Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Naked Spur (1953)

Director: Anthony Mann

Writers: Sam Rolfe, Harold Jack Bloom

Composer: Bronislau Kaper

Starring: James Stewart, Janet Leigh, Robert Ryan, Ralph Meeker, Millard Mitchell

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Packed with Technicolor Thrills!

Plot: A man trying to bring a murderer to justice is forced to accept the help of two less-than-trustworthy strangers.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  No.


When you get into Westerns of the 1950s you start to see a transition from simple to complex films with mature themes, emotions, acting and so on.  This isn't one of those shoot-em-ups and there's more going on here than the average Western at the time but let's not give this picture too much credit.  The Colorado scenery is GORGEOUS!  The cast does a relatively fine job.  I liked Mitchell (as the old prospector, Jesse Tate) the best.  He was fun but without over doing it.  Ralph Meeker (who I swore was just a young Vic Morrow) acts all over the place from good to over the top but I liked how you couldn't trust the guy all the way to the end.  Leigh is fine as is Stewart (and I liked his motivation) but I'd swear in all of the pictures Robert Ryan made combined, I've never seen him smile and laugh as much as he did in this one.  He played a unique bad guy and I liked him quite a bit to the point of wanting him to get away with it.  Naturally his true colors are eventually exposed and 1950s Hollywood wouldn't allow him to get away with it.  The action is good and there's some great suspense.  The Indian gunfight was a great tense moment.  I do have one bone of contention and that's the "love story" plot thread.  It's REALLY weak and the scene where Howard (Stewart) and Lina (Leigh) embrace is laughable.  Oh, yeah, and the score, which is mostly good, gets downright stupid when at least three times we hear the song, "Beautiful Dreamer", when the characters are talking about their life dreams/goals or when Howard is talking in his sleep while Lina comforts him.  It's truly horrible to hear.  I expect that in a cartoon but not in a Western such as this that's trying, and succeeding at being something more than Saturday matinee fluff.  Still, though, there's a lot to like here and it shouldn't go unseen by fans of the genre.

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