Saturday, Oct 2020
Director: Anthony Mann
Screenwriters: Sam Rolfe & Harold Jack Bloom
Length: 91 min.
Released: 1953

the naked spur posterThe rugged Colorado Rockies are the setting for this brutal tale of double cross. Howard Kemp (Jimmy Steward) has traveled to the harsh terrain from the relatively civilized town of Abilene, Kansas. He was cheated out of his Kansas homestead (and fiancé) and has resorted to bounty hunting to earn enough money to reclaim his land.

While primarily a Western, The Naked Spur has a strong Film Noir tone. Kemp is a down-and-out man who's is trying to rebuild his life. He is morally conflicted about hunting men for money. Lina Patch (Janet Leigh) is the dutiful and reliable companion of bad guy Ben Vandergrout (Robert Ryan). Vandergrout, is at times a more amiable fellow than Kemp, placing the viewer in the moral predicament of siding with a vicious killer. He is relentless and effective in his efforts to drive a wedge between the bounty hunters.

The Howard Kemp role is a dark and wonderful change for Jimmy Steward. There is no hint of the "aw shucks" bumpkin seen in many of his films, he is a hardened man.

A wonderful contrast in the movie is the small cast with the vast mountain backdrop. Five actors move together through the Rockies. There is so much space, yet no escape from questions of morality. The photography is stunning in its starkness. Aside from the five actors and their steeds, there are no other actors (excepting a brief scrap with some Indians) and no wildlife, just the beautiful, cold, hard mountains and raging rivers.

The Naked Spur is a great story and an excellent film. Perhaps a Classic but tallied as a Must See here at Couch Cowboy.

Cast:

  • James Stewart ....Howard Kemp
  • Janet Leigh ... Lina Patch
  • Robert Ryan .... Ben Vandergroat
  • Ralph Meeker .... Roy Anderson
  • Millard Mitchell .... Jesse Tate
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