Each Monday, I continue to share Western movie reviews as I go through the process of finishing post and releasing my 12 Westerns in 12 Months during 2020. I am watching these films not from an audience perspective but as a filmmaker, as a student of the genre.
Week 110: The Spikes Gang
Wow, what an incredible film! This totally unexpected and criminally under-discussed Western from director Richard Fleischer. As a filmmaker, his career is also overlooked, spanning decades and different eras of film. He was a true craftsman who could move from genre to genre.
The film begins well with Marvin’s appearance that gets the story rolling and then soon starts to meander. I felt like I was watching a misfire American Graffiti in the Wild West for twenty minutes or so until Marvin returns. Without him, the film doesn’t have much weight. With the iconic movie star, all of the pieces come together. Honestly, I feel he deserved an Oscar for a role like this instead of the flashy performance in Cat Ballou. His work here is incredible, on par with Monte Walsh.
I won’t ruin anything for those of you who haven’t seen but wow does this film pack a punch… It really moves in some unpredictable directions. Some critics of that era criticized it for being uneven in tone but I admired the balance Fleischer strikes between humor and tragedy. It rings true to real life and also feels authentic to the West. The film was also criticized for being shot in Spain. Who the hell cares? It’s a good Western that focuses on the characters, not the damn scenery.
The finale is one of the best I’ve seen in a Western movie. I won’t say anything else; you just need to check it out!
Watched on Tubi.