It was only a matter of time before B-Movie Enema was graced by this movie. White Comanche is listed by John Wilson, who founded the Golden Raspberry Awards (or Razzies as they are known by most) as one of the most enjoyably bad movies ever.
If you ask me, that all sounds awesome. But wanna know what’s better? It not only has Williams Shatner playing a high plains drifter type, but he also playing a second role as a leader of a Comanche tribe. That’s right! Double Shatner comin’ at yo’ face!
On top of all that, look out ladies because Comanche Shatner is pretty much tits out for the whole movie. No matter how much his gut expanded during this era, he just couldn’t get enough of showing that chest. You know what? Good for him. My gut is ever expanding as well, so I’m gonna follow the lead of my childhood hero and just let ‘er fly without a shirt to hold it all in. Enough about all that business, don’t want to distract my dear readers from being able to continue through to the end of this article.
When I Google White Comanche, this is the synopsis I’m given: “Half-white, half-Comanche twin brothers Johnny Moon (William Shatner) and Notah (also Shatner) have long been estranged, but things are even worse now that Notah is a bloodthirsty outlaw, and people mistake Johnny for him. Addicted to peyote, Notah believes himself destined to lead the Comanche to victory over the whites. Despite Johnny’s pleas, his brother plans to destroy Rio Hondo, which is protected by Sheriff Logan (Joseph Cotten). Will Johnny side with the town or his brother?”
Holy balls, this sound pretty great! Let’s get started!
As the cast begins to play, you have to wonder how Joseph Cotten (who was in several Orsen Welles movies) got top billing over Shatner who was already pretty famous for Star Trek at this time, and was playing TWO parts. Don’t know how that works but whatever. As cowboy Shatner makes his way through this valley, he gets jumped by some guys who think he’s done them wrong. He escapes and rides off.
He arrives at an Indian settlement and all the women just stand around and stare at him. I can only assume they are trying to figure out if that’s the guy from Star Trek in their little village. He’s looking for his brother, Indian Shatner. A sultry squaw tells him he should leave because there is no good between them. But cowboy Shatner sticks around.
Cut to this:
Indian Shatner leads a raid on a stagecoach and, as can be expected from James Tiberius Kirk, he manhandles the woman inside and has his way with her. As Indian Shatner, he acts as a lunatic. Like he has no civilized thoughts or actions whatsoever. It’s like that episode of Star Trek when his mirror universe gets beamed aboard the regular Enterprise and he just keeps shouting “I’m Captain Kirk!” like a fucking madman. That’s how he portrays a Comanche.
Cowboy Shatner comes to kill his Indian counterpart. Now, let’s just picture this if you will: Shatner and other Shatner really don’t like each other. One is telling the other that one must die. So it’s a lot of Shatner acting opposite, well, Shatner. Let’s let that sink in for a second. William Shatner, who at this time is at his peak of being beloved, and at his peak of being considered pretty full of himself by his costars, is having some pretty heavy dialog. With himself. He is playing both the hero and his own mortal enemy.
That just blows my mind.
Cowboy Shatner, Johnny Moon, interrupts some roughs trying to lynch a guy. After killing two of the guys, the roughs let the man go. Now, imagine this… He kills two guys, and tells the other three guys to drop their gun belts. Outgunned 3-to-1, Shatner wins. The bad guys drop their guns and even as he rides away, none of them has the balls to pick a gun up and blow this guy away. That’s not even mentioning that they think he looks an awful lot like the feared White Comanche that is terrorizing the valley and totally raping the shit out of women. This is the power of the Shat.
He goes into the town of Rio Hondo, where he told his brother, Notah, to be in a few days so they can have their final battle. You see him be an all around good guy, even helping a kid from getting hurt and then paying said kid to take care of his horse. Some think Moon is the dreaded Notah, so you’ve got this interesting mistaken identity thing going on. However, this movie, made just at the beginning of the rise of the spaghetti western genre, fails right from the start because Shatner is no Clint Eastwood. He had the looks, and, like it or not, he had the acting chops. The problem here is that there’s no ambiguity in Shatner’s roles. Whereas Eastwood’s outlaws killed but weren’t so much bad guys. Here, Shatner is a crazy madman or a good guy to children.
Even when he tries to keep to himself in Rio Hondo, it’s a little out of place because of how he seemed to talk to the child he paid to take care of his horse. Suddenly he becomes a soft spoken loner who wants to be left alone while he’s waiting for Notah to come. It’s a weird uneven characterization for the better of the two brothers.
