Haunted Gold

06/15/2022 09:37

Film: Haunted Gold

Year: 1932

Director: Mack V. Wright

Writer: Adele Buffington

Starring: John Wayne, Duke and Sheila Terry



This is a movie that I didn’t hear of until looking through Letterboxd for horror released in 1932. It was interesting to see that this featured John Wayne. He is an actor that I knew growing up, but to date I’ve only seen 5 of the movies he’s been in. It was also interesting to see that the co-starring credit was Duke, who I learned later in this movie was the name of his horse. This movie is also the only horror movie that Wayne did.

Synopsis: John (John Wayne) and Janet (Sheila Terry) get a weird letter telling them to go to a ghost town which has an abandoned mine. There they contend with bad guys looking for hidden gold. There is also the Phantom that is guiding events.

We start in the town from the synopsis. Joe Ryan (Harry Woods) and his crew are playing cards. They’re waiting on Ed (Jim Corey) to return. What I’m gathering is that he is heading up to the Sally Anne Mine, looking for gold. This mine produced this precious metal in the past, but it is thought that it has been picked clean. There is a Phantom that is haunting it and the area. Ryan is convinced that there must be more that is hidden for someone to be hanging around like they are.

To complicate things, John and Janet both received a letter asking them to come here. John’s father helped to find the mine with Janet’s. John was left in the will his father’s share. Janet’s father lost his claim to Joe’s father. She isn’t sure why she was called here. John takes it upon himself along with his bodyguard, Clarence (Blue Washington), to restore her claim. They meet with Tom Benedict (Erville Alderson). He relays what he knows.

It becomes a fight over who owns this mine. Is there gold still to be had or was it all taken when this town dried up? John wants to ensure that Janet gets her claim back, but Joe won’t give it up without a fight. There is this Phantom that is guiding people and interfering with things that is happening. Who are they and what is their endgame? This makes for an intriguing series of events.

That is where I’ll leave my recap as well as introduce our key characters. Where I want to start is that I do enjoy when we combine horror with the western genre. We don’t get a lot of movies that fall into both, but I tend to be a fan. Due to the era this movie came out, it is light in the horror to the point where I’m not entirely sure that I would consider it. Since it is listed there on Letterboxd, I figured I’d watch and review.

With that out of the way, I want to start with our setting. This is one of the things that works for me. Since this is a western, we are in a ghost town. I like having the movie here. We are after the gold rush so there are towns that popped up when this metal was found and then died when it was all removed. There is something about a dead town like this that works for me. We also get bandits that are living there which makes sense. Being that there is a mine involved, the movie goes into the tunnels. There are also elements of ‘old dark house’ movies with secret passages in houses and the tunnels are incorporated with them as well.

Since that has been fleshed out, I want to go to the ‘wild west’ elements. I’ve already brought up the ghost town, mine and that we get bandits. There is John and his horse, Duke, playing itself. He is out to do the right thing. He has no issues with Joe and his crew, until he learns things they’ve done. Joe’s father forced Janet’s father Bill (John T. Prince) out of his claim on the mine. John doesn’t like what he hears and wants to fix it. He knows that he can’t just force it back and comes up with a couple plans to fix what is wrong. That fits what I think of John Wayne characters in my limited knowledge.

That is about the extent of what I wanted to go into with the story so I’ll move over to the acting. Wayne is fine here. I’m not the biggest fan of him, as I feel he played the same character in most everything that he’s in. I like him as the hero in this film. Working with him is the horse, Duke. It cracked me up that the animal got second billing. Terry was cute and I like her in the role that she played. Woods is good as the villain. Other than that Alderson, Otto Hoffman, Martha Mattox and Washington were good for what was needed. The other issue I did have was the caricature that they had the latter play. I do give credit for them to avoid going racist outside of that and for hiring him in this movie. None of the acting blew me away, but it worked for what was needed.

The last things to go into would be the filmmaking aspects. I think that the cinematography is fine. It doesn’t do anything to necessarily stand out. There is the speeding up of the footage when someone is riding a horse or when a fight breaks out. That is something you would see in the era. That was fine. I do give it credit for changing to some different types of shots. There aren’t a lot in the way of effects, but this movie didn’t need it. I did like the settings that we got in the movie. The ghost town, the tunnels and the hidden passages in the house tick boxes for me. Other than that, the soundtrack was fine without standing out.

In conclusion, this movie was fine. I do enjoy mixing the elements of the western with a bit of horror. The story is lacking a bit, but I did like the setting. Using a ghost town with a nearby mine and hidden passages in some of the houses was good. The acting fit for what was needed. The filmmaking aspects worked without doing anything to set it apart in my opinion. Being that this is the only horror film that Wayne did makes it historic. I would say this is over average. It is just lacking elements for me to go higher.


My Rating: 6 out of 10