“Lust for Gold” (1949), is an extremely interesting story because, in addition to being an adventurous searching for gold movie, it also happens to be true, at least as far as legends go anyway. The screenplay by Richard English and Ted Shereman is based on the novel, “Thunder God’s Gold”, written by Barry Storm. The film is told from the perspective of Storm, in the 1940’s, with William Prince playing the role of Barry Storm. Unfortunately, Storm was unhappy with the film, in particular his portrayal, and he successfully sued Columbia Pictures in 1950.
The film is broken up into two different stories that are intercut together. First, there is Barry Storm in the 1940’s, who has traveled to the Superstition Mountains in Arizona to find his grandfather’s hidden gold mine. While he is there, he discovers (and we see through flashbacks), the details that surrounded his grandfather, Jacob “The Dutchman” Waltz (Glen Ford), and his love for a local woman, Julia (Ida Lupino). It’s these flashbacks that make up the second, more interesting story. Julia happens to already be married to Pete (Gig Young), but she is looking for a better life and chooses The Dutchman since he has reportedly discovered a huge gold mine. In the film, $20 million in gold was originally discovered by Pedro Peralta sometime around 1840, but he was killed by Apaches because his mine was in a holy place. The gold has been waiting there since, and now The Dutchman is the only person alive who knows the gold’s location.
“Lust for Gold” is an interesting film because the flashback sequences with Ford and Lupino are very entertaining due to the good, dramatic story filled with love and betrayal. Any time you have a story with $20 million in gold, you can expect plenty of betrayal, and that is certainly the case here. The Dutchman, Julia and Pete are all insightful characters, and their love triangle is unfolded to the audience extremely well. All three of these actors are incredibly professional, and the intensity of their performances help to keep the film feeling suspenseful.
It’s the “modern” part of the film that falls apart, partially because it seems like a a ploy to increase tourism in Arizona, and also because this part of the story isn’t told extremely well. Most of the plot from the film comes out of the legend of The Dutchman’s lost gold, and the scenes in the 1940’s don’t hold the same level of drama. There are some scenes (mostly in the modern section) that were filmed on location in Arizona, specifically in the Superstition Mountains, and it is these locations that keep the film moving. “Lust for Gold” was the last film directed by S. Sylvan Simon before his premature death, and his abilities as a director had not fully developed. There are moments that the movie feels as if it’s heading in the right direction, but then because of the intercut flashbacks (and flash forwards), the even, smooth flow is interrupted.