When friends Will (Gary Grimes), Les (Ron Howard) and Tod (Charles Martin Smith) help a heavily wounded man, Harry Spikes (Lee Marvin) and Will gives him his horse as he is on the run it leads to Will taking a beaten from his father. It also leads to Will deciding to leave home with Les and Tod going with their best friend despite the fact none of them has any idea how to survive. As they become desperate for food they decide to rob a bank, an act which doesn't go to plan when they end up shooting a man and then ending up in a cell when get caught robbing a pawn merchants. Fortunately they meet up with Mr. Spikes again who ends up taking them under his wing which only leads to the three young men discovering being an outlaw is not all it is made up to be, neither is Mr. Spikes.
One of the great secrets about movies which shockingly many movie fans don't realise, their appeal can often be generational, speaking to a specific audience at a specific moment in time. That is in many ways true of "The Spikes Gang" as this movie with its 3 teenagers who hero worship an outlaw only to learn that not only is he but also the life of the outlaw not all it's cracked up to be speaks to a teen audience who maybe feeling that their life needs more excitement. And I imagine that as a western fan if I had stumbled across this as a teen it might have spoken to me in away it doesn't do now.
So how does it speak to me? Well despite not connecting with it on a fed up teen level this story of Spikes teaching the naive, religiously raised 3 young men the way of the criminal it is entertaining. It is interesting to listen to these 3 friends fear the prospect of hell and as such they have doubts over stealing and robbing banks. And it certainly gives this an interesting angle as does the character of Mr. Spikes who is sage in advice but the whole time you suspect his motives are not noble in the way the 3 friends think they are. You get to a point and you think well I wonder whether they all return home or maybe one of them.
What is clear is whilst the trio of Gary Grimes, Ron Howard and Charles Martin Smith are good at playing wet behind the ears teens who get a real wake up call the movie works because of Lee Marvin. Marvin brings all his experience to deliver an aged character, full of wisdom and treachery which makes him both likeable but also loathsome.
What this all boils down to is that "The Spikes Gang" is an entertaining western but one which I am sure works best for teenage western fans who find themselves yearning for something different in life and so can connect with the 3 friends in this. But even if you don't connect with the characters it is still an interesting western when you have friends raised in the church questioning their criminal intentions.