Wednesday, August 27, 2008

white comanche: when the B stings

A very very good reason to watch White Comanche is that it features William Shatner in a double role. It gets even better when you find out that the man who made the howl "Khan!" a classic plays twins born of a white father and an Indian (read: the American kind) mother; hence, the title, O gentle reader. Thanks to the uneven distribution of genetic contributions from each parent, one's more American/White and the other's more Indian/Comanche. After exercising his chops playing evil alter egos of James Tiberius Kirk, Shatner found the perfect project to unleash one of his finest slices of smoked ham. Since it's Shatner playing both parts, the differences between them are subtle: the American twin is named Johnny Moon and spends most of his time in the film fully-clothed, while the Comanche twin is named Notah (which means "Snake") and rides about topless with a foul mood and a mean streak. The acting, led by His Highness Ham Kirk himself, is lamentable and the dialogue is loaded with strings of surreal non sequiturs and flights of facetious fancy (eat the peyote, drug of the devil – dream your dreams of hate!). Joseph Cotten had notched up a formidable list of credits on B-schlock and foreign productions (Syndicate Sadists showed up in the following decade) and shows up here as the Sheriff, spitting his lines with professional distance. A special note must be made of the background score that mixes Morricone and echoes of cues from Star Trek: The Original Series along with a strange blend of skiffle and brass.

Such names as Cotten and Shatner most likely seemed spectacular struts for the producers of this enterprise, but they bargained not for the power of the one playing two. Should you not be able to summon the courage to endure this enterprise (no pun intended), you may wish to skip ahead to the climactic duel between the two brothers. It starts off with an exchange of lines whose order may have relied on pure combinatorics and momentous metaphors:

Notah: Johnny Moon!
Johnny: Up here.

Johnny: You're as the wild duck that sits on the pond.
Notah: I have promised my people you will burn in the fire.
Johnny: I'm coming down.

SYN/SYN-ACK/ACK was so much easier. The quid pro quo builds up to a final duel -- both men, bare to the waist race their horses towards each other as they try to get a good shot for a kill; Notah's war cries punctuate the beginning and end of each run. It's worth the price of admission.

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