Home1-2526-5051-100101-50151-200201-250251-300
-
THE NAKED SPUR
1953 - Anthony Mann
United States
94
Opening Shot
With a breathtaking Colorado Rockies backdrop, the film opens to a lone man riding a horse. The camera does not reveal his face only showing him from behind as he slowly gets off the horse, pulls out his gun and quietly moves ahead as he sneaks up on an old man who is camped out. "Don't move. Turn around," he orders as he approaches into a a closeup.
The Film

If you’re going to murder me Howie, don’t try to make it look like something else.” The Naked Spur is a masterpiece. Having began making low-budget noirs early in his career, Anthony Mann’s crossover to the Western genre provided a darker and more psychological aspect rarely seen. Using breathtaking landscapes (here mountains and rivers), Mann reduces the epic scale of the film to the psychological mindset of the characters within. The Naked Spur represents the mastery Mann has with a frame as the stunning visual landscapes are set to the backdrop to some intense psychological conflict. James Stewart plays against type as an anti-hero bounty hunter who’s greed and determined revenge of the past becomes an obsession. The depths Mann presents with these characters reach the heights of philosophical examination and the performances are very good by the cast (Janet Leigh, Robert Ryan, Ralph Meeker, and Millard Mitchell). Stewart is especially great here in his third of eight collaborations with Mann (five of which are westerns). The Naked Spur absorbs the viewer from the opening scene and never lets up. The climactic shootout at the end is the touch of a master. Mann is in full control of the atmosphere, settings, and space resulting in a sequence that is truly brilliant and clever filmmaking. The Naked Spur is one of the purest works of psychological cinema and deserves to be mentioned among the very greatest achievements of American westerns.

The Filmmaker

Born in Germany, Anthony Mann grew up in California before his parents moved to New York during Word War One. Mann began on the stage as an actor before moving toward directing. His work there attracted Hollywood producer David O. Selznick, who then hired Mann as a casting director and talent scout (Mann directed test screening for both Selznick's legendary productions: Gone With the Wind and Rebecca). Mann left Selznick to work as a director for Paramount Pictures, but he only directed one film there (1942's Moonlight in Havana). He then moved to Universal, Republic, and RKO where he was hired for B-pictures starting with musicals and comedies before moving into the darker psychological noirs (Strange Impersonation, Railroaded!, T-Men, Raw Deal, and MGM pictures Border Incident, and Side Street). He greatest success shortly followed when he transitioned over to the Western genre in 1950 with Winchester '73, starring James Stewart and The Furies, starring Barbara Stanwyck. Mann's noir background would remain evident throughout his westerns which were noted for the dark psychological tones captured through atmosphere and landscape (as well as his masterful use of staging and scope). Throughout the 1950s Mann continued to explore the dark psychological and philosophical side of the western, notably in his collaborations with James Stewart, who starred in eight films for Mann (five of which were Westerns). At the heart of each of these films lies a destruction of the family core (often caused by greed), and also an obsession that is driven by revenge (or a man's struggle with himself against his own past). By the 1960s Mann moved towards epic scaled history dramas (El Cid, The Fall of the Roman Empire, The Heroes of Telemark). His lasting memory will remain the classic and timeless westerns as well as the low budget noirs his more personal westerns developed from.

Images
Zoom in
Zoom in
Zoom in
Zoom in
Zoom in
Resources
trailer (youtube)      
-