Moore Not Less - Gold of the Seven Saints

Gold of the Seven Saints is a 1961 Western that features Roger Moore alongside Clint Walker. The director Gordon Douglas and Clint Walker had already made 1958's Fort Dobbs and 1959's Yellowstone Kelly together and Gold of the Seven Saints was their final Western collaboration. Walker is the lead and Gold of the Seven Saints feels like an attempt to make the brawny actor (then appearing in the popular television series Cheyenne) and Roger stars on the big screen. Clint Walker, who was 6'6 tall and built like Arnold Schwarzenegger, never really became a big star in the end though. Fans of seventies made for television horror movies might know Walker from such guilty pleasures as Killdozer! and Snowbeast.
Around this time Roger had already done The Alaskans on the small screen and taken on a regular role in the television series Maverick so one could forgive him if he was starting to tire of Westerns somewhat. This is that stage in Roger's career where he was still gamely trying (but failing) to become a star in Hollywood. He was in his thirties by now and coudn't be really be called a young up and coming actor anymore. A year after this film came out, Roger began playing Simon Templar in the TV show The Saint - which of course eventually led to James Bond a decade later. You could say the message of Roger's career is that patience sometimes has its rewards. You just have to keep plugging away.
Gold of the Seven Saints is sometimes dubbed an inferior The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and while, yes, it's true that Sierra Madre is a much better film, Gold of the Seven Saints is an interesting and well made picture with some beautiful photography by Joseph F Biroc. What is the plot of Gold of the Seven Saints? Trappers Jim Rainbolt (Clint Walker) and Shaun Garrett (Roger) discover some gold but when Garrett uses a nugget of this gold in order to escape a charge of horse theft he attracts the attention of the bandit McCracken (Gene Evans) and his mob. Rainbolt and Garrett soon have their hands full trying to keep their gold safe and their lives secure...
Based on a 1957 Steve Frazee novel titled Desert Gun, Gold of the Seven Saints is a passable Western that benefits from the outdoor location work. The film looks great in sepia tones and the lack of too many interiors prevents it from ever seeming cheap or constrictive despite the fact that it clearly didn't have the most lavish budget at its disposal. The plot is fairly simple but works well enough to set up all manner of trouble for our central characters as they find some unwelcome eyes turning towards the stash of gold they are rumoured to have stumbled across.
Gene Evans is a solid stock baddie as the dubious McCracken and the film manages to introduce a range of characters without feeling as if they have been too artificially inserted into the story. Rainbolt and Garrett take refuge with Amos Gondora (Robert Middleton) and his Indian ward Tita (Leticia Roman). Roger is required to wrestle with an Irish accent here and while the accent is never completely convincing he doesn't do too bad a job with the task. Roger and Clint Walker make a surprisingly good team and the two characters are so close and devoted to one another that Gold of the Seven Saints almost develops a homoerotic quality. Both Walker and Rog get to bare their chests a lot although Walker is clearly the one who has spent his spare time in the gym!

Walker as Rainbolt is more laconic and laid-back with Roger required to be the more chirpy talkative one. Roger Moore is plainly a lot better at comedy than Walker so he plays the lighter and more boyish sort of character here. Once his accent settles down he does this competently and both characters are likeable, giving us someone to root for. Walker, with his amazingly deep voice, delivers every line he has in the same deep monotone drawl however perilous the situation may be.
Leticia Roman is the only thing that threatens to come between them but this is a warm, cosy Western and you know things will probably turn out pretty fine in the end. There is some decently staged action but it's not particularly violent. Chill Wills also lends some authentic Western support as medicine man Doc Gates. The scorching heat almost blazes through the screen at times and the characters are made to look suitably sweat caked. The score is very good too on the whole. There are some suspenseful cues when appropriate and then some old fashioned sweeping melodrama in other spots.
Despite its modest budget, Gold of the Seven Saints is quite compelling at its very best - especially the section at the start of the film where Rainbolt and Garrett must negotiate the harsh alienation of the desert landscape. This minimalist approach has some rewards for those who fall under the spell of the atmosphere and backdrops. Gold of the Seven Saints is a competent and entertaining little Western and worth a look if you've never seen it before. At around 85 minutes this film never threatens to overstay its welcome and is always a fairly easy and interesting experience. It's not exactly The Searchers but Gold of the Seven Saints is a perfectly watchable and decent little film.
- Jake

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