Cast & Crew
In the late 1800s, when their boat is forced to dock at the village of Puerto Miguel, Mexico, for repairs, Americans Hooker, Fiske and Luke Daly are annoyed that their plans to mine gold in California have been delayed. Although the three men are strangers to one another, they drink together in a local cantina, where Fiske, a professional gambler, tries to pry personal information out of the taciturn Hooker. The hot-headed Daly is ready to join in a fight between Mexican Vicente and another man for the attentions of the cantina's singer, but Fiske warns him to control his temper. After the incident, a beautiful, desperate American woman named Leah Fuller runs in and begs the locals to help free her husband John, who became trapped in their gold mine during a cave-in. No one comes forward, even though she offers $1,000 per man, and when she spots the Americans, she approaches them. Fiske is suspicious about why no one else will take the job, but Leah explains that they merely fear the Apaches who control the territory through which they will be traveling for several days. Leah doubles the reward and pleads with the men, telling them that a fellow American is dying, and Daly, immediately infatuated with the charismatic Leah, agrees to help. Hooker and Fiske also agree, as does Vicente, and soon the group is riding along a narrow mountain trail. Leah reveals to Fiske that she and Fuller were given a map to the remote location by an old priest in Sacramento, and as they continue he is amazed by her stamina. Hooker and Fiske observe Vicente carefully noting the passing landscape and leaving markers to their trail, and the first night at camp, Fiske taunts Hooker that he, like Daly, will fall under Leah's spell. Hooker then prevents Daly from following Leah as she walks away from the camp, and when he himself follows her, he sees her destroying Vicente's markers. Leah warns Hooker not to underestimate her, and Hooker retorts that she cares more about her gold mine than her husband. The following night, the group camps at the burned-out ruins of an old mission, and Hooker finds signs of recent occupation by Apaches. Hooker cautions his companions that this month, "the moon of the white man," is one in which the Indians celebrate their victories over white settlements, but Leah shames the men by offering them more money to overcome their fears and continue. When Leah once again sneaks out of camp to destroy Vicente's markers, she is followed by Daly, who professes his admiration and violently tries to kiss her. Leah screams as she fends him off, but then saunters back into camp as if nothing happened. Hooker orders Daly to go to sleep, and when Daly protests, Hooker reveals that Daly is a cowardly bounty hunter who shoots his prey in the back. Daly charges at Hooker, but the older man easily outfights him until he begins to weep with humiliation. Hooker reprimands Leah for inadvertently leading Daly on, then gently tends to Daly, telling him that all Leah cares about is her husband. The following night, after they camp, Leah tells Hooker that the abandoned city to which they are headed was once a boom town that was covered by the lava of a huge volcano. After the explosion, the volcano became sacred to the Apaches, and white miners have been afraid to return. The following day, the group reaches the massive slide of black lava, and Leah leads them to the mine shaft in which her husband is pinned. The men succeed in freeing Fuller, and Hooker sets his broken leg. As Leah tends to him, Fuller bitterly recounts his thoughts during the days he lay waiting for her return, and accuses her of marrying him only so that he could find gold for her. Leah is stung by Fuller's perception of her as a hard-hearted fortune-hunter, and when Hooker reveals that they are being watched by Apaches, she offers to stay behind and light fires as a distraction while the men slip away during the night. Hooker explains that her overwhelming drive for riches has made a coward of her husband, and Fiske accuses her of knowing that none of the men would let her sacrifice herself. Hooker, who has revealed that he once was a sheriff, organizes the escape party, then slugs Leah and drapes her over his horse. The group rides as hard as it can, but the still-weak Fuller holds them up, and when they camp, Daly decries his presence as it becomes clear that the Apaches are pursuing them. Knowing that he is holding them back, Fuller asks Daly for a horse, and before Hooker can stop him, Fuller rides off. Daly and Hooker are just about to engage in a gun battle when Daly is shot in the back with an arrow, and the rest of the group rides away. The gruesome sight of Fuller, pierced by