Part of Essential Westerns.
On the trail of murderer Ben Vandergoat (Robert Ryan), bounty hunter Howard Kemp (James Stewart) enlists the help of a grizzled old prospector (Millard Mitchell) and a dishonorably discharged Union soldier (Ralph Meeker) who believe him to be a lawman. When the trio captures Vandergoat and the daughter of his recently deceased partner (Janet Leigh), the revelation that Kemp is hunting the man for the immense $5,000 reward—in order to repurchase the ranch his ex-fiancee sold during the war—the two less-than-trustworthy helpers second-guess their allegiances. Dissolving into a treacherous powerplay of greed and disloyalty aided in no small part by Vandergoat’s cunning and malicious manipulation of the men, Kemp must protect his bounty and fend off their rapacious advances at any cost.
Director Anthony Mann’s deliciously ferocious, mythos-busting tale of avarice and betrayal dissects the Western hero archetype and, aided by Jimmy Stewart’s unhinged performance as a man broken by a greedy obsession with recapturing his past, exposes the raw core of the genre—men completely at odds with their own emotions.
“One of the best Westerns ever made: a tough, hard little film…” —Leonard Maltin “One of the very best Anthony Mann Westerns—which means one of the very best Westerns, period. This 1953 film has Janet Leigh in jeans, beautiful location shooting (and Technicolor cinematography) in the Rockies, and some of the most intense psychological warfare to be found in Mann’s angular and anguished oeuvre.” —Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader (Nov 1, 1989) “One of the few auteurs of the Western genre, Mann’s thematic and narrative structures were never more masterfully outlined in these ways than in THE NAKED SPUR…” —Brian Eggert, deepfocusreview.com