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Author Topic: The Stalking Moon (1968)  (Read 3599 times)
cigar joe
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« on: October 08, 2008, 10:58:09 PM »

This film Directed by Robert Mulligan, and starring Gregory Peck as scout Sam Varner,  Eva Marie Saint as Sarah Carver,  Robert Forster as Nick Tana,  Noland Clay as Boy,  Russell Thorson as Ned,  Frank Silvera as Major and Nathaniel Narcisco as Salvaje,  is part of the Warner Classic Western DVD set.  So far I've watched "Many Rivers To Cross", "Escape To Fort Bravo", and "The Law And Jake Wade" the latter two are so far the only ones worthy of  "Classic" status. The best element this film has going is the cinematography by Charles Lang. It has a great look.

The story is Sam Varner US Army Scout completes one last mission before retiring, capturing a bunch of renegade Apaches one of which is a white captive Sarah Carver and her Apache half breed son. At the Army camp Varner draws his pay and is leaving for a ranch he bought in New Mexico when he gets involved in escorting Carver & her son to the railroad where they have travel vouchers to her relatives in Ohio. What he doesn't know is that Carver's son is the son of Salvaje a to be feared warrior and Salvaje is comming for him.

This could have been a great film but the way the director misused the various elements of the narrative causes the story to flatline. It was a big mistake never showing Salvaje till the end, all you see are the dead bodies of the folks that got in his way as he tracks down his son. And the dead shown are not horrific enough to raise any goose bumps.  And Salvaje himself is not very scary looking. Eva Marie Saint is toatlly wasted, she barely speaks, the boy who plays her son is totally stoic and uninteresting. The action sequences are also very amateurish showing no inspiration and devoid of all style. Another director could have made all the difference.

Gregory Peck is good but he has almost nobody to interact with, Frank Silvera is totally wasted and is gone after the first ten minutes. Its worth a look but not much else.




 


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« Reply #1 on: October 22, 2009, 06:40:02 PM »

I saw this in the summer of 1969, at a summer resort CJ passed by some weeks ago. I had read a review which said it was a movie full of "tension". As that was the first time I heard the word I went to see where it was at. Well, this movie gets better with each viewing, effectively built on tension. A contender for best "thriller-western" ever. Peck is at his best, though he will be able to surpass himself the following year with I Walk The Line. This movie is a forerunner of movies like Ulzana's Raid (Cigar, we're still waiting for your review, aren't we?) and Jeremiah Johnson. The OST is probably the only great fault I can find. 8\10   

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« Reply #2 on: November 26, 2012, 09:22:02 AM »

I'm with Titoli here.
 
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Gregory Peck reteams with To Kill a Mockingbird director Robert Mulligan and producer Alan J. Pakula on The Stalking Moon (1968). A unique Western, it falls outside the late '60s revisionist trend, presenting instead a suspenseful cat-and-mouse game.

Aged scout Sam Varner (Gregory Peck) fulfills his last duty to the US Army by rounding up escaped Apaches. Among them is Sarah (Eva Marie Saint), a white captive who's lived among the Apaches for years, raising a half-breed son (Noland Clay). Sam reluctantly agrees to escort them to safety, only to find Apache warrior Salvaje (Nathaniel Narcisco) pursuing, leaving a trail of bodies in his wake. Sam joins Indian tracker Nick (Robert Forster) and stationmaster Ned (Russell Thorson) to defend Sarah and her son from Salvaje's wrath.

The Stalking Moon is marvelously pared-down. Superficially resembling the previous year's Hombre, it jettisons that movie's oversized cast and racial posturing. Alvin Sargent's straightforward script proves sparse on dialogue and elliptical in motivation. Characterization rests on small moments, like Sam and Sarah's awkward supper or Nick teaching the boy poker. Stalking Moon knows where it's going and doesn't dawdle unnecessarily.

Mulligan handles the plot efficiently, more taut thriller than traditional Western. Charles Lang's beautiful photography only enhances the story's dread: Salvaje appears as an elemental, remorseless Fate, his motivation chillingly indistinct. The ultimate siege proves familiar, with characters whittled down through stupid mistakes. (Would you feed your dog with a murderous Apache outside?) But the climax pays off when Sam and Salvaje go mano y mano in decidedly brutal fashion.

