Also like THE LONG VOYAGE HOME, THE WALKING HILLS is an ensemble piece. It's a contemporary (1949) Western about a small group of people who discover a clue to a wagon train full of gold lost in Death Valley a hundred years earlier. Among the group are a private eye (John Ireland) on the trail of a fugitive, a beautiful woman (Ella Raines), a colorful old-timer called Old Willy (who else but Edgar Buchanan?), and a horse breeder (Scott) who's a more morally ambiguous character than Scott usually played. To protect their secret, they set out into the desert together, but in addition to battling the elements (there's a great sandstorm at the end), naturally they wind up battling each other, too.
This movie is very much a noir Western, and the stunning black-and-white photography is a big part of that. It's some of the best I've seen. All the actors turn in good performances, the direction by John Sturges, early in his career, keeps things moving along very briskly, and the script by Alan LeMay has plenty of good lines and plot twists.
Not long after I saw this movie for the first time, I read the Erle Stanley Gardner collections WHISPERING SANDS and PAYDIRT, which reprint some of Gardner's stories from the pulp ARGOSY that feature desert detective Bob Zane. These are some of my favorite Gardner stories, and as I was reading them I couldn't help but see Randolph Scott as Zane. If you've read those stories and liked them, you really should watch THE WALKING HILLS. It's the same sort of hardboiled contemporary Western. If you haven't read the Gardner collections, you should watch THE WALKING HILLS anyway, because it's an excellent film and deserves to be remembered. (Then go hunt up those Gardner collections and read them. I think it's about time for me to give them a go again.)