Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Comanche Station Review

Dir. Budd Boetticher
Starring: Randolph Scott, Claude Akins, Nancy Brooks

A man named Cody (Scott) makes a trade with some Comanche’s to free a woman being held prisoner. Soon after he is joined by a band of outlaws that are more interested in the woman due to the $5000 reward offered by her husband.

This is the final film of the Ranown Cycle, a series of seven films were produced by a company founded by Randolph Scott and producer Harry Joe Brown, beginning with the film Seven Men from Now (1956), and ending with this film, Comanche Station in 1960, and directed by Budd Boetticher. It has a more grown up feel than other westerns of its time, in terms of tone and violence. One of the most interesting things about the Ranown films where how they treated the villains of their films. In this film Claude Akins plays the bad guy Ben Lane (Akins). He makes his intention to kill Cody and Nancy clear early on, and through his conversations with Cody we tend to grow to like the character. The two men have a history together, but due to the Indian threat in the area they are forced to work together to travel through safely. All of the Ranown films present characters with clear, reasonable motivations, and even though you don’t agree with them, you can at least understand why they are doing what they are doing. This is also the most typical in terms of what other westerns of this era were like. The thing that sets this film apart are how it treats the villains, and its great cinematography. The film is made up of beautiful shots of the west and the characters, arranging them in the frames with geometric precision in a way that helps to tell the story and inform about the characters. While the film is a short 75 minutes, it tells the story in an exact and precise way that is a perfect example of a master craftsman’s work.

Randolph Scott is the star of the show, doing a lot of understated acting with his granite like face. His part is essential a white knight saving the damsel, and in the wrong hands could be a bit bland. Claude Akins has the most showy part in the film, and he is able to make you like a character that openly states to his partners that he plans to kill both Cody and Nancy so he can collect the reward for her himself, since the reward is for her dead or alive. But as you hear him talk you grow to like him, and up until the end you are hoping that he will have a change of heart and not do the evil acts that he has been planning. It is only once he kills one of his own men that the audience finally gives up hope for that, and fully turns on him.

While it isn’t the best of the Ranown films, it’s still a good movie that is worth watching (as are the other Scott/Boetticher films). These films are an essential part of the western genre, they seem like the link between the older Hollywood westerns from the Thirties and Forties and the Spaghetti westerns of the Sixties. And even though he had made dozens of westerns prior to his films with Budd Boetticher, the seven films they made at the near the end of Scott’s career are among the high points of his filmography.

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