Gregory Peck plays Sam like a more grizzled Hondo Lane, tough, weather-beaten but good-hearted. Eva Marie Saint (North by Northwest) adroitly handles a role requiring little dialogue or overt emotion. Robert Forster (Jackie Brown) makes a likeable sidekick, charm overcoming a poor makeup job. The supporting cast gets less chance to shine, with James Olsen, Frank Silvera, Lonnie Chapman and Russell Thorson reduced to bit parts.

The Stalking Moon is an underrated Western. Made when most Westerns went for graphic violence or liberal preaching, Robert Mulligan's economical storytelling stands out. 8/10

http://nothingiswrittenfilm.blogspot.com/2012/11/the-stalking-moon.html

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dave jenkins
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« Reply #3 on: November 26, 2012, 09:44:36 AM »

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Salvaje appears as an elemental, remorseless Fate, his motivation chillingly indistinct.
Does he call all his victims "Friend-o"?

Good write-up; it makes me want to watch the film. Btw, the term you wanted was "mano a mano".

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« Reply #4 on: November 26, 2012, 09:50:29 AM »

does he call his victims "Friend-o"?

No but his knife/spear booby trap is pretty wicked. Plus he's got better than hair than Chigurh. Evil

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the term you wanted was "mano a mano".

It's painfully obvious I no habla espanol. Oh well, easy fix.

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« Reply #5 on: November 26, 2012, 11:22:58 AM »

No but his knife/spear booby trap is pretty wicked. Plus he's got better hair than Chigurh. Evil
You have to wonder, though, if Cormac McCarthy watched this once upon a time.

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« Reply #6 on: November 26, 2012, 01:38:22 PM »

I like it too. The speeded up action towards the end looks ridiculous though.

Very atmospheric and suspenseful. 8/10 from me too

But Hombre is even better. In every respect.

« Last Edit: November 26, 2012, 01:40:01 PM by stanton » Logged

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« Reply #7 on: November 26, 2012, 01:54:46 PM »

I like Hombre just fine except for the annoying surplus of characters. The annoying young couple and Cameron Mitchell's character could have been ditched without hurting the story. So no, not every respect.

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« Reply #8 on: November 26, 2012, 01:55:48 PM »

You have to wonder, though, if Cormac McCarthy watched this once upon a time.

Possibly. To clarify, Salvaje does have a clear motivation in coming after Sarah and her kid. What he plans to do once he finds them however is left to the viewer's imagination.

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« Reply #9 on: November 27, 2012, 02:29:25 AM »

I like Hombre just fine except for the annoying surplus of characters. The annoying young couple and Cameron Mitchell's character could have been ditched without hurting the story. So no, not every respect.

Ok, the couple is not that interesting, but they don't annoy me. Mitchell has quite a good role, and is in accordance with the the film's themes. And storywise his premature death is a pleasant surprise. In an usual western the Mexican and the other guy would have been killed after the hold up. But the other guy even survives and the Mexican suddenly changes from an extra to the main antagonist. And a pretty charismatic one. hombre is an underrated masterpiece.

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« Reply #10 on: June 24, 2014, 03:04:30 AM »

I just saw the movie for the first time, rented the DVD from Netflix. I give this movie a 7.5/10.

RE: the DVD: It looks really good; with the exception of a single line down the middle in a brief moment, I don't recall a single damage mark; the image looks nice. One thing I wish was better: for a movie like this, the shade of  green of the trees and mountains is important. Here, it was kind of a darker, not beautiful shade of green; when a movie has a nice, beautiful, (more realistic?) shade of green, it really adds to the film. I guess that a movie made in 1968 won't have the landscapes looking as pretty a shade of green as a movie made in 2014, but perhaps they can improve it if they ever release this movie on BRD.
BTW, I noticed that the DVD is selling on Amazon dirt cheap; and also for a dirt cheap price (less than $5 for a new disc on Amazon Marketplace) you can buy a TCM 4-movie set of The Stalking Moon, Ride the High Country, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, and Chisum http://goo.gl/g3Pfga


