Stalking Moon, The (1968): Robert Mulligan’s Western, Starring Gregory Peck and Eva Marie Saint

Robert Mulligan directed The Stalking Moon, a Technicolor Western, based on the novel of the same name by T.V. Olsen, starring Gregory Peck and Eva Marie Saint.

The film marked the reunion between director Robert Mulligan, producer Alan J. Pakula and actor Gregory Peck, six years after their collaboration on To Kill a Mockingbird.

U.S. Army soldiers round up some Indians, mostly women and children. Surprisingly, they find among them a white woman and her half-Indian son.

Sam Varner (Gregory Peck) is a scout retiring from the Army to his ranch in New Mexico. He agrees to escort Sarah Carver (Eva Marie Saint) and her son after she begs him. She wants to leave immediately rather than wait five days for a military escort.

When the boy runs away, Varner and Sarah go looking for him as a dust storm begins. They find the boy and then hole up to wait out the storm.

When they return to the station, everyone there is dead, killed by the boy’s Indian warrior father, Salvaje (Nathaniel Narcisco). Salvaje is feared even among his people; he is known a silent and ruthless killer. Salvaje means “Ghost” in Apache, or in their own tongue: “He Who Is Not Here,” meaning a dead man.

When the stagecoach arrives, Sam puts Sarah and her son on it and follows them to a rail station called Silverton. He trades government letters of transport for train tickets to Topeka, Kansas.

After careful consideration, Sam decides to invite Sarah and her son to accompany him to his ranch where she can cook for him and an old man, Ned (Russell Thorson), who takes care of the ranch.

The movie was shot on location in Red Rock Canyon, Nevada, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada.

Mulligan and Alvin Sargent, who wrote the screenplay, have kept their focus on the poor whites, but unfortunately, none of them is interesting. The three leads are too much of types, lacking depth as individual characters: the honorable lonely frontiersman, the woman who survived the horrors of Indian captivity, the boy torn between two cultures.

Gregory Peck as Sam Varner
Eva Marie Saint as Sarah Carver
Robert Forster as Nick Tana
Noland Clay as Boy
Russell Thorson as Ned
Frank Silvera as Major
Lonny Chapman as Purdue
Lou Frizzell as Stationmaster
Henry Beckman as Sergeant Rudabaugh
Charles Tyner as Dace
Richard Bull as Doctor
Sandy Brown Wyeth as Rachel
Joaquín Martinez as Julio
Boyd Morgan as Shelby
Nathaniel Narcisco as Salvaje
James Olson as Cavalry Officer