Directed by Michael Curtiz
Texas Ranger Jake Cutter (John Wayne) must team with fugitive Paul Regret (Stuart Whitman) in an undercover effort to defeat outlaw merchants and thieves who are dealing with the Comanches and are known as Comancheros.
The Comancheros is a good and genuinely funny Western adventure. Whitman and Wayne were a great on-screen pairing here. Whitman’s cool cat demeanor and Wayne’s stern father figure image clashed well against each other here with great comedic result. They are clashing personalities that make the viewer laugh.
There are not just comedic moments in this film but genuine laughs to be had. I do not usually laugh at older fair. I might smile but there is not often a “Ha!’ coming out of me let alone two or more. This is a genuinely funny movie. There are plenty of jokes mixed in with the action.
The Comancheros is probably one of the few times I can think of where John Wayne’s character doesn’t get the girl featured in the film though it is implied that one is waiting for him at the end of the movie off camera.
Wayne’s character of Cutter is a normal man and he understands that Whitman’s character is not a bad guy, but the law is the law and he is forced to bring him in. What could have been an interesting plot element where Wayne is fighting against his desire to bring Whitman in and desire to set him free is jettisoned about 2/3 of the way through the film when after slipping from his grasp, Regret is caught again and a couple of Texas rangers along with John Wayne and a judge commit perjury in order to allow Whitman to live after he helped out earlier in the film. From there the film becomes a buddy Western with the two reluctant pals trying to stop the criminal gang.
The theme of true love moves through this film. Regret’s true love is Pilar Graile (Ina Balin) who happens to be a woman he met on the riverboat where he first encountered Cutter. They were about to spend an evening together when Cutter finds and arrests Regret who is running from a murder charge incurred from a duel where he killed a judge’s son. How one missed night translates into true love I do not know but this is a very comedic film so I will let that slide.
Cutter’s first real love was his late wife. He is still is hurting from her death and has difficulty moving on in matters of the heart. Worse yet, he has a second chance at love but is reluctant to pursue it for those reasons.
We get a nice cross-section of stars of the time among the supporting cast. Nehemiah Persoff is Graile who is the leader of the Comancheros. Lee Marvin stars as Comanchero middleman Tully Crow. He was a great actor and while his part is important, he was still criminally underused here, and his time feels all too short on the screen. Michael Ansara plays Graile henchman Amelung. The dude was always good and that had to do with his steely stare and a voice that could make “The Wheels on The Bus Go ‘Round” sound threatening. Great character actor Jack Elam is Horseface. The guy was a genuinely fine actor but those eyes of his often stood out as much as his performance. We even get the usual Wayne costar of Bruce Cabot as Maj. Henry. Even Wayne’s son Patrick shows up as a Texas Ranger named Tobe.
My major issue with The Comancheros is that the lives of the assorted characters intersect with a logic defying regularity and ease. In a place like the Wild West the odds of a small group of people meeting up with each other with the frequency these people do is pretty small I would think, but I guess we wouldn’t have a movie if they didn’t.
The Comancheros is a fun film that will please fans of Westerns as well as those of Wayne. There are some good laughs in this fine story that takes itself seriously enough for what it is but not too seriously. Put it in and enjoy.