RE: the movie:  I agree with CJ that Eva Marie Saint is kinda wasted here, but I totally disagree with CJ's criticism about the boy being stoic and uninteresting. Yes, he is stoic, but I really liked that, I thought it was very realistic: this boy is scared, torn between his mother and father, on the run in a strange country with strange people; he would be stoic and quiet, I think that was good. I also disagree with CJ's criticism about us not seeing the Injun till the end; IMO, sometimes that can further a mystique, kinda like how one of the reasons the shark in Jaws was so scary is because we didn't see him for a while, just saw the devastating effects of his wrath.
One thing I really didn't like is how in this movie, being hit by a rifle shot seems to have no effect on human flesh. First, Peck is hit in the shoulder, and within a day or two he is running around literally just as before - no sling, nothing, using both arms to fire weapons and fight as before. But far more egregious is what happens with the Injun in the final fight, how he is repeatedly hit, seemingly to no effect. Specifically, at the very end, Peck hits him with three rifle shots from point-blank range and he STILL keeps going after Peck. Sorry, I don't give a damn about how good this guy is and about suspension of disbelief; that is way beyond anything I could ever accept.
Also, IMO it was quite silly how they kept leaving the house; it's pretty clear that their best chance against this Injun, who is acting alone, is to wait in the house for him to come after all of them; every time they leave the house, shit happens.
I liked the character of Nick, although of course it's an American with an awful phony Indian accent.
Peck is good, though it is pretty obvious that a stunt double is used for much of the physical work. Kinda funny how, e.g. you see Peck running, and then it cuts to a shot of just his legs running, and in those shots of just his legs, he is clearly running faster than when you actually see Peck run. Either the shots of the legs are sped up, or the shots of the legs were taken with a stunt double who could run faster than Peck  Grin
But overall, I liked the camera work
And I thought this was an very good score composed by Fred Karlin.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

p.s. Any reasonable person can see that this movie depicts Indians negatively; but whenever any movie involves anything to possibly do with racism, I know Roger Ebert gets so insanely irrational, I decided to read his review to amuse myself over what nuttiness he would write. And I wasn't disappointed. The second-to-last paragraph of his review http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/the-stalking-moon-1969  is so ludicrous that it's funny.
The three are stalked by the Apache. The woman was his wife for 10 years, and the boy is his son. Under the circumstances, the Apache has a point. But Peck, reflecting the subtle racism that underlies the plot, assumes the Indian deserves to die. To be sure, the Indian massacres half of Arizona on his way to the showdown -- but since the movie makes no point of that, why should we?
Unbelievable what  a crazy irrational, blindly self-hating white man Ebert was: So Indians kidnap a white woman? Fine. Force her to have sex with (and possibly marry) an Indian man? Fine. She agrees to have sex with him only to save her life, but so what? In Ebert's warped thinking, "the woman was his wife for 10 years, and the boy was his son," so yeah, this guy is justified in whatever he does. The fact that the Injun has massacred half of Arizona, including people who had no part in hiding his wife - no big deal, they are all lowly white people. But the fact that Peck assumes this Injun deserves to die - THAT, ACCORDING TO EBERT, IS RACISM  Grin Grin Grin Grin Grin
I am still trying to decide which Ebert review is more crazy: the one above, or the one for the movie Sleepers, in which Ebert said that the movie, which is sympathetic toward boys who kill a man who had raped them when they were younger, is homophobic http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/sleepers-1996
I think Roger's idea of heaven is being on a balcony full of minorities, overlooking hell so they get a good view of all the white men burning.
RIP, Rog  Wink

« Last Edit: June 24, 2014, 08:05:35 PM by drinkanddestroy » Logged

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« Reply #11 on: June 24, 2014, 06:59:22 PM »

Pauline Kael's review is even more absurd.

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« Reply #12 on: June 25, 2014, 03:28:54 AM »

I'm with Cigar Joe on this one.
I saw it twice in 30 years, always was really bored by it. I like Peck & Mulligan a lot but this one (like all Peck films from 1966 - 1970) is neither fish nor flesh, bloodless in any sort anyway. Somehow I was always glad that Pakula as well started directing around that time. His films are so much better than Mulligan's directorial entries (minus MOCKINGBIRD & LOVE WITH THE PROPER STRANGER).

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