According to IMDB, John Wayne has a 172 titles credited to his filmography- most of which are westerns. It’s easy to see how some of them could get run together. While THE COMANCHEROS doesn’t necessarily do anything new as far as John Wayne westerns go, it is a fun journey. This is mostly due to the strong chemistry between Wayne and Stuart Whitman that is comparable of a buddy cop relationship from LETHAL WEAPON. Even in a bad situation a joke can be made making that blend of humor and action into a fun ride.
Gambling man Paul Regret (Stuart Whitman) is on the run from the law for killing a man in self-defense. Clever and cocky, Paul’s charming attitude tends to get him into and out of trouble regularly. He has met his match when brute Texas Ranger Jake Cutter (John Wayne) makes his arrest. Cutter has guts, strength and experience over his prisoner he likes to call “Monsewer” meaning “monsieur” but Regret never gives up. The two have a good-natured back and forth over their few days journey that appears to be a mutual respect until Regret finally finds his opportunity to escape by giving old Cutter a whop on the head with a shovel. Poor Cutter heads back to the Ranger station minus one prisoner riding on a mule where he is teased and ridiculed by his fellow Rangers. He has a new mission though going undercover as a gun salesman to get closer to a gang called The Comancheros. They are a group combined of Comanche Indians and the white man or technically New Mexican Hispanic traders (these old films don’t see color or race as a white man can play just about anyone and historical accuracy doesn’t seem to be that important either). The plan is working pretty well but Cutter’s contact man is a half scalped loose cannon who seems to be angry at everyone (played superbly by Lee Marvin). Joining a poker game, Cutter finds himself sitting across from his old foe Regret. But Regret does not blow Cutter’s cover. Still when things go south Cutter arrests him once again. On their journey back they run into The Comancheros. After teaming up and defending a family from the cowboys and Indians gang, Cutter softens his noose around Regret. With the help of Regret the two go undercover to find the hideout of The Comancheros gang. The mission is treacherous and dangerous but the old buddy duo have no worries, because their quick wit, snappy humor and a few bullets can overcome any trial. As you can see the plot jumps around a bit dividing into about three separate stories but throw in a little love story and that sums up THE COMANCHEROS.
John Wayne is the classic American Hero. As a kid, I had a friend whose parents had a portrait of John Wayne and Jesus Christ facing each other on opposite walls. I could have sworn John Wayne was tacked up a little higher. I think this is a good representation of what people from Wayne’s era thought of the actor. He is great! Wayne has an easiness about him that is effortless yet is always in control and command of every scene. All the nice things I have to say about John Wayne go equally for Stuart Whitman who pairs nicely with The Duke.
The action scenes are pretty much ridiculous compared to today’s standard. Ironically this is probably what made the film seem pretty exciting at the time it came out in 1961. Our heroes gun the enemy down one by one as they ride their horses in all directions with no rhyme or reason. Usually outnumbered, our heroes should be dead multiple times but their cool demeanor and the lack of order by anyone opposing them never gives the sense of any real danger.
The film could have benefited to a shorter length but even so it had enough charm and colorful landscape to sustain me for the entire viewing. To say they don’t make films like these anymore is probably a good thing but that also is what gives THE COMANCHEROS its sweet likability factor. Anyone who is a fan of John Wayne films will surely like this one and I would venture to say it’s not bad even if you aren’t a fan.
Video: (Widescreen 2.35:1) This is an excellent transfer and another success for Technicolor that regularly used bright vibrant colors the best.
Audio: (5.1 DTS Master Audio) The sound is very good balancing, the score, dialogue and explosions.
Audio Commentary by Stuart Whitman, Nehemiah Persoff, Michael Ansara and Patrick Wayne: These are separate interviews about the film that are spliced through the picture acting as a commentary. It’s pretty dry but huge fans will probably find it interesting.
The Comancheros and the Battle for the American Southwest (24:13): An in depth look at the history of the Comanche Indians becoming Comancheros and finally giving up their fight to the white man.
The Duke at Fox (34:39): A two-part documentary titled The Early Years and The Hero Returns. They cover John Wayne’s rise in becoming a movie star through many of his films. This is a must for any Wayne fan.
Vintage Comancheros Comic Book Gallery: Here is a chance to scroll through and read the comic book, which is almost exact as the film as far as story and storyboarding. The one exception is the much darker ending.
A Conversation with Stuart Whitman (Audio Only) (12:07): An audio only of Whitman talking about his journey to become an actor and his take on different actors he worked with.
Fox Movietone News: Claude King and Tillman Franks Receive Award for the Comancheros (:52): Yup, they receive an award.
24-Page Collectible Book Packaging