arrows and hung upside down on the ruined mission's cross, stops them, and Leah, believing that he hated her, weeps. Hooker tries to persuade her that Fuller loved her, and that is why he left their camp rather than endanger her, but she cannot accept his words of comfort. When they are riding the following day, Apache arrows kill Vicente's horse, and Vicente is shot to death while hurling challenges at his tormentors. With only Hooker, Leah and Fiske left, they ride hard until they reach the narrow mountain road, where they hide behind some boulders. They are able to force the Indians to retreat temporarily, and Hooker then orders Fiske to take Leah to Puerto Miguel while he remains behind to hold off their pursuers. Fiske refuses to go and, dismising the older man's assertion that he is a better shot, challenges Hooker to a card game to decide who will stay. Knowing that Leah and Hooker are in love, Fiske is glad when he wins, and the couple departs. Upon reaching the meadow, where they know they are safe, Hooker admits to Leah that Fiske is a finer man than he had thought, and that he must rescue him. Leah acquiesces, and when Hooker returns, the dying Fiske proudly shows him how many Indians he has shot. Hooker chides Fiske for cheating him in the card game, and Fiske urges him to build a home with Leah. After Fiske dies, Hooker looks out on the landscape, which the old priest had called "The Garden of Evil," then catches up with Leah and rides off with her.
Victor Manuel Mendoza
Arturo Soto Rangel
James B. Clark
Nicolás De La Rosa Jr.
Jorge Stahl Jr.
Emilio D. Uranga
Garden of Evil
The tale begins with three men walking out of the sea onto a sunny beach, meeting one another for the first time. The only thing they have in common is that they're would-be prospectors whose steamship broke down before reaching California, where they planned to search for gold. Now they're stranded indefinitely in a nondescript Mexican village. Cooper plays Hooker, a rootless man who rarely says more than he needs to. Richard Widmark plays Fiske, a gambler with a sardonic sense of humor. Cameron Mitchell plays Daly, an impetuous personality with a weakness for women and fighting.
The men expect nothing but boredom until the steamship is repaired, but that abruptly changes when they meet Leah Fuller, played by Susan Hayward with equal measures of sexiness and toughness. Walking into the local cantina, she announces that her husband is trapped in a distant gold mine and offers an enormous price to anyone who helps her rescue him. All three travelers accept the offer, as does a Mexican named Madariaga, and together they ride off with Leah to the mine, quarreling and scrapping along the way.
For much of its length, Garden of Evil focuses on the rivalries, jealousies, and suspicions that arise during this journey; some are prompted by covetousness for the gold that's waiting at their destination, others by desire for the beautiful woman who's leading the expedition. Tensions reach a climax when Daly tries to force his affections on Leah, but Hooker intervenes in the nick of time, and the group remains intact. Eventually they reach the mine and rescue the severely injured husband, John, played by Hugh Marlowe with more emotional oomph than he usually delivers. Instead of thanking his saviors, John gives a bitter speech denouncing Leah for causing his troubles and accusing the others of conspiring with her. On top of all this, the surrounding mountains are full of hostile Apaches who have staked out the mine for attack. John says they came to look at him when he was trapped, and left him alone only because they couldn't think of a more horrible way for him to die. Now that he's been freed, they're sure to come after him and his rescuers without delay.
As a psychological western from the 1950s, Garden of Evil has a family resemblance to classics made by Budd Boetticher (e.g., Seven Men from Now in 1956, The Tall T in 1957) and Anthony Mann (e.g., The Naked Spur in 1953, The Man from Laramie in 1955) during that period. Hooker is the conflicted hero of Hathaway's film, and Cooper's lanky frame and taciturn manner recall those of troubled James Stewart and dogged Randolph Scott in the Mann and Boetticher pictures. By contrast, Mitchell's mean, sweaty, bluntly physical Daly points ahead to Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns of the 1970s, and Marlowe makes John a specimen of sulky self-absorption who lends new complexity to the movie's second act. As for Hayward, she more than holds her own in this overwhelmingly male company - the film's only other woman is a singer (Rita Moreno) in the cantina scene - and that's a feat not every actress could accomplish.
