Director Henry Hathaway’s Garden of Evil is a film filled with paranoia and danger. It stars an aging Gary Cooper (Higher Noon) as Hooker, a single of 3 soldiers of fortune—including Fiske (Richard Widmark, The Swarm) and Daly (Cameron Mitchell, Carousel)—who are on their way to California for gold prospecting when they take a detour into a tiny Mexican village. In the course of their layover they are approached by Leah Fuller (Susan Hayward, With a Song in My Heart), whose husband has turn into trapped in a gold mine that is right in the middle of hostile Indian territory. The 3 men are hired on to help Leah uncover her husband, but relations turn out to be strained as the males each becomes attracted to Leah…which dissolves into arguments, fights, and eventual Indian attacks.
Garden of Evil is a fairly compact film that tells its story succinctly and with considerably fat trimmed off its hour and a half run time. We don’t uncover out a lot about the 3 male gunslingers before they are off on their mission. Just from what we know of the actors we can guess their personalities—Cooper’s Hooker is rugged but sincere, Widmark’s Fiske is brash and abrasive, and Cameron’s Daly is confident and filled with much sexual bravado. This isn’t a western with a lot of surprises in retailer for the viewer, but it is an entertaining (and beautifully shot) film from the golden age of Hollywood cinema.
As usual, Gary Cooper radiates a difficult, macho exterior that rarely cracks beneath his character’s pressures, even when wild Indians are breathing down his beck. Cooper’s Hooker seems to be the moral center of the film, which is not a surprise taking into consideration the types of character Cooper tended to play over the years. Richard Widmark tends to make for an amusing opposite—Fiske is cunning and angry, often searching for trouble. Obtaining the quick finish of the stick is Susan Hayward as the requisite female, who’s job appears to be either following the men, screaming, or falling in really like with whoever is accessible after her husband kicks the bucket (hey, nobody stated the 1950s was the peak of females in cinema).
Garden of Evil‘s screenplay by Fred Freiberger, William Tunberg, and Frank Fenton does not truly supply any new twists or turns to the western genre. There are a handful of flaws in the story that are challenging to look past, such as producing Leah’s husband a lout who appears to stick to the conventions of the screenplay alternatively of what the character would do in real life (Hooker patches up his leg and primarily saves his life, and all Hugh Marlow’s character can consider of is gold). Some of the action is poorly staged and appears stiff and over-wrought. One scene in particular finds Cooper and Daly having a fight close to a camp fire, and Daly is thrown into it so typically (rolling in it as if to impress audiences how long he can take a burn) that it looks like the whole point was crafted just so a stuntman could show off his chops. It doesn’t assist that Daly cries like a modest youngster at the end of the scene, which seems to contradict his character.
Even with its inconsistencies, Garden of Evil tells and mainly exciting story with a strong moral: mainly, never covet yet another man’s wife, especially if there are a lot of guns and Indians around. Star Gary Cooper gives a stoic, solid performance and the film’s supporting cast keeps things fascinating. The action—which admittedly comes a tiny late in the game—offers up some typical Hollywood cowboys and Indians fare, which in no way falls beneath or rises above the common bows and bullets being fired from all directions. Fans of classic westerns will surely want to check this out, but don’t expect a lot a lot more than common western fare.
Garden of Evil (Blu-ray) is presented in two.55:1 widescreen in 1080p higher definition. This 20th Century Fox title (licensed to Twilight Time in a limited concern of only three,000 units) characteristics a great looking transfer that can be problematic at instances. Even though there are some excellent searching moments in Garden of Evil, there are also instances exactly where the print appears slightly out of concentrate or not in the greatest shape (grain can be an situation at times). Colors are mainly bright and black levels generally dark and bold. The soundtrack is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround in English, as well as DTS-HD four. and 2. Stereo. The 5.1 mix is good, if limiting—while there are some nicely placed directional effects to this mix, a lot of Garden of Evil is front heavy. Dialogue, music, and effects have all been clearly recorded and are very easily distinguishable. Also incorporated on this disc are English subtitles.
Extra features consist of an audio commentary with film and music historians John Morgan, Nick Redman, Steven C. Smith, and William T. Stromberg, an isolated music score, a few featurettes (“Gunslinger: The Generating of Garden of Evil”, “Susan Hayward: Hollywood’s Straight Shooter”, “Henry Hathaway: When the Going Gets Tough…”), some Television spots, and a theatrical trailer for the film.
Garden of Evil doesn’t reinvent the western wagon wheel. Cooper is a delight as usual with supporting aid from a gruff Richard Widmark and desirable Susan Hayward.