Anthony Mannís westerns concern coming to grips with obsessive revenge and understanding crises in male identity. In the earlier Winchester 73(1950), James Stewart tracks down and kills his brother for murdering their father. In Naked Spur, bounty-hunter Stewart hunts down wife-killer Robert Ryan, but revenge is hollow. He still obsesses, unable to let go the past, and the body of Ryan becomes a psychical metaphor for the unconscious mind. Through the pleading love of Janet Leigh, Stewart sets Ryanís body adrift in the river, forgoing his bounty.
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