The Stalking Moon is Kramer vs. Kramer meets Red Dead Redemption. A woman and her half-Indian son are desperately trying to escape the boy’s Indian father. In order to break free, the woman enlists the help of a former Army ranger (Gregory Peck). He agrees due to the fact that he doesn’t want to leave a woman and her child to die. What follows next is kinda gruesome for the era.
Gregory Peck had a relationship with Mulligan/Pakula from his Oscar winning turn in To Kill A Mockingbird. However, Sam Varner is no Atticus Finch. While both characters exhibit duty over personal gain, Varner is far more vengeful than Finch. But, he’s also very tired. The Stalking Moon gets a sense of weariness that is missing from many Westerns. The wild days are far behind Varner and he hates having to push back into this life.
Late 60s Westerns are Revisionist, but entertaining when they employ older established actors. What Peck does here is examine the roles he plays 10 years before. After all, what happens to a man that keeps giving up more and more of himself? They become sullen and withdrawn. Most of the film has Peck blaming Eva Marie Saint for what’s happening. He’s not wrong, but it’s weird to see Peck get so nasty at times.
The first time I even knew this film was existed is because it was included as a Robert Forster trailer on the Jackie Brown DVD. Forster shows up as a half Indian friendly that tries his best to inform Peck of what’s coming for him. Still, it’s a bit role that is almost entirely exposition. Forster kills in the role, but even Old Man Ned had more to do in this movie.
The Mulligan/Pakula productions are such an underrated part of American film history. Starting with Fear Strikes Out, the duo began taking the inventiveness of Television drama to the immediate majesty of cinema. The Stalking Moon is a fascinating footnote in their shared history. Far more contemporary and emotional than the John Wayne fare, the duo meant to make movies and Westerns that felt more relevant to a 1960s audience. I think they succeeded.
Warner Archive brings such a stellar transfer with this Stalking Moon Blu-ray.