Glenn Ford and Ida Lupino in Lust for Gold (1949)


(director: S. Sylvan Simon; screenwriters: Ted Sherdeman/Richard English/based on the book Thunder God’s Gold by Barry Storm; cinematographer: Archie Stout; editor: Gene Havlick; music: George Duning; cast: Glenn Ford (Jacob Walz), Ida Lupino (Julia Thomas), Gig Young (Pete Thomas), William Prince (Barry Storm), Paul Ford (Sheriff Lynn Early), Jay Silverheels (Walter, Deputy), Edgar Buchanan (Wiser), Will Geer (Deputy Ray Covin), Paul E. Burns (Billy Bates), Antonio Moreno (Peralta), Arthur Hunnicutt (Ludi), Percy Helton (Barber); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: S. Sylvan Simon; Columbia/Tri-Star; 1949)
“Lust for Gold is the poor man’s Treasure of Sierra Madre.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Lust for Gold is the poor man’s Treasure of Sierra Madre. S. Sylvan Simon (“The Fuller Brush Man”/”I Love Trouble”/”Son of Lassie”), a director of comedies and musicals, was a last minute replacement for director George Marshall and nearly ruins a spellbinding tale with his convoluted flashback telling of the offbeat story. It’s based on a novel of an ill-fated true story, Thunder God’s Gold, by Barry Storm. It’s adapted by Ted Sherdeman and Richard English. It tells the actual location of the legendary “Lost Dutchman” goldmine, where there’s a cache of $20,000,000 in mined, high-grade gold ore buried by an earthquake somewhere in Arizona’s Superstition Mountain (east of Phoenix) and available to anyone who finds it. Simon so simplified the complex plot that Storm, whom the character played by William Prince is called, sued for misrepresentation. There’s also an overbearing narration by Prince.

The film picks up with the twentysomething Barry Storm, a visitor from Colorado, discovering the prospector he was following on Superstition Mountain to locate his grandfather’s lost mine, the “Lost Dutchman,” has been killed. He returns to report it to the sheriff (Paul Ford) in Florence, Arizona.

The film goes into a prolonged flashback, back to the 1870s to tell about the exploits of Storm’s granddad, the tough-guy and heavy drinker named Jacob Walz (Glenn Ford), who discovered the mine. He was a German prospector, mislabeled a “Dutchman,” who with his partner Wiser (Edgar Buchanan) obtained the mine by either killing the wealthy Mexican rancher named Peralta who possessed it or saved his life from his greedy American partner Ludi and the two were rewarded with a map to the mine. Walz (Ford plays him with an embarrassing German accent) stayed in Phoenix, keeping the location of the mine secret by visiting it secretly. The attractive but untrustworthy Julia Thomas (Ida Lupino) came to Phoenix four years ago from Milwaukee with her spineless husband Pete (Gig Young). She’s unhappy struggling to run a bakery shop and greedily schemes to get the lovesick Walz, a fellow German, to fall in love with her. Her plan is to trick him into revealing where the mine is and then running off with the gold. Walz discovers she’s not only married, but is planning with her husband to take him for a sap. Walz then leads the couple to the site of the mine, and traps them there. What he doesn’t figure on, is an earthquake burying the mine.

Armed with the history of the mine, Storm tries to locate it with all the new info he digested. But he’s followed by a killer stalking the mine site, who killed four prospectors in the last two year. The madman killer has caught the gold bug and wants no partners if he should ever find the gold. Jay Silverheels, known forever as the Lone Ranger’s Tonto on TV, has the part of the good deputy sheriff, who has Storm’s back covered. The always smiling Will Geer plays the other deputy sheriff, who seems to know a lot more about the mine on Superstition Mountain than he should.