“I guess if the earth were made of gold, men would die for a handful of dirt.”
Ever wanted to know what a Film Noir that takes place in the west would look like? All you need to do is watch Garden of Evil. I did not find it as thrilling as a traditional Noir or Western, though.
A ship breaks down. Two men from the ship Hooker (Gary Cooper) and Fiske (Richard Widmark) are taken to the nearby island of Porto Miguel. They are told that the ship will take weeks to fix. The town looks like a ghost town. The only lively place is the local bar but there are not that many people there either.
After a while in the bar a woman named Leah Fuller (Susan Hayward) comes in looking for people to help her. A long way off in a mine her husband has become trapped in a cave in and she needs the help of a few men to get him out. Leah tells the men that she will pay them each a thousand dollars. Not many of the locals sign up to go because they are superstitious about the Apache Indians that roam the hills destroying villages of invading peoples. Hooker and Fiske sign up along with a guy named David and a local named Vincente.
The group is fortunate to not have run into any Indians on their journey to the mine. The only opposition they face is each other. David cannot control his lust for Leah which leads to a big fight between him and Hooker. Hooker winds up punching him up and then talking to him calmly.
At the mine, Leah’s husband is still alive. He is dehydrated and has a fractured leg. When Fuller comes to a bit he is very angry with Leah. He says it is her fault he got caught in the mine because she wanted things. Leah says that is true and a few other ramblings that I cannot remember and for some reason that kind of pisses Hooker and Fiske off… at least I think it does, my attention started to wander at this point. Leah comes up with the idea for the men to leave that night and she will stay behind to tend to the fire to make it look like to the Indians that they are all still at the house. Hooker and the other men think Leah is crazy. Hooker has enough of her stoic crap and he punches her out so he can place her on the back of his horse.
Fuller needs to get off his horse and rest. David is not happy about the rest he wants to keep going to not be spotted by the Indians and to get back to Porto Miguel as soon as possible. Fuller knows he is bothering David and he is willing to go on ahead by himself to let the others have a chance to keep clear of the Indians. David gets Fuller onto a horse. Hooker sees what is happening but he is too late to stop them. David for some reason freaks out on Hooker but before too much can happen David is shot by an Indian arrow and dies. Further in their travels they come by an abandoned burned out church. They find Fuller has been killed and tied to a cross.
Not long after leaving the church the Apaches begin attacking the small group. Vincente is killed first. Fiske and Hooker try to be the hero and stay behind to shoot at the Indians while the other leaves for safety with Leah. Hooker wanted to stay behind but Fiske is willing to make a bet with him. Since Gary Cooper is the main actor in the film he gets to leave with Susand Hayward while Richard Widmark gets left behind.
If you cannot guess the ending then you have obviously never seen any movie in your life.
So many reviewers on IDMB really liked Garden of Evil. Some even said that it is one of the best and most underrated Westerns. I thought Garden of Evil was just alright. I was not too crazy about the story (well, it was a good example of a story about greed since all the characters were greedy with certain things) and there were parts that definitely dragged. The main cast of Gary Cooper, Susan Hayward, and Richard Widmark was great. Hayward was the perfect actress to play a tough, determined Western woman. I can see where some reviewers were saying the film is a cross between a Noir and a Western. As I said at the beginning Garden of Evil is not as thrilling as the traditional form of the genres. The film is worth seeing for the cast and the color in Cinemascope. Garden of Evil is available to view in full on YouTube.