Comanche Station (1960)

Comanche_Station_FilmPosterComanche Station opens with a man who willfully goes into Comanche territory. We don’t quite know why at first, but through haggling and bartering he’s able to save a captured white woman. It doesn’t come out until much later but it turns out that Jefferson Cody’s (Randolph Scott) own wife was captured by Comanche well nigh 10 years ago and he has never stopped looking.

The saved damsel Nancy Lowe gets the wrong impression about Cody believing the gruff figure was only in it for the money and that is far from the truth, as he intends to take her back to her husband out of harms way. That’s until they’re joined out on the trail by Ben Lane (Claude Atkins) and his two hired guns. Akins in fact takes on a role almost identical to Lee Marvin a few years before and he’s not quite as memorable. However, his two stooge sidekicks are more interesting, because although they are “outlaws” in a sense, we cannot help but like them for their buffoonery and conflicted morals.

Lane looks to ambush Cody and Mrs. Lowe so he can snag the reward, but Dobie will not take part. The shootout ensues between Cody and Lane. Afterwards the searcher leads the lady back to the arms of her husband. This final installment of Budd Boetticher’s Ranown Cycle shares some similarities to Seven Men From Now, but there is a totally different feel because the visuals are very different.

3.5/5 Stars

The Tall T (1957)

The_Tall_T_1957_PosterThe Tall T is a little different riff on the Budd Boetticher western, because it follows a former ranch hand named Pat Brennan who makes a stop at a local stagecoach way station to pay a visit to some locals before riding into the nearby town. Quickly we can see that Brennan is a little more jovial and still as tough as many of the other figures Scott has played.

He also is a first rate ranch hand, and yet after a bet with his old boss he loses his horse, because a bull throws him. Brennan attempts to catch a ride with a stagecoach with happens to be carrying two honeymooners, the timid Mrs. Mims and her stuffy husband. Reluctantly he is allowed to ride shotgun with the old time driver Rintoon (Arthur Hunnicutt) and it ends up being a regrettable decision. Mistaken for the regular stage, the four are hold up by three merciless outlaws looking for a big payoff.

They are led by Frank Usher (Richard Boone in a villainous turn), but the most deadly is Chink (Henry Silva), who seems eager to knockoff as many people as possible. And so a tense game of life and death ensues.  Rintoon attempts to fight back,  Mims agrees to go the cowardly route and ride off to try and attain ransom money. Brennan simply bides his time.

Unrest begins to build between the outlaws and Brennan takes his chance to save Mrs. Mims from the leering Billy Jack and bloodthirsty Chink. As the old story goes, the ringleader Usher is the only one left, but he has one last trick up his sleeve.

O’Sullivan’s role felt relatively minor, but it was quite fun to see Have Gun Will Travel’s Richard Boone opposite Randolph Scott. It made for a relatively interesting conflict.

3.5/5 Stars

Seven Men From Now (1956)

220px-Poster_of_the_movie_Seven_Men_from_NowAlong with Detour, Budd Boetticher’s Seven Men from Now is undoubtedly one of the greatest B-films I have seen to date. It rejuvenated the career of Randolph Scott who plays gruff sheriff Ben Stride. We are introduced to the often stoic man when he walks into a dimly lit cave during a torrential downpour. There he meets two strangers and demonstrates his skill with a gun for the first time.

For the rest of the film, he comes alongside a couple from the East, struggling to move westward with all their possessions carted on a wagon. The husband John Greer (Walter Reed), is a chipper man, but not a very adept pioneer. His kindly wife Annie (Gail Russell) loves him in spite of this ineptitude. He doesn’t say much, but Stride seems to like them both as well or at least, he knows they won’t make it very far without help. So after helping them get their wagon out of some thick mud, he sticks by their side.

They are eventually joined by Bill Masters (Lee Marvin) and his accomplice Clete, who look to make some money in the wake of Stride. He willfully explains to the Greers how Stride used to be the sheriff in the town of Silver Springs, before his wife was killed by a group of bandits when they were robbing a Wells Fargo shipment. He made it his mission to track down the seven men who took part in the act. And so as an opportunistic schemer Masters is content with riding along with Stride until the opportune moment to score a big payoff.

In this way, he helps the Greers and Stride fend off some Apache and even puts a bullet through a man before Stride gets it. If we didn’t know better, we might think that Lee Marvin has gone to the good side for once. But that’s not so. He’s full of insinuations, flirtations, and veiled threats that somehow feel more ominous than a Vince Stone or Liberty Valance. It’s not just physical brutality but he is playing perhaps an even deadlier game of mental warfare. Against not only Stride, but Mrs. Greer, and her husband.

It’s around this point that Masters and Clete make a move. They alert Stride’s nemesis to his plans and just like that two men go and ambush the veteran sheriff. He knocks them both off after receiving a wounded leg that leaves him unconscious out in the canyon. Luckily the Greers come across him and John decides to take responsibility for what he has unknowingly done. He goes into town to face the music for the role he has ignorantly taken in this whole deadly affair. After discounting Greer as weak and spineless, Masters is finally forced to recant his previous statement.

What’s left is Ben Stride out in the canyon with the Wells Fargo shipment, but with two new bandits and Masters and Clete, it looks to be a bloody finale. After a bit of backstabbing, Ben Stride stands alone in the aftermath. He has completed his odyssey and he says goodbye to Ms. Greer with a new resolve to take on the role of deputy sheriff in Silver Springs. But it’s doubtful if that is the end of his story.

4/5 Stars