Blu-ray: Recommended
4 Stars out of 5
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List Price 34.99
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Release Date: May 17th, 2011
Movie Release Year: 1961
Release Country: United States
COLLAPSE INFO -

The Comancheros

Review Date January 22nd, 2015 by
Overview -

Texas Ranger Jake Cutter arrests gambler Paul Regret, but soon finds himself teamed with his prisoner in an undercover effort to defeat a band of renegade arms merchants and thieves known as Comancheros.

  • Editors Note

    Please welcome John Gehr to High-Def Digest!

    Like many of his generation, John grew up obsessed with 'Star Wars', 'Raiders of the Lost Ark', 'E.T.' and a variety of late 70s and 80s movies. Throughout the 90s and 2000s his interests turned to the world of letterbox VHS, home theater surround sound, first generation DVD, and first generation Blu-ray movies & players. John has spent his daytime hours in the marketing field for the past 20 years supported by a degree in Advertising/Communications from Johnson & Wales University.  An avid collector of both comic books and Blu-ray movies (his VHS and DVD collections long sold off), he balances family time (wife and 3 children) with watching movies in his theater room, reading novels/comic books and watching his favorite sports teams the Seattle Seahawks and Liverpool FC.

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  • Editors Note

    Please welcome John Gehr to High-Def Digest!

    Like many of his generation, John grew up obsessed with 'Star Wars', 'Raiders of the Lost Ark', 'E.T.' and a variety of late 70s and 80s movies. Throughout the 90s and 2000s his interests turned to the world of letterbox VHS, home theater surround sound, first generation DVD, and first generation Blu-ray movies & players. John has spent his daytime hours in the marketing field for the past 20 years supported by a degree in Advertising/Communications from Johnson & Wales University.  An avid collector of both comic books and Blu-ray movies (his VHS and DVD collections long sold off), he balances family time (wife and 3 children) with watching movies in his theater room, reading novels/comic books and watching his favorite sports teams the Seattle Seahawks and Liverpool FC.

  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs: Digibook
    BD 50
    Video Resolution/Codec: 1080p/AVC MPEG-4
    Length:107
    Release Country:United States
    Aspect Ratio(s):2.35:1
    English Descriptive Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
    English 4.0 Dolby Digital
    Spanish Dolby Digital Mono
    French Dolby Digital Mono
    Subtitles/Captions: English, French, Spanish
    Special Features: Audio commentary with Patrick Wayne and Film Historians
    Fox Movietone News
    Movie Studio: 20th Century Fox
    Release Date: May 17th, 2011

Story Review Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

3.5 Stars out of 5

Okay, I admit it. I love John Wayne. I would challenge anyone to name a worldwide movie star more recognizable and established than The Duke.  There's just something about Wayne, no matter how good or bad the movie, that keeps you engaged.  He makes you believe in a better time and place. When good and bad were as simple as the color of the hat someone was wearing.  His word was his bond and that was all you needed.  Now, I would be lying if I said I’ve seen all of Wayne’s movies.  I mean, he had a career that spanned 50 years.  That's extraordinary, so it shouldn’t be shocking that I haven’t seen all of them (few probably have), but like all movie stars, he has films in his catalog that are bad, okay, good, and great.  The Searchers, Red River, Stagecoach, Rio Brave, El Dorado, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and True Grit are just a small list of his good and great titles.  The Comancheros is arguably one of the lesser known John Wayne movies.  Until I watched this Blu-ray, I honestly hadn’t ever seen the film from start to finish.  After watching I’m happy to say The Comancheros ranks in the good category of John Wayne movies.

The movie begins with a duel in 1843 New Orleans, with the winner being one Paul Regret (Stuart Whitman).  A gambler and ladies man, Regret wins the duel after being accused of stealing the man’s woman.  He quickly learns that the man he killed was a judge’s son.  Regret goes on the run to save his neck from what will certainly be a hanging.  Paul Regret ends up on riverboat in the Republic of Texas where he meets the mysterious and beautiful Pilar Graile (Ian Balin).  A seduction quickly ensues (Regret seduced for a change) and Pilar disappears soon after.  The same cannot be said for Regret who is captured by Texas Ranger Jake Cutter (John Wayne) who plans to take him back to Louisiana to stand trial.

