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Author Topic: The Walking Hills (1949)  (Read 2798 times)
cigar joe
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« on: April 06, 2014, 04:08:32 AM »

Director John Sturges, with  Randolph Scott, Ella Raines, William Bishop, Edgar Buchanan, Arthur Kennedy, John Ireland, and others in a good ensemble Western.

From IMDb, While tailing a murder suspect, private detective Frazee (Ireland) follows the suspect into a poker game. When one of the players reveals he knows the location of a lost wagon train full of gold, everyone in the game is suddenly bound up in an expedition into the desert to find the treasure. But heat, sand, wind, and the revelation of personal secrets combine to threaten not only the treasure hunt but the lives of the hunters as well.

I'd only heard about this film but never seen it, and I finally caught up with this on GetTV last night. It takes place in a border town sometime past the turn of the century, it reminded me of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and a bit of the desert sequence from GBU. The wagon train full of gold was lost in a sand dune area that always changes hence the name The Walking Hills. I missed the first 5 minutes or so but was intrigued from the poker game to the end even with the commercial breaks, from what I watched I'll initially give this a 7/10 it may go up.

from IMDB

A treasure hunt that's a gem itself

Author: clore_2 from New York, New York
23 November 2006

A very rewarding "lust for gold" adventure that tells its story in a brief 78 minutes and is all the better for it. Director John Sturges would later in his career allow some of his films to run overlong (THE GREAT ESCAPE) or blow up what should have been more simply told (GUNFIGHT AT THE OK CORRAL - the depicted gunfight itself is but one example), but earlier in his career made a number of lean, taut treasures, this is one of them.

A group of people are bound together in the search for some wagons believed to have been lost in the desert a century earlier, and the legend has it that gold was on them. When the youngest of them happens to mention something spotted in the desert, the need for secrecy binds the group together lest someone reveal the "golden opportunity." Several in the group have pasts that they are trying to hide and potential futures they are trying to escape if caught. One of them is a detective hot on a fugitive's trail, but willing to set aside duty for his share of the loot.

Randolph Scott headlines as the more or less moral center of the group, even if his intentions and actions seem to defy that description. For a slightly less than "A" feature, the film boasts an admirable cast of characters, among them Ella Raines, John Ireland, Arthur Kennedy, Edgar Buchanan (scene stealing as usual) and blues/folk revivalist singer Josh White whose musical contributions to the film capture a legendary performer for posterity on film. William Bishop, a young man whom Columbia was grooming for stardom (but who failed to click and would soon "descend" to mostly TV work) is the least familiar perhaps of the major actors, but he's impressive enough here for one to wish he had done better within the ten years that he had left before cancer took him at 41.

An interesting subplot has Scott's mare about to foal - a metaphor for new life or spiritual rebirth being created among the desert ruins. It gives nothing away to reveal that the fugitive surrenders or that some characters realize that gold fever can cause one to suspend principles - the latter is expected in such melodramas. But with its stunning black-and-white cinematography, especially in night scenes and the climatic desert storm, this film is as much of a treasure as that which its protagonists seek. Camera ace Charles Lawton must have impressed Scott and producer Harry Joe Brown as he would do five more films with the pair in the next decade. Highly recommended.

« Last Edit: April 06, 2014, 04:17:06 AM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: April 06, 2014, 04:31:08 AM »

Fine little western debut of John Sturges. 7/10

It takes place in the then present, that is back in the late 40s. But apart from a few details in the opening scenes it looks mostly like it was set 75 years earlier. Unlike the mentioned The Treasure of the Sierre Madre this is a western for me.
It was more or less remade in 1973 into the mediocre John Wayne vehicle The Train Robbers (3/10).

« Last Edit: April 06, 2014, 04:33:45 AM by stanton » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: September 10, 2017, 06:26:20 AM »



Like shovelling sand into the wind.

The Walking Hills is directed by John Sturges and written by Alan LeMay. It stars Randolph Scott, Ella Raines, Arthur Kennedy, Edgar Buchanan, John Ireland, William Bishop, Josh White and Jerome Courtland. Music is by Arthur Morton and cinematography by Charles Lawton Jr.

Upon hearing a chance statement about lost gold, a disparate group of people head out in search of it to the desert plains of The Walking Hills...

Whipping up a sandstorm.

A sort of contemporary Western film noir fusion, The Walking Hills is a darn fine drama that is acted accordingly. Though blessed with action, tension and passion, it's as a character study where the picture excels. True enough to say it's not overly complex stuff, the greed is bad motif a standard narrative strand, as is the tricky love triangle that resides within the sandy tale, but with the wily Sturges and the shrewd LeMay pulling the strings this plays out always as compelling. With the great Lawton Jr. adding his considerable skills as a photographer - ensuring the Alabama Hills and Death Valley locations are key characters themselves - the production shines.

Often mentioned in reference to The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, it of course is not as good as that superb picture. That it earns its right to be considered a baby brother to it, though, is testament to its worth in itself. 7/10

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