Naked Spur, The (1953)

The Naked Spur (1953), directed by Anthony Mann.

James Stewart is going to bring Robert Ryan back, dead or alive. All he wants is the reward money so he can buy back his ranch. He picks up two unwanted "partners": prospecting old-timer Millard Mitchell and misfit soldier Ralph Meeker. We also have Janet Leigh who is a girlfriend of some sort to the fugitive. They have to worry not only about the outlaw and the Indians (which they mow down in classic fashion) but each other.

Here we move into the unheroic western genre. Everyone is out for themselves, no one can be trusted. Except for the woman who is doing it for love. James Stewart eventually softens up, also for love.

It's famous and well-regarded. I think I just don't like the Mann/Stewart westerns as much as many others do. Maybe it is because of the new type of character Stewart plays. When he becomes dangerous and unlikeable (as in Vertigo (1958)) he is really very unsettling, perhaps because we are so used to seeing him as the boyishly pleasant everyman. But I think he always had that subsurface violence even under his normal roles.

Like Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle, Janet Leigh is too beautiful to be very scruffy.

Robert Ryan is my favorite actor, but I don't buy his jolly smirking badman here. It seems laid on a bit thick.

The image on my DVD was soft and the color a bit faded. Gorgeous Colorado locations, though.

A lot of the score seemed like generic cowboy action music and unsuited to the story. I thought the same thing about another Mann western, The Furies (1950). And the theme for The Man from Laramie (1955) was ludicrously bad. I wonder if he had any control over the score for these films?