As Cutter takes Regret back to Texas, he escapes, and Cutter returns to the Rangers with his tail between his legs. Shortly after, Cutter is off to go undercover as a stolen gun seller and meets up with Tully Crow (Lee Marvin) who brings contact with a raiding band of Comancheros.  This evil outfit is run by Graile (Nehemiah Persoff).  Through twists in the story Cutter ends up back with Regret who both go after Graile and his bunch, while Regret finds his lost love, Pilar Graile, with the evil group of Comancheros (yes, in a great coincidence she is the daughter of the evil Graile).

My description of the story is fairly short and to the point, and that is due to the fact that the script for The Comancheros is very much the same way.  The first half of the movie moves along at a slower, but I feel deliberate pace. Characters are introduced, and even though the script isn’t the strongest, their motives and intentions are clear. Wayne and Whitman play up the country boy and the city slicker roles perfectly. Their exchanges and time on the screen together, bring to mind some of the better buddy movies that have come out in the last 40 years. Not as comedic as Midnight Run, but in a way similar to the good guy hating the bad at first but then coming to like him and needing his help, when Wayne finally catches up with Lee Marvin the best part of the movie takes place. It’s easy to understand why Marvin would take on this small role.  Don’t be fooled, it is an important part to move the story along, but it's a very small part of the overall picture.  He gets to play a scoundrel with half his head cut away from an attempted Indian scalp attack and Lee Marvin tears it up.  Wayne plays against Marvin perfectly (the two did similarly great work together in Liberty Valance) and their time on the screen together makes the movie worth watching.  When John Wayne finally hit his stride in Hollywood he was very intentional about whom he worked with.  You will see the same actors in movie after movie that Wayne starred in.  He was good friends with these men and woman, and that chemistry of friendship came across on the screen.  There are few scenes that show this off more than his time with Lee Marvin in The Comancheros. 
 
The second half of the movie isn’t nearly as strong, but does have some fine points. The actions sequences are excellent.  Well staged attacks on and off horses with beautiful on location scenery.  Persoff does fine work confined to a wheelchair as the leader of the bad bunch.  Balin is good as well as his daughter and thelove interest of Regret.  The downside of the second half is that the story just seems forced.  It's nice to see John Wayne not worry about getting the girl, but the love interest story plot with Regret and Graile seemed forced and doesn’t drive the story.  In addition, there are too many coincidences that ‘just happen’ to move the story along (The fact that Regret is in the exact poker game in the huge state of Texas where Cutter shows up is just one of the script's great coincidences).

In the end, though, this is a solid entry in the John Wayne movie career.  The performance are better than most, the film is beautifully shot (in part by Wayne who took on some director duties due to extreme sickness of director Michael Curtiz who died soon after the completion of the film) and the action scenes fill up the screen. All of this more than makes up for the subpar script.

  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs:
    Digibook
    BD 50
    Video Resolution/Codec:
    1080p/AVC MPEG-4
    Length:107
    Release Country:United States
    Aspect Ratio(s):
    2.35:1
    Audio Formats:
    English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
    English 4.0 Dolby Digital
    Spanish Dolby Digital Mono
    French Dolby Digital Mono
    Subtitles/Captions:
    English, French, Spanish
    Special Features:
    Audio commentary with Patrick Wayne and Film Historians
    Fox Movietone News
    Movie Studio: 20th Century Fox
    Release Date: May 17th, 2011

Video Review

3.5 Stars out of 5

You never know what to expect from a film that was produced in the early 1960s.  Thankfully 20th Century Fox has put together a strong Blu-ray presentation with the re-mastered 1080p transfer of The Comancheros.  Colors are strong throughout the picture.  From the skyline to John Wayne's strong range shirt, the colors pop off the screen.  I also liked the darker images of the film.  The detail was there when it should be and blacks held strong throughout.  It seems clear that time was put into restoring the original negative. What I like best about the picture quality is that it still looks like film.  Yes, the picture is sharp and clear, but there is grainy look to it at times that doesn’t distract from the picture quality.  A western filmed in 1960 shouldn’t look like it was filmed with digital cameras and this one doesn’t.  Strong praise to 20th Century Fox for putting the effort into a movie that is considered one of Wayne’s lesser known films.

