The Naked Spur (1953)
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The powerhouse combination of star James Stewart and director Anthony Mann score another cinematic bullseye in The Naked Spur. Stewart plays a taciturn frontiersman who loses his home while he's off fighting the Civil War. To raise enough money for a new grubstake, Stewart becomes a bounty hunter in Colorado territory. His first quarry is fugitive, killer Robert Ryan. Stewart's efforts to bring in Ryan and collect the reward are compromised by the presence of Ryan's loyal girl friend Janet Leigh and Stewart's two disreputable sidekicks, wily prospector Millard Mitchell and disgraced Union-officer Ralph Meeker. There's plenty of "cat and mouse" byplay between Stewart and Ryan before the brutal climax; the drama is intensified by the fact that both men are on the outer rim of total insanity. The Oscar-nominated screenplay for The Naked Spur was cowritten by Sam Rolfe, who was later one of the creative forces responsible for the similarly no-nonsense TV western series Have Gun, Will Travel. … More
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Critic Reviews for The Naked Spur
This 1953 film has Janet Leigh in jeans, beautiful location shooting (and Technicolor cinematography) in the Rockies, and some of the most intense psychological warfare to be found in [director Anthony] Mann's angular and anguished oeuvre.
This rock-solid Western is brisk, terse, and full of excellent performances..and for once, a Jimmy Stewart film doesn't find its leading man stealing the show!
His every move meets resistance. In this grim cavalcade of paranoia on the hoof, the verbal jabs never let up.
In this taut revenge Western, from Oscar-nominated script by Sam Rolfe and Harold Jack Bloom, Jimmy Stewart gives one of his best performances, revealing a darker facet to his screen persona that only a superb director like Anthony Mann could bring out
Mann never failed to deliver an astonishing ending to his Westerns, but this is one of his best.
...an engrossing little film that doesn't flinch from showing us the worst in people, including the hero.
Wonderfully intense psychological Western built around a simple story of greed and the chance to start life over again after failure.
One of Stewart's best tortured performances, showing his dark side. A must-see for Stewart buffs.
Audience Reviews for The Naked Spur
As "The Naked Spur" opens, Jimmy Stewart has met an old prospector up in the hills and has hired him on to help track down a dangerous fugitive. This is all the set up required for this movie, as the film takes place wholly within these mountains and forests, and with the exception of the nameless indians who attack them, involves just five people. There's Stewart as Kemp, an amateur bounty hunter, out to get the money needed to buy back his ranch, Jesse the prospector (Millard Mitchell) and Roy the dishonorably discharged, indian-hunting soldier (Ralph Meeker). The three men have been thrown together by chance in order to bring Ben (Robert Ryan) back to justice, along with a young woman (Janet Leigh) Ben has snatched up along the way. Roy isn't very trustworthy, as his constant smiling demeanor lets us know. But it's the prisoner Ben who is the most fearsomely manipulative. He knows it's his neck that's going to be in the noose when they get back, and he tries everything in his power to squirm his way out of the rope they've got him in. The Naked Spur has more than a little in common with "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre", only instead of gold, the treasure is the outlaw. Stewart is in his own way, as hard as Bogart from that film, but Stewart's character is offered a happy ending, if he so chooses to accept it. In that way, The Naked Spur tries to offer a more redeeming morality in the end, and it's not necessarily for the better.More
One-dimensional characters and corny situations stand between The Naked Spur and broad appeal. Still, Jimmy Stewart can make ANY script seem interesting and plausible.More
Another boring confusing stupid western that I did not like. Of course there are good actors in this movie, so maybe you'd like it if you like westerns.More
Better than average western benefits from strong direction, beautiful color photography and most of all an excellent cast. Jimmy Stewart is properly gruff and driven and Janet Leigh is fine but her part isn't that strong. However the great Robert Ryan is smoothly evil and the undervalued Ralph Meeker wonderful as someone he always played well the conflicted heel who could be counted on in the end.More
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