Tuesday, March 6, 2007

March 6th Log

1953, Anthony Mann, United States

1st Viewing, DVD

If you’re going to murder me Howie, don’t try to make it look like something else.” The Naked Spur is a masterpiece. Having began making low-budget noirs early in his career, Anthony Mann’s crossover to the Western genre provided a darker and more psychological aspect rarely seen. Using breathtaking landscapes (here mountains and rivers), Mann reduces the epic scale of the film to the psychological mindset of the characters within. The Naked Spur represents the mastery Mann has with a frame as the stunning visual landscapes are set to the backdrop to some intense psychological conflict. James Stewart plays against type as an anti-hero bounty hunter who’s greed and determined revenge of the past becomes an obsession. The depths Mann presents with these characters reach the heights of philosophical examination and the performances are very good by the cast (Janet Leigh, Robert Ryan, Ralph Meeker, and Millard Mitchell). Stewart is especially great here in his third of eight collaborations with Mann (five of which are westerns). The Naked Spur absorbs the viewer from the opening scene and never lets up. The climactic shootout at the end is the touch of a master. Mann is in full control of the atmosphere, settings, and space resulting in a sequence that is truly brilliant and clever filmmaking. The Naked Spur is one of the purest works of psychological cinema and deserves to be mentioned among the very greatest achievements of American westerns.


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