Comancheros [1961]

Nobody made a fuss about The Comancheros when it came out, yet it has proved to be among the most enduringly entertaining of John Wayne's later Westerns. The Duke, just beginning to crease and thicken toward Rooster Cogburn proportions, plays a veteran Texas Ranger named Jake Cutter. When we first see him (in a tongue-in-cheek delayed entrance), he's catching up with a New Orleans dandy (Stuart Whitman) who killed a judge's son in a duel just after that gentlemanly practice was banned. Monsieur Paul Regret--or "Mon-sooor," as Jake insists on calling him--is not a bad fellow, let alone a badman, and it only follows that, after the requisite number of misunderstandings, he and Jake will join forces to subdue rampaging Indians and the evil white men behind their uprising. The Comancheros was the last credit for Michael Curtiz, who, ravaged by cancer, ceded much of the direction to Wayne (uncredited) and action specialist Cliff Lyons. With support from Wayne stalwarts James Edward Grant (coscreenplay) and William Clothier (camera), the first of many rousing Elmer Bernstein scores for a Wayne picture, and a big, flavorful cast including Lee Marvin (the once and future Liberty Valance), Nehemiah Persoff, Bruce Cabot, and Guinn "Big Boy" Williams (in his last movie), they made a broad, cheerfully bloodthirsty adventure movie for red-meat-eating audiences of all ages. Even the liberal-pinko Time magazine had to second the salute from leading lady Ina Balin at film's end: "Take care of yourself, Big Jake ... we've sort of gotten used to you." --Richard T. Jameson

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