some anonymous Indians putting some flesh on Anderson's story bones, the film is just a five character piece. With that, it's also a very simple story, one that could very easily be taken for granted. But this is a near masterpiece, with its emotional kickers and exciting action sequences (the raging river finale is sublime) being attention holding from the get go. But ultimately it's the thematics that make The Naked Spur the great movie it is, as Vandergroat bitingly points out, "Choosing a way to die? What's the difference? Choosing a way to live. That's the hard part," well no more needs to be said really. 9/10
6 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
"Plain arithmetic. Money splits better two ways than three."
Hey_Sweden21 June 2019
Acting legend Jimmy Stewart and filmmaker Anthony Mann made a handful of notable collaborations, but none quite as impactful as this. It's hailed as one of the finest Westerns ever made by fans and buffs, and this viewer isn't exactly inclined to disagree with them. It's a rather intimate story (there are only five main characters), but it's gorgeously filmed (by cinematographer William C. Mellor) in Technicolor on Rocky Mountain locations in Colorado, and it certainly would have looked even more grand had it been filmed in "scope". Its five characters are developed well, and we see how plain greed often motivates their actions.

Jimmy is cast as Howard Kemp, an intense bounty hunter determined to collect the reward for wanted man Ben Vandergroat (Robert Ryan). However, he didn't really count on Ben travelling with a companion (the lovely young Janet Leigh), or that he'd have to rely on two other solitary travellers: grizzled gold prospector Jesse Tate (Millard Mitchell) and young Roy Anderson (Ralph Meeker), who was drummed out of the Cavalry for his shaky morals. Tate, at the very least, comes off as more level-headed than the hot-tempered Anderson.

Without over-explaining things, we learn what motivates Kemp, and we see why he's so driven. A complicated, somewhat compromised character was not exactly known to be Jimmy's forte (he usually played symbols of human decency), but he handles it with style. His co-stars are just as good, though, with Ryan a standout as a smart cookie (this is one of his cheeriest performances, for sure) who knows how to drive a wedge in between the "partners", and otherwise manipulate them.

The good, straightforward story is by Sam Rolfe and Harold Jack Bloom, who were later nominated for the Screenplay Oscar. In addition to giving us an engaging set of personalities to clash with one another, they also make sure to include some riveting action sequences, well realized by the filmmakers. The final few minutes involve some river rapids, and they're as exciting as anything one will see in this genre.

Well worth seeing for Western devotees, it's also a good time for fans of any of the cast members present.

Eight out of 10.
7 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Taut, rugged western...grinning Ryan steals the show...
Doylenf21 December 2004
I never realized what a scene-stealer ROBERT RYAN could be until I saw THE NAKED SPUR. Although JAMES STEWART is the nominal big name star, it's Ryan's charming, snake-like villain who dominates this rugged western despite strong performances from the entire cast. He obviously relishes his role and is a joy to watch.

This is more a character study of a group of desperate losers than your average shoot 'em up western and Anthony Mann has directed it with the focus on the strong clashes between each one of them. RALPH MEEKER does an outstanding job as a war deserter who is both a help and a hindrance to the group as they seek to return outlaw Ryan to Kansas so justice can prevail. Stewart's character is given strong motivation for his deeds but Janet Leigh, as the outlaw's girlfriend, has a role that is not plausibly explained.

Photographed in Colorado's Rocky Mountains, it's a rugged kind of technicolor western that gives all of the performers physically demanding roles--and all of them are more than up to it.

Stewart, Leigh, Mitchell and Meeker are all superb--but it's Robert Ryan's devious villain that will linger longest in the memory.
20 out of 27 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
"Hey Lina...can you do me?"
LeonLouisRicci15 April 2013
Another of the Great Mann/Stewart Collaborations that combined Deep Characterizations, Beautiful Landscapes, and a Remarkable Style that Penetrated and presented Colorful and Realistic Stories populated by Complex and Interesting Situations.

The Western like most Genres is a Panorama of work that ranges from Trite to Terrific. This is one of the latter.

A Tense and Claustrophobic feeling that Ironically is felt even though the whole thing was Shot Outdoors because there is a constant Intrusion of Natural Boundaries. Rocky Cliffs, Raging Rivers, Caves, and clumps of Forest all close in to Corral the proceedings.