Audio Review

3 Stars out of 5

The Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox includes Dolby Surround audio, but the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 upgrade is the way to go.  As you would suspect in a western of this age, the movie doesn’t take full advantage of all 5 channels, but they do come into play.   The dialogue is strongly presented in the center channel.  The front and rear surrounds do a solid job of generating atmosphere with background noise, but don’t offer much (if anything) on the directional front; save towards the end of the film during the Indian/Texas Ranger attack when horses running by, gun fire, etc. are isolated to specific surround speakers.  The bass channel is used even more sparingly, save for explosions and gunfire.  The score by Elmer Bernstein is what truly takes advantage of the upgraded audio.  The music pops from the speakers and is a joy to listen to.  An isolated music track would have been a pleasant extra. 

Special Features

4.5 Stars out of 5

After a strong video presentation and a good audio effort it would be expected that the extras are good on the disc too. Well, that would be an understatement.  The extra’s 20th Century Fox put together for this catalog title are excellent!  I was shocked to see how much time and effort was put into the disc.


Audio Commentary: The commentary features the voices from actors Stuart Whitman, Nehemiah Persoff, Michael Ansara, and Patrick Wayne.  The commentary is not scene specific and more of a personal overview of the filming experience.  The insight into the film's production is solid, but this is a pieced together audio overlay opposed to commentary running with the film.


The Comancheros and the Battle for American Southwest:  This is a short (almost 30 minute) documentary on the actual history of the real Comancheros and the Texas Rangers.


The Duke at Fox:  This extra is really special.  This tells the story of John Wayne’s time at 20th Century Fox. From interviews of film historians to his late wife and his one son, we get to learn about not only the movies that Wayne made with Fox, but we get to learn about his relationships and mindset throughout those years.  This is really great stuff if you are a John Wayne fan.


Vintage Comancheros Comic Book:  A high-def scan of a comic book produced by 20th Century Fox based on the film.  An interesting piece of history.


A Conversation with Stuart Whitman:  The actor talks briefly about his career and life.  Audio only.


Fox Movietone News:  A vintage newsreel from Fox showing the music for the film being awarded.


Theatrical Trailer


Spanish Trailer

Final Thoughts

'The Comancheros' isn’t John Wayne’s greatest film, but a decent story, excellent acting, and beautiful cinematography make it a solid entry in The Duke's catalog.  The Blu-ray presentation is very good. Picture quality is great, with strong colors and blacks throughout. While the audio quality isn’t on the same level, it's a solid HD transfer for a western from the 60s.  The extras are above and beyond the high point of the disc.  Fox did a great job of giving fans great supplements to an already strong film and disc.  'The Comencheros' is recommended to Blu-ray fans, and highly recommended to John Wayne fans.

Sale Price 16.98
List Price 34.99
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3rd Party 16.98
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  • Editors Note

    Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.

  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs:
    Digibook
    BD 50
    Video Resolution/Codec:
    1080p/AVC MPEG-4
    Length:107
    Release Country:United States
    Aspect Ratio(s):
    2.35:1
    Audio Formats:
    English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
    English 4.0 Dolby Digital
    Spanish Dolby Digital Mono
    French Dolby Digital Mono
    Subtitles/Captions:
    English, French, Spanish
    Special Features:
    Audio commentary with Patrick Wayne and Film Historians
    Fox Movietone News
    Movie Studio: 20th Century Fox
    Release Date: May 17th, 2011