Comanche Station

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COMANCHE STATION —–last of the seven westerns director Budd Boetticher made with Randolph Scott, this 1960 outing is entertaining thanks to the scenic California desert locales showing up nicely in CinemaScope, and for having the great Claude Akins as the friendly nemesis for Scott’s single-minded man with a mission.

I still don’t like it. My folks brought me up to be kind to a woman. You know, yes ma’am… no ma’am. Open doors for them. Give them my chair. Not go around killing them.”

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Comanches have taken ‘Mrs. Lowe’ (Nancy Gates). Her husband offers $5,000 for her return, which entices a trio of mercenary types to take the risk. Meantime, loner ‘Jefferson Cody’ (Scott), for reasons of his own, has already bargained her away from the hostiles, who promptly give chase to the group. The trio (Akins, Richard Rust and Skip Homeier) help Cody with the Comanches, but make no secret that they’re after the loot.

Some great framing of the familiar Sierra Locations (the Alabama Hills to the east of Lone Pine, California, about 250 miles north of Los Angeles), with nary a set-bound shot, and Mischa Bakaleinikoff provides a vigorous score. There are some pretty good horse-falls, and for the era, a couple of fairly grisly deaths.

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It’s essentially the same setup as others in the Randy-Budd series, and once again the screenplay comes from Burt Kennedy. The formula was played out by now—it feels so similar to Ride Lonesome they’re almost interchangeableThat’ll be enough for devoted fans of the pocket-sized adventures—this one flits by in 74 minutes—but along with smiling at some of the dialogue exchanges I also have to chuckle over the lengths people will go to praise certain directors for doing things they would sneer at if done—exactly the same way—by others they haven’t chosen to idealize.

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Most of this group are enjoyable—Seven Men From Now, The Tall T and Ride Lonesome are all choice items—but it is amusing that the fawning, which is now practically a given if you read many reviews (the films were not wildly praised at the time), will give a pass to having Nancy Gates get conveniently dunked in a horse trough so that her sopping duds cling to her form for no other reason than injecting sex tease. Where’s the p.c. posse?  comanche-station-7Why is it that there’s no backlash over having the Comanches (granted not the friendliest neighbors in history) being portrayed with Mohawk hairstyles (only a few thousand miles and a century off) and somehow wandering from their Texas romping ground to New Mexico (with that state looking like, well, California)? Should not the writer & director be taken to the cultural woodshed? The movie, from the standpoint of reality—the interactions, the standard ride-in-a-circle-and-get-mowed-down fight with the Comanches, the whole thing, really, is a joke.

Yes, it’s still fun for genre fans, but any relation to the real West is purely accidental. This one came in at spot #89, grossing $2,500,000. Boetticher directed a few more TV episodes before heading to Mexico for a decade-long dream-nightmare pursuit of a movie about legendary bullfighter Carlos Arruza. Scott retired, but relented two years later for a truly glorious finale with pal Joel McCrea in Sam Peckinpah’s wonderful Ride The High Country.

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