The Naked Spur (1953)
Starring: James Stewart (Rope; Vertigo), Janet Leigh (Psycho; The Manchurian Candidate)
Directed By: Anthony Mann (Winchester '73; El Cid)
Overview: A man gets a little help in capturing a wanted man. When the two aides find out there's a reward, they tag along to Abileen to get their fair share, all while the prisoner pits the captors against one another.
Acting: Now that I've seen more movies where Jimmy Stewart doesn't play a kind, Christmas Family Man than I HAVE seen, I'm starting to get over my predisposition. His performance is great, and so is the cavalryman, and the captive. A few actors brought down the overall performance, and a touch of melodrama interfered, but this is one fun movie to watch. Well done.
Cinematography: The rockslide scenes at the beginning are very thrilling, as is the action throughout. As for scenics, this is shot in Colorado so we're graced with raging rivers and mountain peaks. A strong effort was made to have the film look good, and I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised.
Script: To make a greed and mistrust plot work, the dialogue has to be smart. Adding great characterizations, like a happy-go-lucky (almost foolishly so) cavalryman kicks this up a notch. Constantly, you're twisting in your chair thinking that that last little slight is definitely going to change the whole party dynamic. And it does, over and over again.
Plot: Throwing a sensuous and caring woman into the mix is just going to complicate things. I was a little dismayed by the ending, but this story really isn't about the climax. It's about the adventure, the trials and the tribulations that happen in every single scene. Such a complex mix of characters and inter-play, this has us wondering how this is going to play out, and after all is said and done, quite glad I saw it.
Mood: There are a few continuity issues, like an injured man seemingly shrugging off his wounds. There is certainly too much of a hero factor when you consider four men taking out as dozen Indians inside of three minutes. These were my biggest problems with 'getting into' this picture, but besides, you'll find yourself well engulfed in this story, even if you don't like Westerns.
Overall Rating: 84% (Dare to Bare All To The Spur)
Aftertaste: I've only heard of this because of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, a great little book I got for Christmas. The tome itself has made me redouble my repertoire building efforts, and it's recommendations like this that will make me keep seeing the movies in that book until I'm through. As for this number 49 down on the list, I'm pretty darn tootin' sure you'll like it. Really.