Monday, October 5, 2015

260. The Naked Spur (1953)

Running Time: 91 minutes
Directed By: Anthony Mann
Written By: Sam Rolfe, Harold Jack Bloom
Main Cast: James Stewart, Janet Leigh, Robert Ryan, Ralph Meeker, Millard Mitchell
Click here to view the trailer


FYI, the cast list that I've included above is actually the entire cast of the film, as the movie featured only five actors, which is something I normally am a sucker for. Read on to see if I was a sucker for it this time around...

Jimmy Stewart is Howard Kemp, a bounty hunter searching for Ben Vandergroat (Ryan). As the film gets underway, Kemp happens upon Jesse Tate (Mitchell), a gold prospector who claims to have seen a fresh campfire the night before. Kemp offers Tate $20 to lead him to where he spotted the evidence and Tate bites, thinking Kemp is a sheriff. The two quickly find Ben, who is taking cover on top of a mountain and causing rock slides whenever his captors get too close. As they're trying to figure out a way to get to the top of the mountain safely, the two men are happened upon by a third party, Roy Anderson (Meeker), a dishonorably discharged soldier, who offers his assistance. Anderson managed to climb up the opposite side of the mountain and take Ben by surprise, coming up behind him. This allows Kemp and Tate to come up the easy way (the path where Ben was causing the rock slides), however, before they can, a woman, Lina Patch (Leigh), takes Anderson by surprise. However, Kemp manages to get to the top and hold his gun on Patch, this incapacitating the fugitives. In turn, Ben blows Kemp's cover, letting the cat out of the bag that Kemp isn't an officer of the law and also lets them in on the fact that there's a $5000 reward for his capture. Kemp, who wanted to take Ben to justice alone, so that he could collect the five grand and buy back the farm he once owned, now may have to share his reward dollars with his two helpers. Dissension ensues...


This one was a - say it with me - TOUCH NUT TO CRACK! First of all, it starts out by leading us to believe that Stewart would end up being the bad guy, because foreshadowing led me to believe that Ryan's Ben Vandergroat would turn out to be innocent. So I go in assuming Ryan will end up a free man and live happily ever after with Janet Leigh and that I'd have to endure a movie where Jimmy Stewart plays the heel. Now, don't get me wrong, the idea of Stewart playing a villain sounds a bit enticing. However, I just wasn't buying it. I like my Jimmy Stewart to be a good guy, sorry. Anyway, screw all that, because I was wrong anyway. Over the course of the film, Janet Leigh's Lina Patch ends up falling for Kemp (and vice versa) and somehow by the end of the movie, they're in love and she's convincing him not to take Ben to justice...EVEN THOUGH BEN IS DEAD!

Now this was also a big problem for me, because Howard Kemp's motivation throughout the ENTIRE film is the $5000 reward, so that he can buy back his farm. He gets shot in the leg, he nearly falls off a cliff, he nearly kills himself, all so that he can get this money and get his farm. AND THEN, because Jamet Leigh says so, he decides not to use Ben for monetary gain - even though he's already been killed and even though Ben uses her as bait to try and lure Kemp into a trap, clearly turning out to be the bad guy that Kemp knew he was all along. Let's just all say it together - THE ENDING WAS F'N STUPID!

Otherwise, I suppose it was a fine western, I guess. Like I've stated many times before, I just don't think I'm a western type of guy - unless we're talking about omelets. Even the best westerns are merely mediocre in my eyes. If pressed to pick the best ones from THE BOOK, I'd say that Silver Lode and Hombre come to mind as being really entertaining. Two really obscure ones, I know, but two that I really dug. Oh and don't forget the Leone westerns which are two of the best movies I've seen from THE BOOK period - head & shoulders above all other BOOK westerns and probably all other westerns in general, as a matter of fact. As it pertains to the Mann westerns and more specifically his collaborations with Stewart, I'd have to call the entire trio a huge disappointment. I'd heard such amazing things about the Mann/Stewart westerns and while Winchester '73 did manage to garner a '7', upon my initial viewing, I have a feeling that it wouldn't hold up to that rating if I rewatched it today. They were all fine, don't get me wrong - but far from what I'd call "great".

RATING: 6.5/10  Call it "Winchester '73", "The Naked Spur" and "The Man from Laramie" in that order, from best to worst, when ranking the Mann/Stewart westerns.


October 5, 2015  4:23pm


  1. I have seen all three Mann/Stewart westerns from the book and I agree with your assessment. I would probably rank them in the same order. I am a big fan of westerns, but I agree not much makes these 3 films stand out. They are fine, but probably not must see. I would probably just put one on the list to represent Mann/Stewart. Winchester is probably the best but I might go with Naked Spur as I usually prefer westerns in color. Good review.

    1. Thank you Larry. Always appreciated! Glad to know we agree here.

  2. Well, I see what you mean, and somewhat agree .. but wouldn't go as harsh as F'in stupid about the ending .. just say it was typical Hollywood ending of the flawed Hero becoming a true hero for the love of a good woman. OK, tired and cliche, I will give you that.. but what do you expect from this sort of film from this era

    1. I just found it all very odd, I guess. First Stewart is portrayed as the baddie, then that clearly isn't the intention, so he's good again by the end. Then Robert Ryan does a flip flop too. Don't get me wrong, that aspect was neat, I guess....I just didn't care for the ending, whatsoever and yes, very typical Hollywood, this era.


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