My dad came to visit a while back and we ended up tuning in to the Western Channel. There was a great movie playing which I remember watching with my Dad when I was just a kid of about age 12 or 13. "The Spikes Gang" stars the great Lee Marvin as outlaw Harry Spikes. Spikes is discovered half dead by three young men played by Gary Grimes, Ron Howard and Charles Martin Smith. These three actors were very familiar faces at the time this film was released. It was especially different for Ron Howard who was the face of wholesome American TV.
The youths take Mr. Spikes in and let him hide out in the barn while he is on the mend. They become enamored with his tales of living life as a desperado and begin to yearn for a taste of the outlaw life. Once he is healed up he promises the boys that he owes them for their help and, if they meet again, he will help them out.
It doesnt take long for the boys to decide they cant abide by the rules of their parents and one night they decide to sneak off and hit the outlaw trail. Unfortunately for them, they soon find that its a lot tougher than the stories they heard from Mr. Spikes. They find them selves starving and working all sorts of odd jobs just to eat. Right about that time, along comes Mr. Spikes to take them under his wing. He decides, as a favor to the boys who had once helped him in his hour of need, to form a gang and teach them the outlaw way.
It is important to stress that Lee Marvin gives a great performance. On the surface he appears to be down right charming and can use his silver tongue to convince his victims of his sincerity... but underneath his exterior it is always evident that he is a snake waiting to strike. The boys make perfect foils for his purposes as they are painfully unaware that Mr. Spikes is only out for himself. Meanwhile, the actors playing the three boys are great at portraying naive farm boys who have their innocents seduced away by the charming Mr. Spikes.
The movie starts out in a sort of light hearted manner with bits of humor sprinkled in, but it doesn't take long to see that the lives of these three young men is steadily careening out of control as they slowly begin to follow in the paths they chose. In the end it is tragic to see them each reach a point of no return. By the time they figure this out it is much too late for redemption... only vengeance can make things right.
I highly recommend that you give this a shot as I believe it is an underrated movie that deserves to be called a classic. It is available on DVD.