Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Overlooked Movies: The Stalking Moon (1968)

THE STALKING MOON is another Western that somehow I never watched until now. Based on a novel by T.V. Olsen, it's the story of Sam Varner (Gregory Peck), a civilian scout for the Army, who on his last mission before retiring finds a white woman (Eva Marie Saint) who's been a captive of the Apaches for the past ten years. She has her young son with her, and she wants Varner to help her and the boy get back to Ohio where she had family. Against his better judgment, Varner agrees.

What he doesn't know is that the boy's father is some ninja-like super-Apache who slaughters a bunch of people (off-screen) while tracking Varner, the woman, and the boy across Arizona and New Mexico Territories before finally catching up to them on the ranch Varner had intended to be his retirement home.

Quite a few people seem to like this movie a lot, but I'm afraid my verdict is decidedly mixed. The acting is good all around (Robert Forster, who I've always liked, plays a young scout), the production values are good, and the action scenes, when they finally arrive, are well-staged and effective. But man, this is an hour's worth of movie in two hours of running time. For most of the way the pace is beyond leisurely, especially considering that there's not a plot twist to be found anywhere. I don't want to seem too harsh--I'm glad I finally saw this--but I found it to be pretty much of a disappointment. I haven't read Olsen's novel, but I have to wonder if the story worked better as a book.


Peter Brandvold said...

I couldn't agree more, James. I read the book and found it to be pretty much the same way--slow. I love Olsen's prose, sentence by sentence, but I've found quite a few of his books to be a slog.

Anonymous said...

Have to disagree. Loved the book and the movie. I've loved everything I've read by Olson.

James Reasoner said...

I expected to be in the minority on this movie since it does have a pretty good reputation. I found things to like and admire, but it's just too slow for my taste. I think I've read only one of Olsen's novels, A MAN CALLED BRAZOS, and that was back in high school so I don't remember much about it. I have a few of them on my shelves and will try something else.

Anonymous said...

Brian Garfield says basically the same thing about this movie as you do, James, in his hugely/startlingly/alarmingly opinionated book, Western Films.

John Hocking

fugaku said...

Definitely a case of the book being better than the film. If I recall it's kind of horror-influenced or maybe just includes supernatural elements, an unusual Olsen story for sure.

BTW I'm lucky enough to own a signed copy of the movie tie-in paperback, and hey, unless I brag about it how would anyone ever know? :)