Six years after adapting the classic To Kill A Mockingbird into an Oscar-winning feature film, director Robert Mulligan and producer Alan J. Pakula reunited with Gregory Peck on another literary adaptation. This time, they were tackling author T.V. Olsen’s western tale, The Stalking Moon. While all the right ingredients were there to score another homerun for this creative team, this project ended up being more of a mixed bag creatively and financially.
The Stalking Moon tells the story of Sam Varner (Gregory Peck), an experienced Indian tracker for the Army who is on the verge of retiring to his ranch. During his last mission, he finds Sarah Carver (Eva Marie Saint), a white woman who was captured and held prisoner by the Apache a decade ago. During this time, she has given birth to a half-Indian son (Nolan Clay) whose father, Salvaje, is hell-bent on getting him back no matter who stands in his way. Sam agrees to escort the two to safety away from Salvaje, and eventually invites them to stay on his ranch as his cook and housekeeper. Sarah and her son are not quick to be put at ease, as they know that violence from their past could be right around the corner.
Gregory Peck brings his noble charm and demeanor to Sam, which elevates this movie quite a bit in spite of a mostly uninspired script. Eva Marie Saint is not given a lot to do narratively besides look frightened and gradually soften, but she does her best with what she is given. The film refreshingly does not wade into any sort of romantic territory between Sam and Sarah, allowing the narrative to side step some of the more problematic scenarios that classic Westerns tend to wade through. Although there are issues with the narrative, the film is technically admirable with an enjoyable score and striking visuals. A good portion of the film was filmed on location, which was beautifully shot by Director of Photography Charles Lang.
The pacing of the film is very deliberate with very little action before the climax of the movie, which a little bit of script polishing and editing could have tightened up into something a lot more dramatically satisfying. The attention given to the characters allows you to invest a bit more emotionally, but the lack of urgency they felt to prepare for the incoming danger felt a little unbelievable. As it stands, the movie has a lot of elements to enjoy, but altogether it does not add up to a movie that stands tall in the genre.
Warner Archive presents the film’s 2.35:1 aspect ratio in a new 1080p HD transfer using the AVC codec. Unsurprisingly, Warner Archive once again knocks it out of the park with this stunning presentation that showcases the film’s beautiful landscapes. The transfer is clean throughout with strong black levels, natural film grain and excellent color. The amount of love that this studio puts into their releases is always admired.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono sound mix is lively and represents the film as it was intended to be heard. There are no instances of damage or hissing in the track and the dialogue is balanced perfectly with the background effects and original score. English subtitles are also provided on this disc. This is a great sounding release that should please fans of the movie.
- Theatrical Trailer: The nearly 3-minute spoiler-filled theatrical trailer is presented here in HD. Avoid until after you have seen the movie for maximum enjoyment.
The Stalking Moon has a lot of strong elements going for it including a great performance from Gregory Peck and beautiful cinematography. The script unfortunately keeps this one from being an all-time classic, but it nonetheless proves to be an entertaining experience. Warner Archive provides the film with an excellent Blu-Ray with top-notch audio and video quality. Recommended for fans for of the genre or talent involved.
The Stalking Moon can be purchased directly through Warner Archive or various other online retailers.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.