The Naked Spur, Anthony Mann (1953)

It’s amazing to me that this movie ever got made. It has a very thin veneer of western genre conventions, but just underneath it is a hugely overheated and desperately claustrophobic Freudian melodrama of near-Sirkian proportions. What the hell must people have thought when they went to see this in 1953, expecting to eat some popcorn and watch some Indians shoot their bows and arrows? The story here is purportedly about a bounty hunter forced to take on unwanted colleagues in order to get the job done, but like most Mann pictures, it’s really about power, emasculation, the ways in which technology disrupts natural processes, and the fundamental advantages enjoyed by evil in its struggle with the good. I found this movie absolutely dispiriting and enervating, and probably in that regard Mann’s oater masterpiece.

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