Garden of Evil started out as a script called "The Fifth Rider," which circulated at Twentieth Century Fox just as studio boss Darryl F. Zanuck was looking for projects that seemed especially well suited to CinemaScope treatment. The story was originally set in Arizona, but Zanuck quickly changed the locale to southern Mexico, where jungle, mountain, and volcanic landscapes were readily available. (The working title "Volcano" was scrapped to avoid confusion with Vulcano, 1950, a recent Italian film.) Making the most of the terrific scenery, Hathaway shows characters and horses jumping over mountain gorges, threading their way along narrow cliffs, falling into deep ravines, and posing before sunsets aglow with Technicolor hues.
Although the picture went over budget and exceeded its shooting schedule, it wound up costing a reasonable two million dollars - good value for such a polished production - and went on to earn a healthy million-dollar profit. Some reviews found its technical excellence to be both a pro and a con. New York Times critic A.H. Weiler praised "the powers at [Fox] for having the good judgment to transport their Technicolor cameras to strange but impressively scenic Mexican locales, which give mood, color and authority to a basically lean adventure." Variety opined that the 'Scope cinematography "greatly increases the visual impact of the outdoor scenes and becomes such an important part of the story-telling it almost overpowers the plot drama at times."
The unsigned Variety review also criticized Bernard Herrmann's score for being so "busy" at times that "concentration on the drama is impossible." Quite the opposite, I find his composing richly effective from the start, when a pulse recalling his legendary music for Vertigo (1958) and Psycho (1960) lends a hint of tension to the opening scene. Herrmann knew how to enhance drama, not compete with it. And as the only western he ever scored, Garden of Evil has a unique place in his illustrious body of work.
Producer: Charles Brackett
Director: Henry Hathaway
Screenplay: Frank Fenton (screenplay); Fred Freiberger, William Tunberg (story)
Cinematography: Milton Krasner, Jorge Stahl, Jr.
Art Direction: Edward Fitzgerald, Lyle Wheeler
Music: Bernard Herrmann
Film Editing: James B. Clark
Cast: Gary Cooper (Hooker), Susan Hayward (Leah Fuller), Richard Widmark (Fiske), Hugh Marlowe (John Fuller), Cameron Mitchell (Luke Daly), Rita Moreno (Cantina Singer), Víctor Manuel Mendoza (Vicente Madariaga).
by David Sterritt
Garden of Evil
What is she trying to prove?- Luke Daly
That one of us is a hero or a fool.- Fiske
Well, anyway, it's her funeral. I don't go to any but my own.- Luke Daly
A cross isn't a bad thing to see...it can be beautiful. And everybody has one.- Hooker
The working title of this film was Volcano. According to a July 1953 Daily Variety news item, the working title was changed because "there is an Italian pic of same title now playing U.S. art houses," which referred to the 1953 film Volcano, directed by William Dieterle and starring Rosanno Brazzi and Anna Magnani. According to a September 1953 Hollywood Reporter news item, Robert L. Jacks was orginally set to produce Garden of Evil, but left Twentieth Century-Fox to join Panoramic Productions and was replaced by Charles Brackett. According to studio publicity, outdoor sequences for the film were shot on location in Mexico, at "the colonial town" of Tepatzlan; the jungle areas alongside the Los Concheros River near Acapulco, Parícutin Mountain, which was surrounded by black volcanic sands; and the village of Guanajuato. Hollywood Reporter news items add that interior scenes were shot at the Churubusco Studios in Mexico City.
Released in United States 1998
Released in United States Summer July 1954
Shown at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) as part of program "Twentieth Century Fox and the Golden Age of CinemaScope" July 3 - August 15, 1998.
Released in United States 1998 (Shown at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) as part of program "Twentieth Century Fox and the Golden Age of CinemaScope" July 3 - August 15, 1998.)
Released in United States Summer July 1954