• Haunted Gold (1932)

    ** 1/2 (out of 4)

    This was one of six films John Wayne made for Warner's years before he would become famous after the success of STAGECOACH. Wayne has to share top billing with Duke, his horse, but I'm sure he didn't mind that too much. Rival gangs both want the claim to a mine, which might be full of gold but the big problem is that it's haunted with the spirit known as The Phantom. This early blend of the Western and "old dark house" genre isn't as bad as you'd expect, although there's some rather strange and mean spirited racism throughout the movie. One interesting thing was that Blue Washington, a black actor, got to play the sidekick to Wayne, which was a nice change of pace considering most sidekicks at that time were white. This new item quickly turned sour as for the most part he was just playing the ignorant stereotype, which included various jokes being thrown at him including being called "Darkie" and one scene where he pretends to be The Phantom only to have a guy say he wasn't because of his "watermelon accent". Outside of that, this is a fairly enjoyable film that manages to make good use of both genres. The horror elements start off with an animated sequence with some bats and the shadow of what's clearly meant to be a Dracula like character. We get the various "spooky" items including cobwebs, black cats, rats and other goodies. The red herrings pop up from time to time and are way too obvious. Check out the scene where Wayne is having coffee with his girl (Sheila Terry) only to have the maid acting like a bad guy. How obvious and over the top she is made me break down laughing. Wayne gives a decent performance even though he hadn't quite gotten his style down yet but I don't think there's any doubt that Duke gets the best scenes.