Flesh and the Spur (1956)

“Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake” director Edward L. Cahn helmed a variety of films during his prolific 31 year career, ranging from westerns, to war pictures, to horror chillers, to juvenile delinquent epics, and science fiction sagas. Unfortunately, too much of Cahn’s work is not available to enjoy. He made about five or six oater during his career. The low budget “Flesh and the Spur” qualifies as an above-average western. Western veteran John Agar, who cut his teeth on two famous John Ford sagebrushers, co-stars with future “Mannix” lead Mike ‘Touch’ Connors in this absorbing little trail western about a search for a killer. Although Cahn’s is nowhere near as memorable as anything John Ford called the shots on, this concisely made but cheap shoot’em up is just quirky enough to pass muster. Basically, “Flesh and the Spur” concerns the efforts of a rancher to find the dastard who murdered his brother. As it turns out, the killer not only stole a horse but he also stole an unusual revolver. Our hero sets out to find the killer and crosses trails with another man who is looking for an outlaw gang that the killer has ridden with. The two men strike up an uneasy friendship and ride the revenge trail. Along the way, they encounter some interesting characters who participate in this adventure. The title alone makes this 78 minute oater interesting. Indeed, it sounded to me like a sadomasochistic porno western, but it isn’t. Cahn’s western is reminiscent of the trail westerns that Randolph Scott made with director Budd Boetticher during the 1950s. Two men ride the same trail but there is something between them that remains unresolved until the final quarter hour. Several things about “Flesh and the Spur” set it apart from the usual sagebrusher. First, there is an interesting saloon fracas where the combatants wield spurs as their weapons of choice since they are not allowed to tote guns on the premises. There is a sharpshooter whose aim improves with every shot of liquor that he swallows. There is an offbeat duel at the fade-out where the combatants hold their six-guns in an awkward grip—called ‘the border roll’—that makes it difference. Altogether, “Flesh and the Spur” amounts to a sturdy, solid, formula western that departs from the norm just enough to distinguish it. Watching Mike Connors as the extrovert gunslinger is fun, too. The expertise with which Cahn and his director of photography lens the opening scene–a convict escaping from prison–is first-rate stuff, particularly because they endeavor to conceal the identity of the escapee.