The Spikes Gang
|The Spikes Gang|
Theatrical release poster by Tom Jung
|Directed by||Richard Fleischer|
|Produced by||Richard Fleischer
|Written by||Giles Tippette (novel)|
|Screenplay by||Irving Ravetch
Harriet Frank, Jr.
|Based on||The Bank Robber|
Charles Martin Smith
Noah Beery, Jr.
|Music by||Fred Karlin|
|Edited by||Frank J. Urioste
Ralph E. Winters
|Distributed by||United Artists
The Spikes Gang is a 1974 Mirisch Company motion picture adaptation of the Giles Tippette novel The Bank Robber. It was directed by Richard Fleischer and starred Lee Marvin, Gary Grimes, Charles Martin Smith and Ron Howard.
Starring Lee Marvin as an aging bank robber of the American Old West, the film follows his encounters with three coming of age farm boys played by Gary Grimes, Charles Martin Smith, and Ron Howard. Veteran character actors Arthur Hunnicutt and Noah Beery, Jr. both appear in separate "scene stealing" performances.
The production style of director Richard Fleischer received generally favorable reviews. "It was only the second matchup for the director and Marvin and the actor gives a seething, unpredictable performance as the untrustworthy Harry Spikes. You can see why a trio of farmhands, well-played by his co-stars, would want to emulate him; you can also see why they come to resist the lethal charm of his coercion.", wrote one critic.
Ron Howard later praised producer Walter Mirisch saying, "When I...acted in one of his productions, The Spikes Gang, I learned that a prolific and brilliant producer could also be a terrific guy and a wonderful teacher."
Harry Spikes (Lee Marvin) is an aging bank robber of the fading "Old West." Injured and near death, he is found and mended back to health by three impressionable youths who are lifelong friends -- Wil (Gary Grimes), Tod (Charles Martin Smith), and Les (Ron Howard). Later, encouraged by Spikes's reminiscences, they run away from home seeking excitement and easy living.
The three boys go to a Texas town, where they attempt to rob a bank. In the process, Tod accidentally kills the state senator, and a reward of 1,500 for each of their heads is released. They cross the Rio Grande to Mexico, to escape. In the town, Wil cashes his antique watch, and barely gets money. They then attempt to steal the watch back, but they land in jail. While looking through a window they see Spikes and Spikes pays the bail. After that, he says good bye, but they meet on several occasions, and the boys follow his tutoring, ultimately resulting in the gravest of consequences. First, Tod is killed when he is shot in the back during a failed bank robbery with Spikes, and Spikes leaves them, saying, "Good luck." Then, Wil leaves Les and says that he they will meet in the Mexican town after two weeks. However, Les is shot four times by bounty hunters Morton and Spikes, who is pardoned if he brings Les and Wil back for money. Les dies, and Wil and Spikes engage in a gunfight, where both dies. The ending shows Wil thinking about the good old days.
- Lee Marvin as Harry Spikes
- Gary Grimes as Wilson Young
- Charles Martin Smith as Tod Hayhew
- Ron Howard as Les Richter
- Arthur Hunnicutt as Kid White (aka Billy Blanco)
- Noah Beery, Jr. as Jack Basset
- Marc Smith as Abel Young
- Don Fellows as Cowboy
- Susan Coyne as Clara Cratchitt
- Elliott Sullivan as Billy
Vincent Canby of the New York Times was not impressed: "It's a movie without a center, with no coherent tone, directed by Richard Fleischer, fresh from such triumphs as The Don Is Dead and Soylent Green. The entire enterprise is as convincing as the Spanish landscapes, which are meant to suggest the American Southwest but don't."
Keith Bailey of The Unknown Movies said, "Although the movie was filmed in Spain, you wouldn't know it, since Fleischer shot the outdoor scenes in remarkably drab locations that all look the same. And there is a breakdown in the natural flow of the story in the last twenty minutes, becoming more like a series of vignettes with little tying them together. It's therefore surprising the few times Fleischer breaks out of his mediocrity and puts in some effort." 
The film is available in Region 1 manufactured on demand DVD-R format, MGM on Demand via the MGM Limited Edition Collection label; also available in Region 2. The VHS version is long out of print.
- Cashill, Robert. "Point Blank". Between Productions. Retrieved 2009-10-25.
- London, Time Out. "The Spikes Gang". TimeOut London. Retrieved 2009-06-24.
- Mirisch, Walter. "I Thought We Were Making Movies, Not History". UW Press. Retrieved 2009-10-25.
- Vincent Canby, "Lee Marvin Commands 'The Spikes Gang'" May 2, 1974 http://www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=990DEED6153DE73ABC4A53DFB366838F669EDE
- Keith Bailey, "The Spikes Gang" http://www.k-bailey.com/unknownmovies/reviews/rev429.html
- "Kino Lorber Studio Classics]". Classic Images. January 2016. p. 36.