The Cast is as Good as the Script and the Direction and there is a large amount of Abnormal Psychology that is an unwelcome presence and must be dealt with. Everyone is Thinking about Paydays, Double-Crosses, and Thin Alliances, what could have been and what must be done.

This makes for quite an Uncomfortable Ride and this is a Dark Saga set in front of a Lush but Imposing Background.
1 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
Flame Is The Spur
writers_reign16 January 2011
Warning: Spoilers
By the 1950s the Western was evolving from the simplistic John Ford/John Wayne fables to a more in-depth approach that would culminate in the 'psychological' westerns of the sixties. Henry King kick-started both the genre and the decade with The Gunfighter which removed the Roy Rogers glamorous wardrobe and guitar and showed a much more realistic West. Ironically Anthony Mann's The Naked Spur was released the same year as George Steven's all-time Great Shane which managed to combine the best of both worlds via Alan Ladd's light-coloured 'glamorous' shirt with the harshness of life on the open range. Naked Spur is definitely in the vanguard of 'psychological' Westerns and cunningly contrives a chamber piece - only five characters - set in wide open spaces to appear claustrophobic via the close-knit tensions between the five. Initially each one is out for himself with only the weakest link, Janet Leigh, ostensibly united with Robert Ryan but inevitably the balance shifts so that what began as Stewart, Mitchell, Meeker, three single units united uneasily against Ryan and Leigh, evolves into sole survivors Stewart and Leigh forming a new alliance. Ryan, of course, excelled in this kind of role which he could do standing on his head, Mitchell and Meeker lend sterling support and if Leigh is the weakest link it is Stewart who actually gets to extend his range, leaving behind the gauche, Gary Cooper-lite bashful nice guy and exploring a much darker side of his personality. On TV recently it held up well after 57 years.
4 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
Good character-driven western
grantss21 January 2015
A good character-driven western.

While it has some decent action sequences, mostly straight out of the western playbook, The Naked Spur is a mostly a character-driven drama. It is a battle of wills between five people, all with different agendas, views and abilities.

It is also a story of greed, which shapes many of the personal agendas. Feels a bit like Treasure of the Sierra Madre in that regard, though not anywhere near as great a movie.

Plot is a bit basic, but that is mostly fine. It is the interplay between the five antagonists that matters most.

Solid performance from James Stewart in the lead role (as you would expect). He does feel a bit miscast, as here, while the hero, he is not perfect and has a few character flaws. Hard to imagine James Stewart playing a character that was anything less than perfect.

Good support from Janet Leigh, Robert Ryan and Millard Mitchell. Ralph Meeker, as the former Army officer, is a bit hammy.
3 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Not an usual western and it's great because of that.
Boba_Fett11384 January 2010
Thing that I like about the western genre is that the movies often show that with simplicity you can still make some great movies. Here we have a movie with only 5 characters in it and a story that takes them from point A to B.

Of course there is much more to the story of course but in essence it still remains a movie with a simple, though effective, concept. It's a movie that builds on its characters. The movie shows human nature when a bunch of unlikely allies capture a criminal with $5000 on his head.

I don't know but I also sort regard this movie as an adventure movie in which the main characters travel and every now and then come across new problems. It certainly is different from most other westerns since this movie is not action-driven. It's a more classy movie really, that is made for entertainment but also still has some, Oscar nominated, great writing.

The movie of course gets also uplifted by its actors. Since it's a character driven movie casting was a real important aspect for this movie. James Stewart appeared in quite some westerns throughout his career, such as also John Wayne's last movie "The Shootist". It shows that James Stewart was quite a versatile actor who could handle different genres. Early in his career he did mostly comedies, than drama and with Hitchcock he later made some thrillers as well. It's also one of the few westerns in which the female character does not feel obsolete. She serves a significant purpose in the movie and she is not made to look like the innocent, weak lady. The female pat is played by Janet Leigh, who of course also was a more than capable actress. The rest of the cast members aren't as well known but they simply were great in this and well cast within their roles.

A great movie to watch that is not only well written and constructed but also entertaining to watch, mostly due to its original approach.

8/10

http://bobafett1138.blogspot.com/
2 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

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


Recently Viewed