White Comanche, 1968, color (original title Comanche blanco). JosÃ© Briz MÃ©ndez (dir.), Joseph Cotton, William Shatner (dual role), Rosanna Yanni. 1:33.
Twin brothers, half-Comanche, half-white, shunned by bothâ€”except that one of them has convinced a bunch of Comanche that heâ€™s their savior, takes too much peyote, and goes around slaughtering white devils. His twin (Johnny Moon), trying to live as a white, keeps getting in trouble (e.g., nearly hanged) because you can only distinguish him from White Comanche (Notah) by the color of their eyes. Not that Johnnyâ€™s not pretty good at killing people alsoâ€”heâ€™s a crack shot, and this isnâ€™t one of those westerns where everythingâ€™s settled with fistfightsâ€”but he always seems to have a reason.
Johnny tells Notah that this must be settled and to come to Rio Honda within four days. During that period, thereâ€™s a range war in Rio Honda between two factions, with Johnny helping the sheriff maintain some semblance of order. Eventually, of course, the showdown happens; in the meantime, thereâ€™s much thoughtful standing around and an odd love subplot (involving a woman who first thinks Johnny is the evil half-Comanche who raped her, but eventually sees the eye-color difference and falls for him).
Good color, acceptable production values, a good job by Joseph Cotton as the sheriffâ€”but, of course, the real selling point here is William Shatner playing an arrogant sexist tinhorn ruler who doesnâ€™t happen to be on a starship (and is always half-dressed, and has the body for it). And, for good measure, his twin brother. Itâ€™s not exactly a spaghetti western (made in Spain, not Italy). Itâ€™s a curiosity, but a watchable curiosity thanks to Shatner. $1.25.
Mohawk, 1956, color. Kurt Neumann (dir.), Scott Brady, Rita Gam, Neville Brand, Lori Nelson, Allison Hayes, John Hoyt, Rhys Williams. 1:20 [1:18].
Thereâ€™s nothing wrong with cross-genre flicks, but this one seems a bit loopier than most. Itâ€™s definitely a Western, with something about â€œA legend of the Iroquoisâ€ coming just before or after the main title. Itâ€™s got the ingredients: A fort with settlers moving in, surrounded by reasonably-friendly natives (Iroquois, with a Mohawk chief heading a confederation of tribes) with some unfriendly factions (Tuscarora)â€”and a good-for-nothing white who wants to stir up warfare between the settlers and the natives because his family wants the whole valley for itself.
But itâ€™s also a romantic comedy of sorts. The lead character (not the title character) is an artist whoâ€™s come out from Boston to paint landscapes to send back, who gets a surprise visit from his fiancÃ©e/girlfriendâ€”but he also seems to have a local girlfriend, and it doesnâ€™t take long before heâ€™s romancing an Iroquois, daughter of the chief. Oh, and thereâ€™s an astonishing song, â€œLove played the strings of my banjo,â€ and maybe the title tells you enough. The plot is a mess.
The printâ€™s pretty good (although some of the scenic vistas have suspiciously painted-backdrop looks) but the sound is sometimes distorted. The supposed Iroquois include Rita Gam, Neville Brand, Mae Clarke, Tommy Cook and Ted de Corsia. As far as I can tell, there were no actual Native American actors employed in this particular epic. All told, Iâ€™m being generous with $1.
Sheriff of Tombstone, 1941, b&w. Joseph Kane (dir.), Roy Rogers, Gabby Hayes, Elyse Knox, Addison Richards, Sally Payne, Harry Woods, Jay Novello. 0:54.
