"Plain arithmetic. Money splits better two ways instead of three," smooth-talking outlaw Ben Vandergroat reasons to his captors, three bounty hunters thrown together by chance. They're taking him to justice in Abilene, but... more » Ben has other ideas. If he can set the men against each other ? play on their greed, their fears, their vanities ? he may be able to make his break to freedom. In the third of his five landmark Anthony Mann-directed westerns, James Stewart stars as the relentless leader of bounty hunters caught in the snare of the hunted (Robert Ryan). Tough, sweating with tension, and towering as tall as its breathtaking Colorado Rockies setting, The Naked Spur is simply "one of the best Westerns ever made" (Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide). Year: 1953 Director: Anthony Mann Starring: James Stewart, Janet Leigh, Robert Ryan, Ralph Meeker, Millard Mitchell« less
"James Stewart was a different man after he returned from World War II. Although still capable of playing the lovable, folksy character he played in comedies, his films upon his return from the war sometimes took a hard, even bitter edge. And the majority of these films were the Westerns he made in the 1950s with great director Anthony Mann. Making eight films in all, including non-Westerns such as The Glenn Miller Story and Strategic Air Command, they formed one of the strongest bodies of work between a director and actor in Hollywood history.
Beginning in 1950 with "Winchester '73", Stewart and Mann made Westerns that belied many of the typical genre films of that era. Stewart's heroes, instead of being stalwart, upright and likable, were often times somewhat shady, sinister, and not always likable. Of all of their great Westerns, including "Winchester '73," "The Man From Laramie," "Bend of The River," and others, probably the best film of their collaboration was "The Naked Spur," a story about a vicious, psychopathic outlaw captured by a group competing with each other to collect the bounty on the outlaw's head. The outlaw, played by relish and glee by Robert Ryan, uses the group's collective and individual greed against them in a bid to escape.
Stewart's performance is spectacular, ranging wildly from bitter to sympathetic, nervous to resolute, and the rest of the cast is also dynamic and evenly matched. This film was was well worth the wait for DVD, and should be purchased by all Stewart-lovers, Western-lovers, and Ryan-lovers, and perhaps one day, there will be many more Mann-lovers, because he was one of Hollywood's best directors, and he is largely forgotten today."
A truly great Western
Robert Moore | Chicago, IL USA | 03/18/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Jimmy Stewart's career was doing great in 1950, and hardly needed a boost, but nonetheless, he agreed to appear in Anthony Mann's Western WINCHESTER '73, and the always superb Stewart's career took a new and more complex path. In the 1950s, Stewart would make eight movies with Mann, and five of them--WINCHESTER '73 (1950), BEND OF THE RIVER (1952), THE NAKED SPUR (1953), THE FAR COUNTRY (1954), and THE MAN FROM LARAMIE (1955)--would be Westerns. These five Westerns fully rival the series of Westerns that John Wayne made with John Ford. They presented the public with a new Jimmy Stewart, one consistently beset with tragedy, often driven to the edge of what human beings can bear. And sometimes, as in THE NAKED SPUR, Stewart would portray a man so driven by the difficulties that life has thrust upon him, that his greatest struggle isn't with his human enemy so much as it is with his highly tenuous grip upon sanity.Apart from the Native American extras, this film has only five characters: Jimmy Stewart as the bounty hunter seeking a man to collect a reward that will allow him to repurchase the ranch he has lost; Janet Leigh as a young girl who has been taken up by an outlaw; Robert Ryan as the outlaw Stewart is after; Ralph Meeker as a dishonorably discharged cavalry officer; and Millard Mitchell as the old timer whose real dream is finding a mother lode. It is a great cast, and the actors all work together in marvelous fashion. Stewart and Leigh had marvelous careers, but both Ryan and Meeker were great actors who never seemed to manage to have the kinds of careers you would have expected them to have. Meeker would turn in magnificent performances in Stanley Kubrick's PATHS OF GLORY (easily one of Kubrick's greatest films) and Robert Aldrich's KISS ME DEADLY, as Mike Hammer, but all in all, he never seemed to get the kinds of roles his talent would seem to require. Nonetheless, he is superb in this film.There is actually a sixth member of the cast: the San Juan Mountains in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. No director of Westerns was better at integrating the rugged outdoors with his films than Anthony Mann. We all associate, of course, Monument Valley with the Westerns of John Ford, but in Ford's films the incredible landscapes functioned more like decoration. They were backdrops for the stories being told. But in Anthony Mann's films, the land itself was an integral part of the action. That is especially true of THE NAKED SPUR. Both at the beginning and the end of the movie, the hunters seek their prey in a locale higher than they are at. But throughout, the land is palpably a part of the film. This film also excels at combining psychological complexity with great action sequences. It is a very dynamic movie. Virtually every camera shot catches characters who already in motion. Almost never do we see a cut with a static character who then begins to move. Instead, every cut finds someone already in the act of doing something. Yet, much of the appeal of the film lies in the psychological and emotional tensions between the different characters. In other words, anyone who loves Jimmy Stewart, great Westerns, or just flat out great cinema, needs to see this film."
One of the Great Westerns
Scott T. Rivers | Los Angeles, CA USA | 04/20/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Tough and uncompromising, "The Naked Spur" (1953) is a classic Western with James Stewart and director Anthony Mann at the top of their game. Stunningly filmed in the Colorado Rockies, this psychological bounty-hunter odyssey makes the most of Sam Rolfe and Harold Jack Bloom's Oscar-nominated screenplay. Excellent performances by Robert Ryan, Janet Leigh, Ralph Meeker and Millard Mitchell prove an ideal match for Stewart's emotional intensity. William C. Mellor's Technicolor cinematography deserves the highest praise. Along with "Winchester '73" (1950), the finest of the Stewart-Mann collaborations."
Maltin is right - One of the best westerns ever made
Lee J. Stamm | Kennewick, WA United States | 03/15/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A reluctant bounty hunter tries to bring in his crafty quarry with the help of two unwanted partners, a luckless prospector and a cashiered Army officer. The situation is further complicated by the outlaw's young girlfriend. This film is a rare combination of a well-written story, expert direction, beautiful location photography, and excellent performances from a cast of skilled actors. Highly recommended."
WHY ISN'T THIS ON DVD?
Scott T. Rivers | 01/26/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"... this is one of the best westerns ever made. The performances are top-notch. I disagree with the reviewer who thought Robert Ryan's performance was forced. By making him by turns ingratiating, manipulative, devious and violent, Ryan has created an accurate portrayal of a sociopathic personality. James Stewart was an amazing actor, and this film is one of his best. It's also a beautiful film to look at, filmed in Colorado's San Juan Mountains, "America's Alps". With all the [stuff] that's out on DVD, it would sure be great to see this released in that format."