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LGM Film Club, Part 65: The Naked Spur

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Last night, I watched the 1953 western The Naked Spur, with Jimmy Stewart, Janet Leigh, and Robert Ryan. Directed by the great Anthony Mann, it’s a fun but flawed fairly dark western. Shot with huge production values in the mountains of Colorado, it certainly looks great. It’s well worth your 90 minutes if you like westerns. But it does have some problems that fit the time. First, the fight with Indians is so gratuitous as to be disgusting. Cut it out of the plot and it makes no different. Just another example of genocide on Hollywood screens for no reason other than to spice up the action. Second, in the studio system, A list stars got A list roles. That could work. But if you are casting Stewart as a dark self-hating man bounty hunting Ryan for money, I mean he just can’t pull that off. This is really a role for Robert Mitchum. Ryan is awesome as always (possibly my favorite actor of the period, but the joking manner in which he played the character doesn’t quite work with his best malevolence. Leigh is fine in a role with limited possibilities. Anyway, it is playing on Criterion Channel as part of its Noir Western series. Here’s the trailer.

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