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COOPER & WIDMARK RIDE IN GARDEN OF EVIL

Gorgeous wideshot of Hayward and Cooper YEAR: 1954
A year before GARDEN OF EVIL, an adventurous Cowboy Film Noir taking place in Mexico starring, primarily, Gary Cooper and Susan Hayward, the wonderfully sinister Ralph Meeker kidnaps, or rather, hijacks or you can even say, bums a pistol-pointed ride off Barbara Stanwyck, whose husband is buried beneath a piece of a dilapidated pier and as the tide rises, time runs out...

That was the underrated JEOPARDY, and in GARDEN OF EVIL, the urgent drive is not that much different. Only Susan Hayward isn't being taken. Instead, her red-haired beauty with a load of cash persuades a group of basically strangers, who "washed-up" (boat broke down) in a Mexican town so rural not even good time gambler Richard Widmark can have any fun. Enter the "friendly antagonist," our third banana who's the most like Meeker. That being the usually-villainous, explosive human bobcat, Cameron Mitchell, going bonkers when his lusting testosterone gets the best of him: His postman only rings once...

The Foreign Cover Wins
Gary Cooper, not a highly energetic actor but a giant on the big screen, and always a wise, tough presence, tells his second sidekick that that man they were paid to save... Hayward's husband, who she's determined to, with a lot of help, rescue – is the one and only thing on her mind. Along the way, we hear a lot about how Aztecs had run gold-lusting white men out of the god-forsaken land. So as half the film shows the group journeying through what looks a cross between a colorized Kong Island and the mountainous slopes of SIERRA MADRE, the suspense relies on a strange palpable feeling snappy Widmark has all along: in his opinion, they've been duped by the sexy siren, and it's downhill from there... Also thanks or no thanks to those damn Apaches!

MOVIE RATING: ***
Once the group reach the mine near a cabin where Hayward's injured husband whines and whines; where The Mexican and Mitchell sing selfish praise to the gold in the cemetery-locale; as Widmark remains a benign witness and the one true hero, Cooper, sees smoke signals in the sky – the Bernard Hermann score blares louder than ever. But it would have been far more effective slow and meticulous than bombastic and final because, while random heads of nefarious Apaches pop up in the distance, the building momentum of what seems more of a valley of doom than a GARDEN OF EVIL is much better mysterious, sustaining the eerie vibe and straying from a Standard Western template. Meanwhile, the root of this GARDEN, Lana Turner, provides a soft manipulating aura, injecting a pulpy Film Noir vibe, although, as a whole, the title is a lot more intense than the movie itself.
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