Black Cloud Brings Hale
A mixed bag of civilians and cavalry men find themselves pinned down in the middle of nowhere by Indians, weapons, food and water is sparse and with each day which passed their number decreases after each wave of attack. That is a one line synopsis which is a very familiar one because there were numerous westerns made in the 50s which used it and "Last of the Comanches" or "The Sabre and the Arrow" as it is also known is another one. But the frustrating thing about "Last of the Comanches" is that it ends up a typical 50s western when you can see it had potential to be more, there are good plot ideas and some brilliant visuals but mundane characters and boring dialogue bring it down to just being average.
Whilst most of the Indian nations have agreed to peace a small band of Comanches lead by Black Cloud (John War Eagle - Tomahawk) are still at war with both the whites and Indian who sides with them. After a brutal attack on the town of Dry Buttes just 6 cavalry soldiers survive lead by Sgt. Matt Trainor (Broderick Crawford) and as they try to make it by foot to the nearest fort find themselves joining force with the passengers on a stage coach and in search for water head to an abandoned missionary thanks to a young Indian boy called Little Knife (Johnny Stewart) who leads them there. But it is at the missionary that Black Cloud, who is desperate for water, leads an attack of the cavalry men and civilians stuck behind the crumbling walls, pinning them down whilst their hopes rest with the young Indian boy making it to the nearest fort to get reinforcements.
For the most "Last of the Comanches" is just a typical 50s western with much about it being obvious and ordinary. As already mentioned the basic plot of a small group being pinned down by Indians as supplies run out and people die is one which was often used and that makes it quite predictable when it comes to the final outcome. But this basic idea has been built on nicely especially with them coming across wanted man Denver Kinnaird and taking him prisoner. It doesn't take a genius to work out the nervy Kinnaird is in fact an ally of Black Cloud, it is less than subtle when it comes his willingness to speak to the Indian chief but it adds a nice layer of atmosphere to the movie. And when you add to that Little Knife, the lone Indian boy they find wandering in the desert there are some nice elements added to the basic storyline.
But the thing which really stands out is the look or to be more precise a selection of scenes which stand out as being something special in the midst of a lot of typical 50s style action and drama. The opening which culminates with the smouldering ashes of an entire town makes you sit up and pay attention and whilst that is followed by plenty of ordinary scenes you then get some brilliant use of the setting sun and silhouettes to grab your attention again. And this goes on where you get plenty of typical looking scenes suddenly spiked by something eye catching none more so that a simple but brilliant scene which feature dynamite. Director AndrÃ© De Toth deserves a lot of credit it is because of these scenes that "Last of the Comanches" ends up keeping your attention.
The flip side of these great looking scenes is then you have the ordinary and unfortunately the characters are the most forgettable bunch you will ever meet. It's not that the actors such as Broderick Crawford and Lloyd Bridges do anything bad but they end up very ordinary even when it comes to Barbara Hale as token female Julia Lanning. But it also doesn't help that there is not a single line of interesting dialogue in the entire movie, with one boring line following another. It almost gets to the point that you start wondering whether they could redub the movie with more interesting dialogue because it is than mind numbingly boring.
What this all boils down to is that on one hand "Last of the Comanches" does some nice things with a typical western storyline and those things keep you interested. But then on the other hand the characters are so ordinary and the dialogue so dull that it ruins what could have been a memorable movie rather than ordinary one.