Comanche Station (1960)



Dir: Bud Boetticher - Cast: Randolph Scott, Nancy Gates, Claude Akins, Skip Homeier, Richard Rust, Joe Molina, Rand Brooks, Dyke Johnson 

This is the last of the Ranown Cycle, the series of low-budget westerns made in the second half of the fifties by director Budd Boetticher,  star Randolph Scott and producer Harry Joe Brown. It's a worthy conclusion of the series: while following the pattern of some of the best entries, it also deepens this theme of a lonely man's quest, inextricably linked to Boetticher's western universe.

In the opening scene we see a white man called Jeff Cody (Scott) riding into Indian territory, trading some goods in exchange for a white woman, Nancy Lowe, held captive by the red men. Knowing Boetticher's movies, and knowing Scott, we know Cody is determined to bring the woman back to her home in Lordsburg. When making a stop at a station, the Comanche Station from the title, Scott and the woman are joined by three men, who were persecuted by the Indians and needed Scott's 'fourth' gun to survive.

It soon transpires that the three men have been looking for the woman too, because her husband has promised a $5.000 reward for anybody who brings his wife home. When Mrs. Lowe is informed about this by the leader of the three men, Ben Lane (Akins), she thinks Cody has only saved her for the money. Lane now intends to kill both Cody and the Mrs. Lowe (her husband is willing to pay the $5.000 for her dead body too), but his two younger companions have second thoughts ...


It has often been pointed out that these self-imposed missions in Boetticher's movies are relatively insignificant. The revenge he was so determined to exact, often turns out to be futile, and if the fulfillment of a mission is beneficial, it's beneficial to somebody else. In Comanche Station this idea is even pushed further by doubling the theme of the lonely man's quest: we learn that Cody was looking for his own wife when he found her (in fact he had been looking for his wife  for a decade). After delivering Mrs. Lowe to her husband, Cody turns round and rides off alone, continuing is never-ending quest ...

Boetticher and his cinematographer Charles Lawton Jr. make the most of the magnificent landscape; filmed in CinemasCope, the expertly staged action scenes are turned into overwhelming spectacles, set against the background of granite rocks and snow-capped mountains. Claude Akins is probably the least renowned actor playing one of those gang leaders who first cooperate with Scott but eventually turn against him (others were Lee Marvin, Pernell Roberts and Richard Boone), but he's an excellent villain, talkative but calculating, amiable but capable of shooting someone in the back. Thanks to the presence of Nancy Gates, Comanche Station is also the most sultry and erotic of the series, but her presence make the underlying theme in Boetticher's movies of sexual deprivation and the unattainable object of man's sexual desires more palpable than ever.

 
Comanche Station is closest to Ride Lonesome (even though the premise is different), but it's a bit darker and more pessimistic. In Ride Lonesome the confrontation between Scott and his alter ego is elegantly avoided, in Comanche Station it's inevitable.  There is some understanding between Scott's Cody and Akins' character of the amiable but nasty gang boss (like there was between Scott and Roberts in Ride Lonesome), but Lane flouts Cody's warnings to leave him alone and when he finally faces him between the rocks, he knows he can't back off because he has pushed things too far.

References:
Richard T. Jameson, The Ranown Cycle
Edward Buscombe, 100 Westerns, Comanche Station
Paul Simpson, The Rough Guide to Westerns

Comments

  1. I always found the contrast between Cody, Lane and Frank an interesting aspect of this film. On one extreme, you have Cody, the honorable man of high morals, and then on the other, you have Lane, motivated by greed, a man willing to shoot his partner in the back. And then in the middle we find the sympathetic, morally conflicted Frank. He becomes gradually more conflicted as the story progresses, but dies making the right choice.

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  2. Richard Rust is touching and sweet (and handsome) as Dobie. I watch this movie whenever it's on even though I own it, love the theme, which often runs through my mind, beautiful music, love the locations, it's a good story, but most of all, I love Richard Rust's Dobie, he steals the film.

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