By Doug Gibson
"The Gold Raiders," 1951, B&W, 56 minutes, directed by Edward Bernds, starring George O'Brien as "George O'Brien," The Three Stooges, Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Shemp Howard, Lyle Talbot as Taggert, Sheila Ryan as Laura Mason and Clem Bevans as Doc Mason.
This "oater" is a curio, mainly because it features the Three Stooges in supporting roles. The very short B-film stars silent and early talkie cowboy film star George O'Brien as a lawman turned insurance man hired by mining companies to get their gold safely to the bank. Crime boss Lyle Talbot wants to steal the gold. He tries to get information on where the gold is being taken from a drunken old doctor (Bevans) who, with his stooped figure and drawling voice, is made for westerns.
The Three Stooges play bumbling peddlers who ally with O'Brien to keep the gold safe. Gold Raiders is an OK film. It's nothing special from the hundreds of other "oaters" made in Hollywood but an aging O'Brien does an OK job shooting and fighting. Talbot, who starred in Ed Wood films, is a good villain and the Stooges are funny.
Director Bernds, who helmed many Stooge shorts, a few with the trio's beautiful blonde co-star Christine McIntyre, and later some features, told Cult Movies Magazine that Moe Howard was envious of Abbott and Costello and wanted to get into features. The result was Gold Raiders, an almost forgotten film today that was meant more as a comeback vehicle for O'Brien. Bernds recalled that the film was trashed by critics but, in my opinion, it really isn't too bad. Its main handicap is an abysmally low budget. It was shot in five days and looks it. One unintentionally funny scene includes a close-range shootout in a cramped saloon where almost no one seems to get shot. The film is also unique in that it may be the only western ever made where an insurance man is a two-fisted, gunslinging hero! It's a fun film and it's interesting and not unpleasant to see see the Stooges as comedy relief is a western action film.
According to Bernds, the film idea was hatched because Moe was envious of the success of the comedy team of Abbott & Costello. Despite the obscurity of Gold Raiders, the Stooges later made several features where they were the stars, including The Three Stooges Meet Hercules, Snow White and the Three Stooges and The Outlaws is Coming. Truth is, though, I enjoy the lean and mean Gold Raiders more than any of the later bigger-budget efforts. The Stooges are more effective as comedy relief, rather than the main components of a film
Notes: The makeup for Gold Raiders was done by Ed Wood regular Harry Thomas. Gold Raiders was released by United Artists but plans for a sequel with the Stooges and O'Brien were abandoned. The film was released to TV several years later and then sat for decades forgotten until 2006 when Warner Brothers released it on DVD. It can be bought via amazon.com