Lee Marvin had star power in droves. I sat through The Spikes Gang, an episodic western, and was never bored when he was on screen. That’s not to say the other actors were slacking because everyone turns in heartfelt performances—including cameos by Arthur Hunnicutt and Noah Beery, Jr. It's just that Marvin is one of those heavy hitters, like Robert Mitchum or Katharine Hepburn, that chews up every frame he graces. I promptly forgot the screenplay's limitations that plays more like a television movie of the week than a vehicle worthy of a legend who starred in some of the best westerns of his time: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), Cat Ballou (1965), Monte Walsh (1970) and my personal favorite, The Professionals (1966).
The plot concerns impressionable Will, Tod, and Les (Gary Grimes, Charles Martin Smith, and Ron Howard), restless teens, who come to romanticize Harry Spikes (Marvin) after finding him near death and nursing him back to health. Eventually they throw in with the charismatic outlaw but instead of high adventure, that Spikes promises, they wallow in hardships, blood, and bank robbing that goes more often awry than turning any kind of sustainable profit. Along the way, they come to realize, too late, that Spikes is no one to admire. The Spikes Gang is based on The Bank Robber, a novel by Giles Tippette, that I'll probably track down at some point. I suspect based on the discursive story that made it to the screen that I'd enjoy the book even more.
Cash Laramie western series. He's a dedicated Whovian who enjoys jazz and backgammon. He can be found in scenic upstate New York where he lives with his wife and daughter.
David, I have not seen this, but will look it up. I feel the same way about Lee Marvin. Somehow, he keeps you on the edge of your seat, even with facial expressions, wondering, "What will he do next?" The characters in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance were younger in story--James Stewart and John Wayne were both a little past the age of the ages of what the characters should have been, but Lee Marvin...he was so perfect for that role of Liberty Valance. All that being said, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is my favorite western movie ever. It really opened my eyes to what a charismatic actor Lee Marvin truly is. Very powerful.ReplyDelete
Cheryl, Marvin brings realism (if I can choose just one word) to the parts he plays. And it’s that authenticity that helps float lesser known movies like The Spikes Gang. Speaking of your favorite Western, I like what film critic Roger Ebert said about Marvin’s acting as Liberty Valance, calling it “a performance evoking savage cruelty.” Yes, that would sum it up.ReplyDelete
Running across a little known movie that turns out to be good can be such a treat.ReplyDelete
I agree. And that's how I came across it, Vicky, we have a free month of STARZ and I typed westerns into the search bar. Nice surprise.ReplyDelete
Remember Lee Marvin was a Marine in WWII and bummed around before getting an extra job the let to screen time. Once directors saw him on screen, they recognized his impact as an actor.ReplyDelete
Hollywood got it right for a change. I visited his grave at Arlington years ago. Yes, a true hero.ReplyDelete
This was one of several 1970s Westerns in the subgenre of "kid(s) grow into men under the guidance of old coots." Gary Grimes also appeared in two others, CULPEPPER CATTLE CO. and CAHILL, U.S. MARSHAL (an underrated John Wayne vehicle). I believe the characters in Tippett's novel were young guys but nevertheless a little older than the ones in the movie.ReplyDelete
CULPEPPER was excellent. And if I can toss another kids to men on the table: BAD COMPANY with a young Jeff Bridges.ReplyDelete
I remember seeing this film, and Marvin is worthy of all the praise one can give him. I enjoyed the early Ron Howard, and have liked the other actors also. Thank you for bringing it to our attention. DorisReplyDelete
You bet, Doris! Thanks for stopping by to read.ReplyDelete