The easy play would be to trivialize White Comanche, as the thought of William Shatner playing twin brothers in a Western (one’s a bloodthirsty Comanche, the other is a quickdraw drifter named Johnny Moon) should elicit some laughter (and depending where you stand on Mr. Shatner’s acting skills, either derision or unabashed affection). Since I’m a biased fan of the Star Trek icon, White Comanche was definitely a guilty pleasure.
Shatner shot the Spaghetti Western while on a break from TV’s Star Trek, and though his dual performance won’t exactly make John Wayne and Gary Cooper fans quake in their boots, watching him shed Captain James T. Kirk’s skin and strap on a six-shooter is definitely a hoot. Even with two roles in the offing, Shatner still carried a bit of Kirk’s verbal affectations into the White Comanche production.
Even with Shatner’s overcooked performance, White Comanche is an Italian/Spanish movie that, though definitely cheesy and ridiculous in moments, delivered a decent narrative.
Tired of being blamed for killings and rapes committed by his brother Notah, Johnny Moon demands his sibling meet him in four days for a big showdown. Only one man will remain standing from the duel, and Moon is determined to walk out of Rio Hondo alive.
Joseph Cotten (Citizen Kane, Shadow of a Doubt) fans should also check out White Comanche, as he has a meaty role as Sheriff Logan, a principled lawman who wants a little peace and quiet in Rio Hondo. Rossana Yani co-stars as a saloon girl who’s attacked by Notah but eventually falls in love with Johnny Moon.
Most of “White Comanche” centers on Johnny Moon’s journey, and Shatner tries his best to capture the loner spirit of Alan Ladd (“Shane”) and Gary Cooper (“High Noon”). Though, he falls short of that mark, Shatner acquits himself well in the action sequences and actually has a few nice moments with Cotten and Yani.
Director Gilbert Lee Kay also brings a few interesting creative touches into the mix, as he occasionally employs mirrors to give viewers a different perspective to Rio Hondo’s goings on (for example, when a group of cowboys ride into town, the camera shoots their arrival by focusing on the mirror that captures their movements instead of pointing the camera directly at the men).
Western fans who love loner type anti-heroes may actually warm up to Johnny Moon . On a mission to kill his brother, he also saves a man from a hanging, risking his own life in the process. Although he doesn’t care if Rio Hondo just rolls up and “blows away,” we know is cold heart will eventually warm up to the saloon girl. Throw in Shatner’s unique acting style into the gumbo, and you’ll get a pretty interesting meal.
Though not exactly The Searchers or The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, White Comanche is a highly watchable Western that’s buoyed by the unlikely pairing of Shatner and Cotten.
White Comanche is a Manufactured on Demand (MOD) title. To order the DVD, please go to this WBshop.com link.