In the 1930s, John Wayne starred in a long string of low-budget westerns--even by B-movie standards. Despite their very low production values, the films are mostly pretty watchable today--making them among the better western series films of the day. However, even though they GENERALLY were good films, there were also quite a few a turkeys--and this one was definitely a terrible film. Much of the reason is the weird decision to give Wayne a black sidekick--a definite rarity among this genre. While this would seem like a very progressive thing for 1932, it definitely was not due to the horrible sort of character this man (Clarence) was in the film. I think the only reason a black man was cast was to promote the old stereotype of a stupid and scared black man--a definite cheap laugh getter of the day. Throughout the film, Clarence refers to Wayne as 'boss' and spends most of his on-screen time being afraid--and is thoroughly offensive. It is cringe-inducing to say the least!
"Haunted Gold" is not just bad because of the negative black character, however. Political correctness aside, there is little (other than excellent stunt-work) to recommend it. The plot is pretty silly. Seeing Wayne and the rest riding about on horses and acting the way they do even though the film is apparently set in 1932 is pretty weird. Also, the idea of a caped creep scaring people off their ranches is awfully silly and the film abounds with clichés and stereotypes.
As for the stunts, however, some of these cheap old films did have amazing action sequences. The horse knocking the guy off the cliff was clever, the scene of the guy falling from the gondola was cool, Clarence supposedly falling through the floor spectacular and the fight on an out of control buckboard amazing. But stunts alone do not make up for a thoroughly terrible film. Offensive and stupid...with cool stunts. John Wayne fans can look elsewhere for a film worth seeing.
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