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  Comanche Station The Searcher
Year: 1960
Director: Budd Boetticher
Stars: Randolph Scott, Nancy Gates, Claude Akins, Skip Homeier, Richard Rust, Rand Brooks, Dyke Johnson
Genre: WesternBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 3 votes)
Review: Jefferson Cody (Randolph Scott) is in Comanche territory, and has something to barter with the dangerous tribe. When he encounters a party of them, he offers up a collection of goods that may be useful to them, and although they initially don't seem interested they won't let him go without getting something. They take Cody to their chief and he agrees to the exchange: an exchange for what? For the life of a white woman, Nancy Lowe (Nancy Gates) who has been kidnapped by them a few days before...

This sad-eyed western was the final collaboration between star Scott and director Budd Boetticher, and as with the others featured the leading man as conflicted, with the bad guy as too close to his personality for comfort as if to say, but for the grace of God, the hero and villain might even have swapped places. Written, as often, by Burt Kennedy (a future director himself), Comanche Station operated on the level of a suspense thriller, as the audience wondered when the inevitable showdown between Cody and a bounty hunter of his acquaintance would occur.

That bounty hunter, who is not above the despicable practice of scalping the natives for the money it brings him, is Ben Lane (Claude Akins) and he has two henchmen in tow. They are Frank (Skip Homeier) and Dobie (Richard Rust), and are not too sure about staying with the man who is effectively their boss when he makes it clear he wants to bring in Nancy for the reward money himself. The film is undeniably tense as it moves inexorably towards it violent conclusion, but there's more to it than "a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do".

In fact, where this really shines is in its quieter moments which feature the characters conversing. Ben and his mates show up at the station of the title after being chased by the Indians and Cody helps fend them off, but after that the greatest danger may be from within this reluctantly thrown together new band. This is where the talk comes about, as Nancy asks Cody is he thinks a man can accept a woman who has been kidnapped by the Comanches, or Frank and Dobie have crises of conscience when Ben tells them he wishes to kill both Cody and Nancy - after all, her husband didn't specify if she should be dead or alive.

All the way through we wonder if Cody will make a move on Nancy, as does Ben when he comes up with a tale about a bounty hunter who fell in love with the woman he was supposed to be saving. Ben gets a punch in the face for his trouble, but as we discover this is less because of the offence it might give Nancy and actually because it taps into a fear Cody has due to what happened to him personally. This is the reason the film has that melancholy feel, and many have compared it to John Ford's The Searchers with its lead character an outsider through his relentless pursuit of what may in this case be an impossible goal. But it's still exciting for all that, and a fitting end to a great run of cult westerns from Boetticher and Scott.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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