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Anthony Mann
James Stewart, Janet Leigh, Robert Ryan
Writing Credits:
Sam Rolfe, Harold Jack Bloom

A bounty hunter pairs with two strangers to capture an outlaw but greed threatens their partnership.

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
English DTS-HD MA Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 91 min.
Price: $21.99
Release Date: 9/21/2021

Things We Can Do Without Short
Little Johnny Jet Cartoon
• Trailer


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The Naked Spur [Blu-Ray] (1953)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 4, 2021)

Director Anthony Mann and actor James Stewart paired for eight movies from 1950 to 1955. For the third of these, we go to 1953’s Western The Naked Spur.

Bounty hunter Howard Kemp (Stewart) pursues outlaw murderer Ben Vandergroat (Robert Ryan). When Vandergroat proves elusive, Kemp becomes forced to take on two partners: aging prospector Jesse Tate (Millard Mitchell) and former Union soldier Roy Anderson (Ralph Meeker).

After the trio catches Vandergroat, they attempt to return him and his female partner Lina Patch (Janet Leigh) to custody. However, Vandergroat uses the trek to sow distrust among the partners and scheme for his escape.

Tales of greed and fractured relationships didn’t seem novel even in 1953. Just a few years earlier, 1948’s Treasure of the Sierra Madre offered a classic take on the subject.

That doesn’t mean Spur can’t turn into a solid story in its own right, though. Happily, the film offers a pretty taut exploration of its themes and characters.

When Spur falters, it does so due to diversions. I could live without the love triangle that develops, and side narratives such as one that involves Native Americans feel like unnecessary distractions.

Nonetheless, enough of Spur focuses on the main drama that it becomes an engrossing affair. With so few characters involved, the movie can dig into them with reasonable gusto.

Should you expect any of the roles to elevate above fairly stereotypical origins? Not really, but the film allows them enough screentime that we don’t really mind their inherently one-dimensional nature.

A solid cast helps. Stewart plays somewhat against type here, as Howard seems shadier than the typical Stewart character. He manages to give the role the appropriate moral uncertainty.

Ryan nearly steals the show as the cocky outlaw, though. Even when the character’s situation seems dire, Ryan gives Ben a charismatic sense of confidence that makes the role consistently compelling.

The same goes for Spur as a whole. Despite a few minor missteps, this turns into an engaging Western.

The Disc Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B-/ Bonus C-

The Naked Spur appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.37:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Expect a pretty terrific presentation.

Sharpness worked well throughout the movie. Any instances of softness related to opticals and remained minor at worst.

No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects occurred, and I saw no edge haloes. Print flaws also failed to become an issue, and grain felt light but natural.

Colors excelled. The film boasted a broad palette that came across as lively and rich.

Blacks appeared deep and dense, while shadows looked smooth and clear. The film consistently looked great.

Though not as good, the movie’s DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack appeared perfectly acceptable for its age. Speech occasionally betrayed a little edginess, but the lines generally came across as accurately rendered.

Music and effects worked in similar ways, as they showed decent accuracy and lacked much distortion. Nothing here excelled, but the audio seemed satisfactory for the material and vintage.

Along with the film’s trailer, the disc includes two 1953 shorts. We find Things We Can Do Without (8:50) and Little Johnny Jet (7:04). Things comes from the “Pete Smith” series of reels that make fun of modern indignities. It seems dated but moderately amusing.

Jet features a propeller plane upset by his replacement by jets – and thus upset when his wife gives birth to one of those newfangled crafts. A Tex Avery affair, it creates a lot of unanswered questions about genetics but still manages some entertainment value.

A Western that revolves around the temptations of greed, The Naked Spur delivers a fairly taut character piece. While it occasionally goes down some less than useful paths, it mostly becomes a lively psychodrama. The Blu-ray offers excellent picture along with appropriate audio and a smattering of bonus materials. Expect a pretty solid Western from this flick.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.5 Stars Number of Votes: 4
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