John Wayne stars as a Texas Ranger that has to ally himself with one of his former prisoners to stop an outlaw gang from starting an Indian war.
Directors: Michael Curtiz
Producers: George Sherman
Writers: James Edward Grant And Clair Huffaker
Features: Widescreen 2.35:1, Color, Movie Tone News, English And Spanish Trailers, English 4.0 Stereo Surround, Spanish And French Mono, Subtitled In English And Spanish.
Jake Cutter...John Wayne
Pilar Graile...Ina Balin
Major Henry...Bruce Cabot
"The Comancheros" is one of John Wayne's best action pictures. It showcases a grittier cowboy lifestyle than many other John Wayne vehicles. This 1961 color movie was directed by Michael Curtiz("Casablanca" and "The Adventures Of Robin Hood"). Changes were occurring in the film industry. The traditional western hero in the white hat was starting to give way to a cowboy that wore a dirty hat or even a black hat. Lines were beginning to become blurred as to who exactly was a hero anymore. This period of time was giving way to the anti-hero. It was not only happening in westerns, but in all types of films. One of the main actors of this era that symbolized this new type of hero was Marlon Brando. He had made a string of hits like "A Streetcar Named Desire," "On The Waterfront" and "The Wild One" which featured main characters that would hardly be hailed as heroes in an earlier time. John Wayne from that earlier era was still John Wayne. No matter what happened the Duke was like a mighty oak and would not bend. He was very astute and knew he was not leading man material that could bring in the core of moviegoers that were young. That is why you will always see a handsome young actor beside him in his later films. In this case it is the ruggedly handsome Stuart Whitman who had a western television series in 1967 called "Cimarrron Strip." Stuart Whitman plays Paul Regret, a sort of rogue on the lam from the authorities. This gave the John Wayne movie its' necessary anti-hero to keep up with the times.
This film opens in 1843 with a pistol duel taking place in New Orleans. One man survives, Paul Regret, a gambler and ladies man. One of the officials points out to Regret that the man he killed was related to a judge who would certainly enforce the law against murder in this case, though the law was largely overlooked by the judiciary in most killings. Regret takes off with wanted posters going up from Alabama to Texas. Later Paul Regret is on a gambling ship heading toward Galveston when he is picked up by an young named Pilar(Ina Balin) who uses him romantically for three days and disappears once the ship docks. That is the least of his troubles. A Texas Ranger named Jake Cutter has arrested him and tries to take him to Ranger headquarters, but along the way Regret escapes. Much later Regret meets Jake Cutter trying to infiltrate a gang known as Comancheros and winds up teaming up with him to end the gang's reign of terror.
Other than the anti-hero aspect, one thing different in this movie from any John Wayne movie is the modern woman that Paul Regret meets on the boat. Pilar basically used him for a fling without love being involved. For the year 1961 this was way ahead of most women's movements and the free sex generation of the mid-sixties. Though nothing was shown sexually it was definitely implied. Later in the film when the two meet up again she falls into the stereotype of women in the movies and gives up everything for Regret as she had now fallen deeply in love.
Another difference is this movie is more violent and brutal than most John Wayne movies. When Jake Cutter and Paul Regret come across a ranch burned down by indians the ranchers are shown strung up by their feet dead. A woman is laying out by a water trough dead. At the Comancheros camp a man who broke their law is stretched out on a rack to die in the sun. In the background of many of the scenes at the camp a man is seen with a rope around his neck on a gallows with his hands free to hold the rope from crushing his neck. Later in the background he is seen dead, arms hanging by his side having used up all his strength. John Wayne is not more violent, only the bad guys.
Lee Marvin makes a short appearance in this movie as Toby Crow. He has a half scalped head with a lone braid of hair hanging off his head. Marvin's Crow character could have ridden with any one of the gangs that Clint Eastwood would have to deal with three years later in the spaghetti western franchise of 'the man with no name.' The western cowboy made famous by Eastwood's upcoming westerns were already thriving in "The Comancheros."
John Wayne's son, Patrick Wayne, has a small part as a Texas Ranger. Wayne's son is movie star handsome and tall, but this was the time of the emerging anti-hero. Movie star looks were out. Dustin Hoffman, Lee Marvin and Charles Bronson were going to be the future. Patrick Wayne was a blip on the movie screen though he made the fantasy cult favorite "Sinbad And The Eye Of The Tiger."
Stuart Whitman and John Wayne have a good chemistry between them. The characters they play are almost opposites except for a sense of honor. They are different in age, legal tempermant and manners. Jake Cutter is an unsophisticated elder man of the law that was a one woman man though his wife is now deceased. Paul Regret is a sophisticated young gambler with no use for the law and a penchant for women. Together they work. If this movie was going to be remade today I would cast Colin Farrell as Paul Regret and Tommy Lee Jones as Jake Cutter.
This DVD has great picture quality and 4.0 stereo surround sound. There is an English and Spanish language trailer with hardly any differences in the two other than the language. Another feature is a very short black and white film clip of two men getting an award for the theme song in the movie. This theme song is the type when heard makes any movie jump a notch in quality.
"The Comancheros" is another winner for John Wayne and the audience. If I had a criticism it would be that at times some scenes seemed too short as if this movie was going to originally be longer, but was cut to 107 minutes. Having a director with the status of a Michael Curtiz is only icing on the cake. This DVD is a definite buy.
I would give this DVD four out of five stars.