The Naked Spur (1952)

Genres - Western  |   Sub-Genres - Psychological Western  |   Release Date - Feb 1, 1953 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 91 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Lucia Bozzola

One of the most intense psychological Westerns of the 1950s is as much an edgily melodramatic character study as a Western. Anchored by James Stewart's anguished performance, in his third Mann Western, the five characters struggle between instinct and morality, a conflict heightened by their isolation in a Colorado landscape free of the trappings of civilization. Robert Ryan's smoothly manipulative villain may be the bounty target, but Millard Mitchell's prospector and Ralph Meeker's soldier aren't solid citizens either; Janet Leigh's Lina is the only voice of propriety. Stewart's Howard, emasculated by a treacherous wife, teeters on the brink of hysteria and excessive violence, even after he manages to reclaim the strength to kill his quarry. In a dramatic departure from the traditionally taciturn, resilient Western hero, Howard can only collapse sobbing into Lina's arms as he acquiesces to her moral imperative at the conclusion. Shot on location in the Rockies with Mann's customary pictorial beauty and violence, The Naked Spur was a vital sign of the Western's postwar turn toward revisionism and neurosis, and one of the best of Mann's five westerns with Stewart.