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The Comancheros [DVD] [1961]

Release Date:05/20/2003
Michael Curtiz's The Comancheros will prove something of a disappointment on DVD, at least for those of us who owned or have seen the laserdisc of the movie. The latter, also produced by Fox, contained a very enjoyable and rewarding commentary track by movie co-star Stuart Whitman that is nowhere to be found on this digital disc. The movie itself is transferred well enough here, at least by the standards of the early 21st century, though there are limits to the resolution of both the source print and the transfer technology. One longs to see how a high-definition transfer, even bumped down to NTSC, would look on this movie; between the expansive outdoor locales and the fact that Curtiz filled just about every corner of the Cinemascope screen with something worth seeing, it will probably be mighty impressive. Until then, we have this more modest effort, proportioned in letterboxed format to fit the 'Scope image (2.35:1), fairly sharp and reasonably crisp, even if the reds bleed a bit and the finest printing on the opening titles blurs slightly. The bonus features include the original American trailer and one in Spanish as well; a brief Fox Movietone newsreel clip of singer Claude King and composer Tillman Franks, who wrote the song "The Comancheros" (which was never used in the movie) accepting an award; and trailers for two other John Wayne movies released by Fox. It's not much of a supplement compared to the laserdisc, but at least the two-layer menu accessing all of it -- which opens automatically on start-up -- is easy to use.
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    Ratings & Reviews

    Overall Customer Rating:
    100% of customers would recommend this product to a friend (92 out of 92)

    Special Features

    • Movietone News: Claude King and Tillman Franks receive award for "The Comancheros"
    • Theatrical trailer
    • Spanish trailer
    • Closed Captioned


    The Comancheros
    Michael Curtiz's The Comancheros was a deceptively complex movie -- so enjoyable, that it masked some of the best character development seen in a John Wayne vehicle that was not directed by John Ford or Howard Hawks, and so well made that it got by with some of the most violent action seen in a major studio release of the era. It also bridged the gap between Ford's The Searchers and the upbeat buddy movies of the late '60s and '70s (The Sting, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, etc.). It's 1843 in the Republic of Texas, and Jake Cutter (John Wayne) is a two-fisted Texas Ranger who runs across a gang of white renegades, called the Comancheros, who are trading guns and other contraband with marauding Comanches from a secret hideout in Mexico. Substituting for a repentant gun-runner, he goes undercover as a partner with Crow (Lee Marvin), a vicious half-breed who is a contact man with the Comancheros and knows the whereabouts of their hideout in Mexico. But Crow manages to get himself killed, and Cutter is forced to throw in with Paul Regret (Stuart Whitman), a bystander who also happens to be an itinerant gambler wanted for killing a man in a duel in New Orleans, to complete his mission. It turns out that Regret is a more decent man than most, and he and Cutter, despite some different outlooks on right and wrong, take a liking to each other. Their quest eventually takes them south of the border, where they find the Comancheros and their leader, Graile (Nehemiah Persoff), a bitter, brilliant cripple -- think of The Sea Wolf's Wolf Larsen in a wheelchair -- who has established a landlocked pirate society, and his daughter Pilar (Ina Balin). The only thing that keeps Cutter and Regret alive when they enter the camp is that Pilar and Regret have a history, and she still has feelings for him, enough so that she won't tell what she knows about Cutter and who he is. The two men must play on Graile's greed and Pilar's love in the explosive surroundings of the Comancheros' camp, while figuring out a way to stay alive long enough to get word to the rangers about where they are -- and to survive the attack that must inevitably follow. Director Michael Curtiz was ill for part of the shoot, and Wayne took up the slack, but The Comancheros displays some of the same freewheeling charm and deep passions that informed classic films of his such as Captain Blood, The Adventures of Robin Hood, and The Sea Hawk. Wayne and Whitman between them manage to evoke some of the rambunctiousness of Errol Flynn, and when Balin (one of the sexiest leading ladies ever to grace a John Wayne movie) arrives onscreen, the testosterone level shoots up even higher and the sexual sparks fly. The film's 105 minutes go by very fast, and this is a movie whose ending comes almost too soon. Curtiz's final film is one that leaves audiences with a smile, but also wanting more, which was a pretty good way to go out. John Wayne's daughter, Aissa Wayne (who subsequently went into a law career) appears in a small role. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi

    Cast & Crew

    • John Wayne
      John Wayne - Capt. Jake Cutter
    • Stuart Whitman
      Stuart Whitman - Paul Regret
    • Ina Balin
      Ina Balin - Pilar Graile
    • Nehemiah Persoff
      Nehemiah Persoff - Graile
    • Lee Marvin
      Lee Marvin - Tully Crow

    Product images, including color, may differ from actual product appearance.