Post by hitchcockthelegend on Jan 17, 2020 0:31:12 GMT
Indeed, money splits better two ways than it does with three.
Before setting off to fight in the Civil War, Howard Kemp (James Stewart) had signed his ranch off to his fiancée. Upon returning from the war he found that she had sold the ranch and split the scene. Bitter and twisted, Kemp takes up life as a bounty hunter to hopefully earn the cash to buy back his ranch. Trailing outlaw Ben Vandergroat (Robert Ryan) up in the Rocky Mountains, Kemp falls in with elderly prospector, Jesse (Millard Mitchell), and renegade army officer, Anderson (Ralph Meeker). Capturing Vandergroat, who also has his girlfriend, Lina Patch (Janet Leigh), in tow, this small posse must undertake the arduous journey thru the wilderness-with Vandergroat trying to turn the other travellers against Kemp.
The third film of five remarkable Westerns that director Anthony Mann made with James Stewart as his leading protagonist. The Naked Spur is a taut and tightly scripted picture exploring fractured characters dovetailing towards their respective day of reckoning, with Mann's mountain scenery and rugged terrain acting as physical counterpoint to the mental state of the characters. As is normally the way in the best of Anthony Mann, the troubled "hero" is tormented both mentally and physically as he heads towards his destiny. Stewart as Kemp is magnificent, not only in his portraying of Kemp's borderline hysteria, but also as he deals with the physical battering that Kemp undertakes. Not only spending most the journey in agony from a leg wound, but he's also beaten, falls down a cliff, pushed off his horse, has to dodge rocks and perhaps worst of all, suffers humiliation because Vandergroat (Ryan like a smiling assassin) knows about his past. Compelling stuff as Mann directs it with a claustrophobic tightness belying the magnificent scenery enveloping the characters.
With the exception of some anonymous Indians putting some flesh on Anderson's story bones, the film is just a five character piece. With that, it's also a very simple story, one that could very easily be taken for granted. But this is a near masterpiece, with its emotional kickers and exciting action sequences (the raging river finale is sublime) being attention holding from the get go. But ultimately it's the thematics that make The Naked Spur the great movie it is, as Vandergroat bitingly points out, "Choosing a way to die? What's the difference? Choosing a way to live. That's the hard part," well no more needs to be said really. 9/10
The best things in life are not free, but the best thing in life is being free!
Bitter and twisted, Kemp takes up life as a bounty hunter.
I carelessly bought a box-set of James Stewart westerns to re-watch this only to find it was not included. As a result I am now more bitter and twisted than Kemp. Coming on top of the great "Last of Sheila" scam, it was a cruel blow to my fast diminishing finances. The box set did come in useful for my girlfriend to stand on to reach the top shelf in the kitchen, until the plastic crumbled despite her petite weight.
From memory, it was the only JS movie I could stomach, but I was a teenager when I watched it on release and I am a surly, prejudiced old git now. Always confused it with Bend of the River (1952), also by Anthony Mann, hence my silly mistake.