GUNFIGHT AT COMANCHE CREEK (director/writer: Frank McDonald; screenwriter: Edward Bernds; cinematographer: Joseph Biroc; editor: William Austin; music: Marlin Skiles; cast: Audie Murphy (Bob Gifford/aka Judd Tanner), Jan Merlin (Nielson), Reed Hadley (Narrator), Colleen Willer (Abbie Stevens), DeForrest Kelley (Amos Troop), John Hubbard (Marshal Shearer), Adam Williams (Jed Hayden), Damian O’Flynn (Winton), Ben Cooper (Phil Carter), Susan Seaforth (Janie), Mort Mills (Ben Brady), Michael Mikler (Reno Waller), Laurie Mitchell (Tina), John Milford (Bill Peters); Runtime: 91; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Ben Schwalb; Allied Artists; 1963)
“A hybrid detective story and Western.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Frank McDonald(“Isle of Fury”/”Smart Blonde”/”My Pal Trigger”) directs this routine Western that’s set in 1875, in Comanche Creek, Colorado. It’s a remake of the Last of the Badmen. Audie Murphy plays the detective part previously played by George Montgomery. It’s written by Edward Bernds, as a hybrid detective story and Western.
When a ruthless gang, working mostly out of the Colorado territory, springs wanted men from jail and then forces them to be unmasked as front men in robberies, and then kills them to collect the now higher reward, the National Detective Agency, located in Wichita, assigns its top agent Bob Gifford (Audie Murphy) to Comanche Creek to pose as wanted stage coach robber Judd Tanner and infiltrate the gang. The detective’s best friend, Nielson (Jan Merlin), is assigned to be his watchdog. When Gifford is easily freed from Marshal Shearer’s (John Hubbard) jail, he’s taken to the mountain ranch owned by the elderly Winton (Damian O’Flynn). There Gifford meets Winton’s unhappy granddaughter Janie (Susan Seaforth) and field gang leader Troop (DeForrest Kelley), Hayden (Adam Williams), the confused lovesick youngster Carter (Ben Cooper) and the always angry Ben Brady (Mort Mills). Ben’s the go-between for the secretive big boss in town, who gives the marching orders.
Audie plays the role of the cool ladies man too lighthearted and the tension never builds as it should. There’s also a tepid romance thrown in with Audie and the attractive lady casino owner (Colleen Willer). But the film’s main problem is that the premise never struck me as something believable. It seems easier to just rob banks than go through the gang’s lunatic scheme.
To give it the feel of a 1940s detective story, there’s an unseen and unnecessary narrator (Reed Hadley) throughout.
REVIEWED ON 7/28/2013 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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