The Naked Spur - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Naked Spur Reviews

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Mr Awesome
Super Reviewer
April 24, 2013
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.
Super Reviewer
January 2, 2009
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.
Super Reviewer
September 5, 2010
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.
Super Reviewer
½ March 11, 2010
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.
Super Reviewer
May 5, 2007
Not quite as good as Winchester 73', but still a lot of fun.
Super Reviewer
November 22, 2007
Another bracing western from the James Stewart/Anthony Mann stable sees Stewart as a rancher forging an uneasy alliance with an old prospector and an AWOL cavalry officer to bring outlaw Robert Ryan in dead or alive for the reward money. Stewart is one of the best when it comes to playing tough guys with a streak of vulnerability, and there's some great psychology at work; Stewart's crisis of conscience accentuated by Janet Leigh's divided loyalties and all the while, Ryan is constantly using mindgames to set the trio against each other. I could have lived without the schmaltzy soundtrack, but otherwise, quality stuff.
Super Reviewer
½ November 20, 2006
Watching Jimmy Stewart get pissed off is great. A great movie for a western, too.
Super Reviewer
½ December 23, 2010
A very tense and focused western without big gunfights and elaborate saloons, but rather, The Naked Spur is a wild west road movie in the vain of Tarantino with a headhunter and a whole bunch of misfits and a woman making their way to Kansas to hand in a criminal and reek in the reward. James Stewart has not played many gritty roles or bad guys but his brooding nature and stern calmness make for a good tough guy. The supporting cast could have been slightly more interesting, but all in all, the ensemble cast does a good job and the most interesting character is definitely Millard Mitchell. The ending is good and not as cheesy as most westerns from that time.

I found the film very refreshing for a western and it reminded me of other classics road-trip westerns such as Red River or The Searchers.

Super Reviewer
½ June 4, 2008
James Stewart as an anti-hero and it works.
½ April 4, 2013
Five down on their luck people come together in wild country of Colorado. With few options, none should trust anyone else. Then in the last minute the ending is flipped in order to preserve Stewart's good guy persona.
½ March 21, 2013
I watch James Stewart's films for one reason, James Stewart - but so far, there's been a supporting actor who seems to steal the show, and this time around it's Ralph Meeker, as the union soldier. The guy was brilliant.
½ June 14, 2012
this movie is great, seems like it was made more like in the 1970's then the 50's... great acting, a cool storyline, i enjoyed watching this... i think i should start watching more westerns
April 28, 2012
Horses, Janet Leigh, and Horses

It strikes me that, for all the Western is a genre celebrating the wide, open, unpopulated spaces where civilization does not reach, it's really quite rare to have a Western without a couple of dozen people at least. Even things like [i]Stagecoach[/i] and [i]True Grit[/i], which are mostly about a small group of people traveling far from the rest of the human race, include scenes set in towns. You may spend most of the movie isolated with just a couple of characters, but it's made plain that there are more people somewhere. While John Ford made Monument Valley some of the most recognizable territory in the United States, it is also true that the Western created iconic locations in audiences' minds such as the frontier town and the ranch. Even if the characters are just passing through, it's plain that there is somewhere to be just passing through. This movie is original at least in the sense that its characters are as isolated as the Moon.

Howard Kemp (Jimmy Stewart) is searching the wilderness for Ben Vandergroat (Robert Ryan). Ben is wanted for shooting a man in the back, and Howard is determined to bring him to Kansas to face justice. He recruits Jesse Tate (Millard Mitchell), an old prospector who saw someone's trail, to show him where that trail leads. On the way, they meet Lieutenant Roy Anderson (Ralph Meeker), late of the US Cavalry and discharged dishonorably. (It is strongly implied that he raped an Indian girl.) He joins the hunt for Ben. When they catch him, Ben is traveling with Lina Patch (Janet Leigh), and he swears that he is innocent. He also reveals that Howard's search for Ben is not that of a lawman doing his job but that of a bounty hunter seeking a reward. He has known Howard for some time, and he knows the parts of Howard's past that he would rather Ben not tell everyone. But of course he does. And so the five travel through some of the most beautiful country in the West to take Ben back to Kansas for trial.

Oh, Jimmy Stewart wasn't [i]quite[/i] twice Janet Leigh's age. But he was close enough so that I had a hard time accepting the implicit assumption that Lina was going to end up with Howard. It didn't take a genius to spot that Ben was bad news, just someone with a bit more life experience than poor Lina had. And certainly I didn't want her to end up with the old man or the crazy rapist, either. But it struck me that Jimmy Stewart would have been a lot more believable if he'd treated Janet Leigh's character as a daughter, not a romantic interest. Howard had a dark and sordid past, and the implication is that he is looking for Lina to help him redeem himself. Which is all well and good. But I, for one, found myself hoping that Lina would just go off somewhere and not be with any man at all for a while. She didn't really seem to know who she was yet, and I think you ought to before you sink part of your identity into a relationship with another person.

