Release Date: June 2, 2003
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
Actors: John Wayne, Rock Hudson, Stuart Whitman, Lee Meriweather, Ina Balin
Directors: Michael Curtiz, Andrew McLaglen
Runtime: 215 minutes
Nobody made a fuss about The Comancheros when it came out, yet it has proved to be among the most enduringly entertaining of John Wayne's later Westerns. The Duke, just beginning to crease and thicken toward Rooster Cogburn proportions, plays a veteran Texas Ranger named Jake Cutter who joins forces with a New Orleans dandy (Stuart Whitman) to subdue rampaging Indians and the evil white men behind their uprising.
The Comancheros was the last credit for Michael Curtiz (Casablanca), who, ravaged by cancer, ceded much of the direction to Wayne (uncredited) and action specialist Cliff Lyons. With support from Wayne stalwarts James Edward Grant (co-screenplay) and William Clothier (camera), the first of many rousing Elmer Bernstein scores for a Wayne picture and a big, flavourful cast including Lee Marvin (the once and future Liberty Valance), Nehemiah Persoff, Bruce Cabot, and Guinn "Big Boy" Williams (in his last movie), they made a broad, cheerfully bloodthirsty adventure movie for red-meat-eating audiences of all ages.
In The Undefeated Wayne and Rock Hudson each play a Civil War commander who, after the ceasefire, lead a community of folks into Mexico to make a fresh start. Hudson is a Southern gentleman; Wayne commanded the Yankee cavalry at Shiloh, where Hudson's brother died. Nevertheless, Rock, with his extended family, and Duke, with his troop of cowboys and 3,000 horses to sell to Emperor Maximilian, soon join forces to outgun banditos and beam paternally over the budding romance between their respective daughter and son. Lingering North-South animosities are celebrated in an obligatory communal fistfight, and the showdown with both Maximilian's lancers and the rebel Juaristas is disconcertingly perfunctory. --Richard T Jameson