Retro Review: The Comancheros

I was excited about finally being able to review a John Wayne movie. Don’t get me wrong I am not an expert by any means when it comes to John Wayne. What I have always found fascinating about the man is that he made a career of playing the quintessential western hero and hardly ever strayed from that persona (Yes, I am forgetting his portrayal of Genghis Khan). Actors these days would rather kill themself that be typecasted. But Wayne did it with grace and style and is now a folk hero.

The Comancheros comes in the latter third of Wayne’s prominent career. It was shot just before the landmark western “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” and Wayne’s character onscreen wasnt his only challenge while making the film. The director Michael Curtiz, a friend of Wayne’s, was dying of cancer and died shortly after the film was released. Wayne stepped in and film part of the movie himself.

The story is a Texas Ranger, Jake Cutter (John Wayne), tries to escort gambler Paul Regret (Stuart Whitman) to the gallows but he keeps giving Cutter the slip. But when Regret saves Cutter during an Indian attack, a friendship starts and the two of them team-up to investigate a band of outlaws known as the Comancheros.

It your typical Hollywood 60s western with Wayne hitting something with every shot and his unforgettable swagger. I found that in places the film stood still and I was begging for it to keep moving. The movie needed to bring the story tighter and focus more on Regret.

I think it would have been alot better if it was all about Regret and that Wayne’s cowboy would have been the second story. Because if you look at this film it is all about Regret but is focused away from the man to support putting Wayne above the movie’s title. The story also would have made a lot more sense with Regret as the main character.

Proof of my theory is when Wayne returns to the Ranger station and meets Ed McBain in the jail. That whole scene and Wayne’s undercover assignment could have been trimmed down to show what happens to Regret. I also think the Lee Marvin character could have been expanded on.

The scenery and the performance from Whitman as Regret are priceless. Wayne is his old reliable self and it was nice to journey back into the old west with such a classic hero. But there is a reason why for me this film doesnt rank in my top 10 John Wayne westerns.

3 out of 5

So Says the Soothsayer

My Top 10 John Wayne westerns

1. True Grit

2. The Searchers

3. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

4. Stagecoach

5. Fort Apache

6. Rio Grande

7. Rio Bravo

8. The Alamo

9. Hondo

10. The Shootist

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