I did believe Howard's expressly stated position that he didn't care if Ben was guilty or not. Howard may not have been a sheriff, as he strongly implied to Jesse at first, but he was still doing a job. Indeed, in the West, it was a pretty necessary job if anyone was going to stand trial who wasn't willing to go along with it of their own free will. This was a time when all you had to do to escape the law was travel a hundred miles or so, and the options for law enforcement were slim. Travel and communication weren't what they are now. Yes, Howard knew Ben. But I still don't really believe that Howard's search was anything personal. His interests were purely financial. Yes, he also had a reasonable disgust for someone who would shoot a person in the back, but it's hardly as though he was going to make it easy for himself by opting for "dead," even though no one would have been around to say that he hadn't gotten his man in a fair fight.

It's a beautiful movie, or anyway a movie filmed in beautiful territory. It's got a decent cast. And some of the characterization is drawn well enough, especially for what it is. However, large amounts of the movie are just unbelievable. There's a lot about the character of Roy that I don't understand, including why there was the whole thing about the Indians. (Oh, I suppose there's an Indian fight at one point, and that's other characters. But it's certainly not as though any of the Indians get any lines other than generic whooping. It may also be assumed that Indians do not count as "civilization" in a Western from 1953.) In just a few years, it would become possible and even probable that the character the bounty hunter was seeking was actually innocent, and that would have been a lot more nuanced than the moustache-twirling we get here. In short, the movie is missing quite a lot which would have made for a movie worth watching a second time. But I'm not sure this was even worth watching the first time.
June 29, 2011
Another good Mann-Stewart collaboration after classics like Winchester 73' and Bend Of The River. Very good cinematography and use of location.
Super Reviewer
½ January 28, 2011
this movie is great, seems like it was made more like in the 1970's then the 50's... great acting, a cool storyline, i enjoyed watching this... i think i should start watching more westerns
½ January 10, 2011
Great western from Anthony Mann. Neat and to the point. Beautiful cinematography. Definitely worth a look for western fans.
Super Reviewer
½ October 14, 2010
Worth watching just to see Jimmy Stewart play an almost bad guy but other then that it was just an Ok Western.
½ May 21, 2010
Slow, agonizingly told western set in the beautiful Rockies. Jimmy Stewart (Howard) acts again in a Tony Mann directed film. This time he's bringing back to Texas Ben Vandergroat (Robert Ryan) for trial. The obligatory Indian fight and shooting is typical early into the film.

In color, the film has great cinematography, beautiful scenery, good acting ensamble including Ryan and Stewart,Leigh. Young Ryan is his usual acting self, but does a good job of acting as the prisoner along a long trail to justice in Texas.

Aging actor Millard Mitchell is a gold prospector and he is wonderful. He helps Stewart in the very beginning of the film in the quest for the criminal, Robert Ryan (Ben).
The most honest stranger Stewart meets, his desire for gold makes him the unwitting target of Ryan's manipulation.

Ryan has a very talky part which gets annoying fast. How it is they expect to travel on horseback from what appears to be Colorado to Texas is a stretch.

The main problem I have with the film is the time spent with Ryan. He is given as much time and probably more than Stewart. Being a dispicable character and somewhat psycho, all you begin to hope for is this torturous ride to end by a showdown.

Stewart is about the maddest, vengeful man I have ever seen in his films. He carries with him a great hatred of Ryan for a crime not really known. Ryan at this point knows more about Stewart than we do as he reveals bits and pieces to his captors. Made up or not, Ryan spins tales to his captors to try to escape.

Ryan makes it known early to his adopted girl (Janet Leigh) that he plans to divide and conquer, so he talks this movie to death.

After Stewart gets shot in an Indian fight, he is handicapped the rest of the film, with Ryan laughing to himself all through the journey.

Ryan just keeps talking and talking, hoping to make his move to escape. Ben (Ryan) is a dispicable criminal who loves to manipulate and thereby control the actions of others. He works on gullible Leigh to help him escape.

Problem is, a relationship has begun between heartsick and jilted Stewart and Leigh. Ryan exploits this to try his escape. The old tune Beautiful Dreamer crops up during the romantic scenes. Stewart literally throws himself at the girl. Ryan predicts early in the film this would happen.

Tempted to shoot Ben after an untimely escape, Stewart feels betrayed by the girl. Arguments begin about the bounty money between a fellow traveler and calvery man (Ralph Meeker), with Stewart fighting him with a bad leg (not credible by the way that he could do that).

The title Naked Spur curiously comes from the use of Stewart's boot spur during a climactic moment late in the film. Not the best title however and today sounds corny.

Maybe the Naked Truth would be better, but Westerns in the fifties always liked to throw in a western reference into the title. The word Naked itself is strange here and not too sure what that refers to. Suprisingly, the title with the word Naked never got struck out by the censors.

A raging river scene is just amazing. The truth of the matter here is that Stewart needed the bounty money to rebuild his life on a farm.

But in the end, the blood money is not worth losing Janet Leigh.

Worth watching once, becomes difficult to sit through as the group travels the mountainous terrain. The endless talking of Ryan to fashion his escape is just as hard to listen to.

This is as much Ryan's film as Stewart's.
½ March 17, 2010
4 dudes and Janet Leigh rolling around in Colorado, shooting at one another and occasionally the obligatory "injuns". Not sure what makes this one stand out among the rest, but it is fundamentally sound so I'll put it on at least nearly-equal footing with movies like "Man of the West" etc.
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