Unfortunately, hell is comin’ to town because that coach Notah raided comes into Rio Hondo. The woman Notah raped, Kelly, works at the town saloon – very likely as a hooker but we see her gambling with some saloon patrons, so whatever. We know where this is headed. She’s going to see Johnny Moon and think it’s the man who attacked her.
So Moon comes into the saloon and, as expected, Kelly freaks out and thinks the White Comanche is here. The head of the lynch mob picks a fight with Shatner’s stunt double and it goes on for a super long time with them punching and kicking and putting their hands in each other’s faces. When Johnny finally wins, Kelly tries to shoot him. He tries to explain himself but the town wants to kill him, but the sheriff (Cotten), clears Johnny by explaining he figured out Johnny couldn’t be the one who attacked the Coach.
What makes this movie bad is that it seems like a lot of kids are playing Cowboys and Indians, and they made up the bulk of the script on the fly. But that only makes for a bad movie. What makes it gleefully bad is that this is as if all the stuff people make fun of Shatner for in his acting and all the stupid stunts from Star Trek somehow became human and made a movie. That would certainly explain there being two Shatner roles.
Now, back to the actual plot here, for a lack of a better term. Moon explains to Kelly how he and Notah are twin brothers. She confirms this by seeing that Johnny’s eyes are brown whereas Notah’s were “as black as the Ace of Spades”. He tells her their story of how Notah has been getting worse since the Comanches were forced onto a reservation in Oklahoma. He explains that their mother died when they were young and because they were half Comanche, half white, they had troubles finding a place they belonged. He then said that Notah started abusing peyote and envisioned a new Comanche empire with him as their leader. After all this, Hot-Tits McGee, the one raped by the guy who looks JUST like this motherfucker, is starting to get pretty hot for him. Again, this is the power of Shatner.
Around the town, no one wants to talk to Moon or sell him anything. As a response to this, he goes to the Sheriff’s station and kicks open the door and says he has to stay for two more days and if the shop owner of the general store (who also happens to be the mayor) doesn’t want to sell him anything, he’ll just take it without paying. That’s fine and all, but he kicked open the door to the station and that was fucking bad ass. Not because he kicked a door open. Not because it was the door to the Sheriff’s station. It’s because he goes in and kicks the door in and then just has a calm conversation with Joseph Cotten about wanting some respect in the town. Normally, if you’re hot enough to kick a door open, you’d typically raise your voice. Not Shatner, man. He’s as cool as a limp cucumber in this movie.
To work out some more of his frustrations, he goes to the river where Kelly is bathing in the nude. He tells her that if she wants him to leave, he’ll leave her alone. She tells him wherever she goes she’s alone. This makes Johnny say that this makes them about the same. Just about when I start to question whether or not these two are gonna fuck like a couple prairie dogs drunk on Romulan Ale, he tells her the guy who raped her that looks just like him is coming to town and tells her that this is their little secret. She worries for him, but Johnny says he’s going to kill Notah. While riding back to town, he’s ambushed by one of the lynch mob guys who tries to shoot him. They shoot it out and Johnny kills the bad guy by shooting him in the head. Nonplussed, Kelly just watches on with a steely gaze.
The Sheriff finds that the there is no man matching the name Johnny Moon is on record anywhere. Not only that, but the only man who fits the description is that of Notah. A reward of $1500 is handed down for the death of Notah. Just as that comes in the mail to the Sheriff, Johnny comes into to town with the dead goon’s body. The dead guy’s brother, a hotshot general of some sort, is pissed at the Sheriff for letting Moon off the hook for the death of his brother, but the Sheriff is now seeing that the town is on the brink of a civil war between the general and another hot shot in town named Grimes (they seem to be two guys who pay to have the other guy’s men killed off or something). I’m not exactly sure what the beef is but it’s problematic.
As best as I can ascertain from the movie at this point, there are two rival big shots in the town vying for power. A lot of people are trying to kill Johnny Moon to get the reward for Notah. The Sheriff knows Johnny isn’t the White Comanche, but he doesn’t really do much to publicly defend that notion other than to try to work with Johnny when he finds out that a man who tried to kill him must have been trying to collect the bounty. Additionally, that whole thing about there being no record of a Johnny Moon anywhere is also dropped like a bad habit – the bad habit of having a cohesive story.
See what I mean about this movie seemingly being made up on the fly by kids playing Cowboys and Indians? This movie isn’t much more than a collection of scenes that involve shooting, fighting, and Shatner monologues in rotating order. Some men armed to the teeth who work for this General guy come into to town and the Sheriff knows he has to try to keep the peace as a war is eminent. Grimes’ guys are arming up as well. So I guess a big gunfight is about to go down.
