Gunfight at Comanche Creek (1963)

56% – Critics
false% – Audience

Gunfight at Comanche Creek Storyline

Comanche Creek, Colorado, 1875: Prisoner Jack Mason is broken out of jail by a gang of strangers. They use him in a robbery, then when the dead-or-alive reward is high enough, they shoot him and collect. The National Detective Agency, now knowing the gang’s methods, arranges to have agent Bob Gifford jailed in Comanche Creek for train robbery. The gang takes the bait (not before Gifford catches the eye of lovely saloon-keeper Abbie). But how will the bait get off the hook?—Anonymous

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Gunfight at Comanche Creek Movie Reviews

“When you keep a rattlesnake around, you always pull his fangs.”

The setting is Comanche Creek, Colorado, 1875; a band of outlaws headed by Amos Troop (DeForest Kelley) breaks an unsuspecting jailbird out of the town lockup and kills the deputy. The gang then uses the outlaw as a front man for their other robberies. As the reward money on the bad guy escalates, the gang then shoots him and turns him in for the reward, all nice and legal like. Only trouble is, this time the victim was a member of the National Detective Agency gone undercover, and a close friend of Bob Gifford (Audie Murphy). Now the job of infiltrating the gang goes to “Gif”, who insinuates himself into Comanche Creek society as a free spending high roller, as the agency creates a back story and wanted poster for “Judd Tanner”.

The earlier Murphy Westerns usually cast him in the baby face role of a good guy; in 1959’s “No Name on the Bullet”, Murphy’s character John Gant was a hired assassin, and even then his youngish countenance didn’t seem to match his character. Here the older Murphy pulls off the outlaw gimmick a bit better, with wits quick enough to match the ever changing dynamics of his masquerade. When the cover is blown on the agency plant, Tanner maintains his cool, only revealing his identity to gang member Bill Carter, who’s anxious to leave the outlaw life behind.

With a lesser known supporting cast, the gunfight of the title eventually sets things right and settles the score against the bad guys, who have been masterminded by the sheriff of Comanche Creek, Marshal Shearer (John Hubbard).

DeForest Kelley is so closely identified with his Star Trek role as Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy, it’s easy to forget that he appeared in a fair share of Westerns, beginning with a 1949 Lone Ranger appearance. He also turned up in episodes of “Gunsmoke”, “Trackdown”, “Rawhide” and a host of others.

“Gunfight at Comanche Creek” winds up being a fairly intriguing Western, made so by the plot twists that keep Murphy’s character on his toes. I found the background narrative a bit annoying though, as the story played itself out well enough without the commentary (by uncredited narrator Reed Hadley). Otherwise it’s a generally worthwhile hour and a half of Audie Murphy entertainment.

Update – 7/22/2007 – Apparently, this movie was a remake of the 1957 film, “Last Of The Badmen”, with Audie Murphy reprising the role of George Montgomery. Both movies were released by Allied Artists, even though the writers credited for each film are different. Check it out!

Audie Murphy undercover

The events leading up to the Gunfight At Comanche Creek find Audie Murphy working as an undercover detective who has infiltrated an outlaw gang led by DeForest Kelley. The film has a plot not dissimilar to that of the great urban noir drama A Street With No Name.

Kelley has a unique recruiting method to supplement the hard core of his gang for jobs. He just breaks wanted criminals out of jail gets the use of their service and then kills them for the reward which has gone up in value like a stock in the bull market. One undercover detective has already been killed for the reward on his head so Audie has to watch himself from all angles.

Before he got his signature role as Dr. Leonard McCoy of the star ship Enterprise, DeForest Kelley did a lot of western roles where he was mostly a really nasty villain. If he hadn’t signed for Star Trek, Kelley might well have kept in this career path.

Murphy himself was getting older and could no longer be cast as callow western youths as he was early in his career. After failing with a television series Whispering Smith, as so many of his fellow players did, Murphy kept doing westerns of varying quality until the end of the Sixties and the end of the B westerns which played the bottom half of double bills.

Not at all saying however that some of his westerns weren’t good. Gunfight At Comanche Creek was done very well for low budget studio Allied Artists and goes at a real nice pace and maintains suspense throughout. Audie has to rely a lot on his wits to keep from being discovered. The gunfight at the end of the film is well worth waiting for.

Good vehicle for Audie and company, but a remake, none-the-less

I liked this film a lot, but then I love westerns. It’s got Audie, Ben Cooper, Jan Merlin, and scores of others, so how can it go wrong? Well, for one thing, it’s a blatant remake of the earlier western, Last Of The Badmen (1957). How the writers of that film could let writer Edward Bernds get by with taking full credit for writing this film is beyond me. Sure, the setting is different, the characters have different names, but the basic story is almost identical. Both films even feature an annoying narrator, who details facts that none of us need to hear voiced….all the way through the film. If you’ve seen both films, you’ll know what I mean.

Which is the better version? It’s hard to say. They are bot very good, with excellent casts and fine direction. Both would have benefited from losing the narrator.