"Each man has a song and this is my song." (Leonard Cohen)

Friday, March 27, 2015

White Comanche (IPC, 1968)

Unjustly honored as one of the 100 most enjoyably bad movies ever made

I often wonder, when I watch a late-60s/early 70s spaghetti/paella ‘western’, if this is the worst film I have ever seen. It never is, of course. There’s always an even trashier one just down the trail. But I must say, when I sat through White Comanche, appalled, I really did wonder if I would be able to make it to the end. When watching on TV, after all, it’s so easy to grope for the remote. It’s not like you’ve paid for a theater ticket.
Complete junk
Joseph Cotten really had a disgraceful record as far as Westerns went. He was in far too many of them (he was completely unsuited to the genre), 23 in all if you include junk like this and TV. From the very start, in 1946, in the pot-boiler Duel in the Sun, more commonly known as Lust in the Dust, Untamed Frontier with (the equally unsuited) Shelley Winters and Scott Brady, and The Halliday Brand, with someone or other you’ve never heard of (and Ward Bond), he was miscast and unsuitable. He was de trop (hardly more than a name in the credits) in The Last Sunset with Rock Hudson and Kirk Douglas, and he overacted even more than usual as the drunk Major Reno in The Great Sioux Massacre. OK, the was good in the fine film Two Flags West with Jeff Chandler and Linda Darnell, but the others were all mediocre films at best, with iffy directors, but he was just so bad in them. To make matters worse he did two Eurowesterns in later life, Hellbenders and White Comanche (hard to say which was worse) and he finished off by appearing (as the Reverend) in the movie which did its best to sink the whole genre, the galumphingly dreadful Heaven’s Gate. It was a fitting end to a lousy Western career.
Cotten: rotten
As for Cotten’s co-star in White Comanche, William Shatner, he didn’t do Westerns at all. OK, he was in a few episodes of Kung Fu, Barbary Coast and the like, but White Comanche and The Outrage were the only big-screen ‘Westerns’ he did and the former was a junk European rip-off and the latter was more an overwrought filmed Japanese play than a Western movie. In White Comanche, just as Cotten was totally unbelievable as a tough sheriff, so Shatner was equally implausible as a hard gunfighter brought up by the Apache, or was it the Sioux, I was asleep when they said. Oh yes, it must have been Comanche. He also plays his twin brother, the eponymous Native American. Shatner, who was in Spain on a break from Star Trek, tried to get NBC to buy the movie but they wisely declined.
Shatner: do I look tough enough?
The movie has all the usual weaknesses of the paella ‘western’, shocking sound, clumsy dubbing, odd-looking Spanish locations, asinine dialogue (four writers are credited but I don’t think they had a combined mental age of 40), inappropriate cheap jazzy music more suited to some Get Smart spy Z-movie, 60s cosmetics and false eyelashes on the lead dame (who is only there to be exploited), the whole nine yards. The director was Spaniard José Briz Mendéz, improbably billed as Gilbert Lee Kay, whose only Western this was. Thank goodness.
Do I look stupid enough?
It’s 93 minutes of crap. I am told it’s 93 minutes anyway: I turned it off after 70. I’m amazed now that I lasted that long. The film is listed in Golden Raspberry Award founder John Wilson's book The Official Razzie Movie Guide as one of the ‘The 100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made’ but I can’t agree with this elevation. The word ‘enjoyably’ has no place in it.

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