Tuesday, January 04, 2022

Tonight's Movie: The Naked Spur (1953) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

The classic James Stewart-Anthony Mann Western THE NAKED SPUR (1953) has been released on a beautiful Blu-ray by the Warner Archive.

THE NAKED SPUR was Stewart and Mann's third collaboration, and it's one of my favorites. In addition to great location filming and marvelous acting by five actors, the movie has a very well-paced, thoughtful 91-minute script, written by Sam Rolfe and Harold Jack Bloom.

Stewart plays Howard Kemp, who as the movie opens is on the trail of Ben Vandergroat (Robert Ryan). An old prospector (Millard Mitchell) and a recently discharged soldier (Ralph Meeker) who come across Kemp both initially believe he's a marshal, but it turns out he's a bounty hunter.

As Kemp attempts to take Vandergroat in for reward money, he must also contend with Lina (Janet Leigh), the daughter of Vandergroat's former partner, who wants to help him escape. Combined with the prospector and the soldier wanting part of the reward money, Kemp has his hands full.

As the characters make their perilous journey, Stewart's Kemp gradually reveals he's filled with rage and despair, while Ryan's initially genial bad guy eventually shows himself to be a very bad man indeed. One of the most fascinating things about the movie is the way the viewer's perceptions of each man shifts over the course of the film.

All of the characters are perfectly calibrated in terms of both performance and dialogue. I previously had a wonderful experience seeing the movie at UCLA in 2014 and would like to invite readers to briefly click over to that review for a deeper look at my thoughts on the performances, then return here for my impressions of the Blu-ray.

I remember the 35mm print shown at UCLA being quite beautiful, except for brief moments at reel changeovers, and I believe this Blu-ray print probably looks even better. The MGM Technicolor, filmed by William C. Mellor, is impressive. As a Westerns fan, watching this film in such great condition was a real joy.

The movie was beautifully filmed on location in Colorado. IMDb also lists Lone Pine as a location; nothing in the film jumped out at me as Lone Pine, but perhaps they went there for some exterior closeups? An initial search didn't turn up more information; if anyone knows more about that topic, I'd be very interested.

The Blu-ray sound quality is also excellent, with the sound of the rushing water in the final action sequence helping give it a "you are there" immediacy; such moments belie the fact that the movie was filmed 70 years ago this spring.

Extras on the Warner Archive Blu-ray consist of the trailer, the Pete Smith short THINGS WE CAN DO WITHOUT (1953), and the cartoon LITTLE JOHNNY JET (1952).

Fans of Westerns or the lead actors should make haste to acquire this Blu-ray. Highly recommended.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection Amazon Store or from any online retailers where Blu-rays are sold.


Blogger Walter S. said...

Laura, I highly recommend THE NAKED SPUR(filmed 1952, released 1953) to everyone. This movie is one of my all-time favorites.

2:41 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I'm glad to know you like it too, Walter. This was only my second viewing but it certainly underscored what a strong film it is. A well-told story with an excellent cast in beautiful locations.

Best wishes,

11:02 PM  

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