Now, I think it’s time to ask where the fuck is Notah, the White Comanche? This whole thing is because a guy named the White Comanche is causing problems outside of this town. And now we have this whole other story about the General and this Grimes character. While the two groups fight it out, what’s Shatner doing? He starts by lying in bed, but then rides his horse into town with some weights that kicks up some sand and dust to make it hard for the two groups to see aim at each other in an attempt to stop people from dying…?
Anyway, the kid Shatner helped earlier gets shot when, like a fucking moron, he comes walking out into the street while a full on gunfight is happening. Dummy.
The gunfight ends when the Sheriff kills the General guy. Grimes stumbles out of his saloon, but he falls dead from a gunshot sustained in the battle. The Sheriff and Johnny Moon look out onto the town’s main street and see nothing but dead bodies. They have a drink and we see that the Sheriff has been shot in the arm. Now, I’m no doctor, but in the Old West, a gunshot of any kind anywhere is nothing to just go and have a drink and talk to your new buddy William Shatner without having it looked at, operated on, and prayed upon to not cause death. Eh, what do I know.
We cut to another of Notah’s raids on an encampment of whites. So tits out Shatner approaches an injured warrior from his group and kills him because being weak has no place for them. This causes alarm among one of his most trusted warriors since he didn’t bury the man he killed. This same guy also scoffs at the idea of attacking Rio Hondo since this is mostly between Notah and his bro. It doesn’t stop the plans and Notah prepares to ride against Rio Hondo.
That night, Johnny goes into his room at the hotel/saloon/brothel to find Kelly waiting for him. She begs for the two of them to ride out of town before Notah comes to kill everyone. He says he has to stay in a very Shatnarian way and they make love.
She is having sex with a man who looks EXACTLY like a man who raped her. I don’t think I can be any clearer about how utterly fucked up this is.
Notah’s #2 rides away from the Comanche village to warn Rio Hondo about the impending attack. Unlucky for him, Notah’s woman was waiting to ambush him and kills him by throwing a knife into his back, and then tries to trample him with her horse, but not before he kills her. Back at their camp, Notah rallies his Comanches and they ride out to sack Rio Hondo.
Speaking of sacking, Kelly is shown in the morning with some serious after-sex hair while Johnny Moon ponders shit at the river outside of town. Johnny finds Notah’s #2 and he learns that Notah is coming with an army. While the town mourns the dead kid that died in the gunfight, Johnny prepares for his brother. He goes into the stall where his horse is stabled and uncovers something wrapped in burlap (I sincerely don’t believe we see exactly what this is nor is it shown again). As his brother’s army comes ever nearer, he builds Notah’s woman and his #2 a proper stand to give them a warrior’s funeral.
Notah’s group approaches and takes a look at the bodies. He claims this is what happens to those who oppose them. The group wants to burn their bodies but Notah knows it will warn the town. Notah carries on alone and says he will bring Johnny back so his body can burn with his squaw and his unborn child. Yeah, evil Shatner had a bun in his squaw’s oven. That was only kinda hinted at (at least as far as I can tell, like I knew she was pregnant but didn’t really make it that clear until she had been killed).
Notah rides through Rio Hondo calling for Johnny. They take a shot at each other once Johnny makes his whereabouts known. They face off, but not in the same shot. It’s just a bunch of shot/reverse shot because, as we have all lamented, there is only one Shatner and this movie is made by idiots. So they get on horses and ride at each other and shoot each at each other like jousting with guns. Now, they are both topless so it only adds more confusion which Shatner is which, as if it mattered since they are not shown in the same shot.
Anyway, one is killed. We learn it is Notah who lost.
Johnny promises to take Notah’s body back to the reservation and when he gets back he plans on shacking up with Kelly in Rio Hondo. Never mind that he just had to end his brother and dump his body at the feet of his tribe. Never mind that, again, Kelly is in love with a man who looks like a dude who raped her. Never mind that Rio Hondo has had nothing but death and heartbreak since Johnny came into town. Johnny Moon is the Captain Kirk of the Old West – once he’s arrived your life will never be the same so quit your bitchin’ and accept that.
I wouldn’t necessarily say this is a joyous or joyless bad movie to watch. It’s fun because it’s never short of action, but it’s not over the top like I would have expected by having two Shatners. It most certainly has all those things that we like to poke fun at with Shatner – the funny voice inflections when monologing, the bad fighting, the shirtlessness. But this movie isn’t just Italian – it’s like a bunch of aliens from different planets watched a western and then tried to write their own. It’s just a collection of cowboy like stuff what with the gunfights and saloons and Indians, but also has two competing stories trying to vie for the A plot pushing the whole White Comanche stuff to the B plot.
It makes for a surreal experience.