Upbeat Cynicism

what do you mean i lost my mind?

White Comanche, 1968

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William Shatner.

Playing twins.

Who are half-breed Indians.

In the old west.

In a movie shot in Spain.

Can it get any more awesomer? ((Yes, “awesomer” is a word. I looked it up so you don’t need to. ))

As a matter of fact, White Comanche does.

That’s Wild Bill Shatner under the credits, as Johnny Moon, the twin who chose the path of light. You can hear his frankly bizarre theme here:

[audio:http://blog.ianhamet.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/white-comanche-theme.mp3%5D

Most of the score is unremarkable (sad, given that this is a supposed spaghetti western), but that opening theme, which shows up a few more times throughout the flick, isn’t that something? It’s like two-thirds of a jazz trio (drummer and bassist) filled in for the soundtrack recording, when nobody but the horn section showed up. I mean, I’ve heard electric guitars in westerns ((Thanks to the Mighty Ennio Morricone. )), but a jazz combo? With standard epic western horns??? Truly bizarre.

That’s the entire title sequence, by the way, and the confrontation you hear is Johnny Moon almost getting hanged, then escaping the lynchers. It becomes clear very quickly that he was targeted for the crimes of his brother.

His brother is Notah Moon. They are not completely identical — Notah has black eyes, where Johnny does not wear contacts. Johnny rides to the Comanche camp to issue a challenge to Notah — meet alone in four days in Rio Hondo ((Nice little tribute to the Duke, I thought. )) for a duel. One of them must die.

Then the bulk of the movie follows Johnny as he arrives in Rio Hondo to wait, and deals with prejudice and a very Yojimbo-ish, Fist Full of Dollars-ish feud between two rich men.

Also in town is the even more awesomer part of the movie — the sheriff is the Mighty Joseph Cotten!

So, how does Captain Kirk do going up against a real actor? Listen for yourself:

[audio:http://blog.ianhamet.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/white-comanche-shatvscotten.mp3%5D

Shatner is stiff and monotonous, which is kind of usual for him. Cotten’s just natural, as he always was. He doesn’t actually blow Shatner off the screen, but he’s a whole lot more believable and charismatic, even with a much smaller role.

White Comanche makes some “worst movie ever” lists, but it just doesn’t deserve it. Oh, sure, it’s goofy as hell, with Shatner going all out in his Shatnerosity (no singing, though). But it’s entertaining, it moves along at a decent clip, there’s that loopy score, and even a reasonably pretty girl. Plus, Joseph Cotten, who always delivers an excellent performance, no matter how rotten or weird the movie.

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