“A lot of money has a way of making a man all greed inside.”
Budd Boetticher and Randolph Scott made seven westerns together in the second half of the 1950’s. The last of them was Comanche Station, which was released in March of 1960. It was intended to be Scott’s last movie, but he was coaxed out of retirement to make one last movie, Ride The High Country (1962), for Sam Peckinpah.
Comanche Station is the tale of western wanderer Jefferson Cody (Scott). As the movie opens, he appears to be trying to trade goods with a group of Comanches. To the viewer’s surprise, we discover that he is trading everything for a white woman, Nancy Gates (Nancy Lowe).
They ride together out of Comanche territory to an outpost. Jefferson has heard of her, but wasn’t specifically looking for her. When they get to the nearest outpost, they stop to water their horses. The post is empty, but not for long, as three men come riding in being chased by Indians. Jefferson joins in and helps fight off the Indians.
After the Indians leave we discover that the three men are outlaws. Their leader, Ben (Claude Akins), even knew Jefferson during the war. Ben informs Nancy that her husband has offered a $5,000 reward for her return. Jefferson says that he didn’t know about the reward, but she doesn’t believe him.
Ben talks to his two sidekicks, Frank (Skip Homeier) and Dobie (Richard Rust), and tells them that he plans on going along with Jefferson and Nancy through the Indian country, until he gets the opportunity to kill Jefferson and Nancy too, if necessary.
“Oh, I admit I’ve never had much luck when it comes to women. Oh, I’ve run with a few, but nothing you could call serious. Except maybe that little gal down in Sonora. She said right out that she wanted to marry me. She told everybody… everybody but her husband. Oh, he came within that of doing me with a scatter gun. That taught me a lesson though – always check the brand to make sure you aren’t driving another man’s stock.”
Perhaps it’s not the most original idea for a western, but there are certain aspects that make Comanche Station different from other movies. There is this strange assortment of characters that all ended up together, and even though they don’t agree about anything, they are willing to work together in a fight for survival. They’re misfits, like in the movies Clint Eastwood later would make, yet they all hold on to a common goal. (In this case, it’s staying alive.) Even though the audience, as well as Jefferson, knows that Ben is looking for a chance to kill him, when the Indians attack, Ben saves Jefferson’s life. It’s not because he wanted to save him, but because he needs him. Jefferson is the only character who doesn’t seem to need anyone but himself.
Many westerns, especially in the 50’s, seem to have a group of like-minded people coming together to defeat evil, but this story (written by Burt Kennedy) doesn’t even clearly show all the characters motivations until the end. Of course we can assume that Randolph Scott is our hero, but the movie develops slow enough for the characters to decide for themselves what kind of a future they want.
Budd Boetticher knew how to use space better than so many other directors of his time. There wasn’t a need for a close-up every couple of seconds. As our band of misfits travels through the vastness of the west, we feel that we are along for the ride as well. In a time when so many movies were shot on back lots and soundstages, every Boetticher movie looks and feels real.
Well, except for the leading lady that is saved from the clutches of the Indians with beautiful long, styled hair and perfectly placed make-up!Back to Home for More Reviews