If you look ahead at my dollar rating, be aware that $1.25 is normally the most Iâ€™d give to one of these one-hour wonders, flicks filmed as the B side of a double featureâ€”and that the print isnâ€™t wonderful. That being said, this movie has lotsâ€™oâ€™plot without getting distractedâ€”I found it engrossing and unusually well-written and well-directed for its genre. Roy Rogers, as Brett Starr, a would-be peace officer, runs lowlife gunslinger Shotgun Cassidy out of Dodge City (and takes his sawed-off shotgun), then goes along with friends who are moving to Tombstone. Gets there, finds general lawlessness, acts to deal with a situationâ€”and, because of the gun, is assumed to be Cassidy. Who, as it happens, is supposed to become the sheriff so that he can support the mayorâ€™s evil attempt to take away a little old ladyâ€™s silver mine. (Sheâ€™s 77: Thatâ€™s old, at least in the Old West.)
See, her mine is the head of an extensive silver vein that runs under many other claimsâ€”but given the law at the time, that gives her control over all of them. If the mayor can buy her claim at a forced auction, that gives him control, and he can twirl his mustache and do his evil deeds. Anyway, Rogers goes along with the mistaken identity, figures out whatâ€™s happening (the minerâ€™s attempts to ship bullion always result in Wells Fargo holdups by some strange coincidence, so she owes a huge tax debt to the territory), goes to unmask the villainsâ€”and the real gunslinger shows up.
And thatâ€™s just some of the plot. Thereâ€™s a great little twist involving the Wells Fargo agent John Anderson and Joe Martinez, an apparently-Hispanic mine owner whoâ€™s part of the bad-guy group. You know how itâ€™s going to come out: Itâ€™s a one-hour oater with one of the great singing cowboys as a star. (Yes, he singsâ€”three numbersâ€”and there are a couple of big musical numbers that donâ€™t involve him but do involve a saloon singer and a quartet of bartenders.) As always, Roy Rogers is a handsome devil and a pretty good actorâ€”and Gabby Hayes, this time as a judge/lawyer, is always an interestingâ€”and, in this caseâ€”capable, not blunderingâ€”sidekick. One of the best one-hour western flicks Iâ€™ve seen, all in all. Iâ€™ll give it the full $1.25, even with the flawed print.
Judge Priest, 1934, b&w. John Ford (dir.), Will Rogers, Tom Brown, Anita Louise, Henry B. Walthall, David Landau, Berton Churchill, Hattie McDaniel, Stepin Fetchit. 1:20 [1:15].
This oneâ€™s difficult to review. I nearly gave up on the movie in the first ten minutes, thanks to an appallingly stereotypic performance by Stepin Fetchit. And, despite Will Rogers presence, Iâ€™m not all that fond of pictures that so lovingly depict the post-Civil War South from the perspective applied here (all misty-eyed Gray courage and sentimentality).
But I persisted. The storyâ€™s simple enough: Judge Priest (Will Rogers), the folksy widowed 25-year judge in an 1890 Kentucky town (this is a western how?), upholds the spirit (if not always the letter) of the law while humiliating â€œthe Senator,â€ a blowhard lawyer whoâ€™s running against him. Meanwhile, Priestâ€™s nephew has just graduated from law and wants to resume romancing Priestâ€™s next door neighbor, a lovely young orphanâ€”but sheâ€™s also being romanced by the jackass town barber, and Priestâ€™s sister wants her son to marry Proper Folk. A stranger in town who keeps to himself punches out the barber after he makes an appalling comment about the young woman; later, when the barber and two friends lay in wait to beat up on the stranger (with pool cues, in a bar/pool hall), he comes out on top. Naturally, the barber claims he was attacked without provocationâ€¦ Well, the case goes on (with Priest stepping down from the bench because he stood up for the stranger earlier); eventually, we learn that the stranger is a hero in whatever euphemistic version of the Civil War theyâ€™re using (War of Northern Aggression, I think) and the young womanâ€™s father, and allâ€™s right with the world.
If you can stomach the stereotypes and the â€œthe wrong side won the warâ€ attitude, you might find Rogersâ€™ portrayal interesting. The printâ€™s generally OK. In the end, I just canâ€™t assign any value to this one.