Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Comanche Station

Comanche Station, 1960
Dir: Budd Boetticher

There isn't a whole lot to talk about here besides the fact that everyone is on top of their game here. Boetticher's big, sweeping canvas is still fantastic and just amazing to watch. There's a lot of elements from his other films that have been sucked into this, especially 7 Men From Now, so much so that sometimes it can feel uncanny, but it really doesn't take away anything from the films as stand alone pieces. It doesn't help to watch them in order, like I have, but again, it really doesn't bother me that they are so similar. It's genre cinema after all, and there is a certain expectation that needs to be fulfilled, which of course this does.

Comanche Station takes the set-up of Ride Lonesome, escorting someone across the West, and pairs it with the building tensions of Seven Men From Now, where outsiders/"friends" start to tag along in hopes for some of their own spoils. Randolf Scott just flat out knows how to be a Western protagonist. It's just a fact. No bullshit, no nonsense, "I'm a quicker gun than you, deal with it." Nancy Gates played the rescued wife that Scott is rescuing from Comanche captivity, and her relationship with Scott is typical of all the relationships that he has with females. There's a reward out for Nancy's return to her family, so obviously, in Boetticher's macho world, the men find it kind of pathetic that a man wouldn't go after his wife if she'd been captured by Indians. Ben Lane (Claude Akins) is the leader of this chorus, as he also has semi-charming ways to say how "handomse" Nancy is while bad-mouthing her supposedly cowardly husband. This gets Nancy to thinking, and she asks the one man who hasn't said a word on the subject so far, "If-if you had a woman taken by the Comanche and-and you got her back... how would you feel knowing?" "If I loved her, it wouldn't matter." "Wouldn't it?" " No ma'am, it wouldn't matter at all." Burt Kennedy still straight nailin' scripts.

Under Lane, who is clearly the sympathetic villain, there are two of his lackeys, Dobie (Richard Rust) and Frank (Skip Homier). They get fleshed out the same kind of way that the two underlings do in The Tall T, except here I think I can be even more sympathetic to their plight. They don't just talk about their dreams. In fact, they kind of have a Rosencrantz and Guildernstern conversations on what it's like to be a lackey, and there is a strong sense that neither of these two will ever "amount to something," even if they wanted to. It's a pretty brilliant scene, not only for those characters, but a statement on that particular role in all Westerns, which are usually just throwaways.

I had a great time watching all these films. They are a proof that you can do more with less, especially in genre cinema, and that minimalism is a great way of not getting yourself bogged down in a lot of nonsense. A great leading man, a great director and a great script: what more could you want when watching this type of film?


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