Comancheros, The (1961)

The Comancheros (1961), directed by Michael Curtiz.

It starts as one sort of plot and changes to another. Charming rogue Stuart Whitman kills a man in a duel over a woman, then whiles away his time riverboat gambling and consorting with a mysterious Spanish beauty who vanishes before he is ready to say good-bye. This much is like the setup for a romance novel.

Then Texas Ranger John Wayne arrives to arrest him for the dueling murder. After some up and down episodes they become partners and infiltrate outlaw gunrunners who have established a little kingdom way out in the desert.

It moves along nicely without being too involving, a old-style western adventure in a decade when they were dying out. Wayne kept the genre going for a while longer, always facing danger with a smile and a quip. Whitman gets the romance action this time.

Many familiar faces. In particular we briefly have Lee Marvin with part of his scalp removed. He and Wayne bond by brawling, just as in Donovan's Reef (1963).

Lever action rifles and cartridge guns did not exist during the Texas Republic. I suppose it's pointlessly pedantic to mention it.

Last film for the great Michael Curtiz, who died shortly after. According to the wikipedia article, Wayne took over directing because of Curtiz's health problems. Stuart Whitman said Wayne was impatient with the filming pace and pushed him aside. Patrick Wayne (who is in the film) said his father often directed his movies even when it wasn't his job. No one had the weight to argue with him. It's hard to imagine John Ford putting up with that.

Elmer Bernstein score. Filmed in Utah.

Available on Blu-ray from Classicflix, but not from Netflix. It has a pseudo-commentary track of interviews with some of the actors, not closely related to the film.