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Thursday, August 19, 2010

THE COMANCHEROS (1961)


Michael Curtiz ended his fifty-year directing career with this remarkably energetic Western. ‘Politically Correct’ it ain’t (the ‘Injuns’ are all savages or drunks), but in its classic twisty-tale, bang-‘em-up manner, it makes for big, handsome entertainment. Of course, plopping John Wayne in Monument Valley (even recreating an iconic moment or two from THE SEARCHERS/’56) never hurts, and neither does a smashing score from Elmer Bernstein in MAGNIFICENT SEVEN/’60 mode. The first act finds Wayne’s Texas Ranger hauling Stuart Whitman’s gambling man in on a murder rap, but by Act Two they’ve joined forces to put down a Comanche uprising and root out the hideaway of the mysterious Comancheros. There’s a liberal sprinkling of tasty character turns (the only liberal thing here!) with Lee Marvin making a big impression as a half-scalped renegade who briefly partners Duke. Western mavens will spot a sweet lift from STAGECOACH/’39 at the finale (but with Whitman in Wayne’s shoes . . . er, boots), but it’s the spirited helming (especially of the action scenes) that deserve special attention. Curtiz, a Hollywood pro in the best sense, made as many memorable films as anyone, and he went out in the saddle.

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