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Dark Command (John Wayne Collection)

Released on 05 June 2006

Featuring: John Wayne, Claire Trevor & Walter Pidgeon

Format: DVD | Rating: Universal Suitable for All

5.0 out of 5 (1 customer review) | Write a review

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A Civil War tale based on the exploits of the notorious outlaw, Quantrill. The Duke plays a U.S. Marshal out to stop the cutthroat raider and his band. Based on the novel by W.R. Burnett.

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 Early Wayne A-Western for Republic with a big budget

| | See all gunfighter's reviews (1)

After Wayne hit the jackpot in John Ford's groundbreaking Western STAGECOACH (1939) he was quickly reunited with his co-star Claire Trevor in ALLEGHENY UPRISING (1939) and again here in the DARK COMMAND (1940). Directed by Raoul Walsh, the man who incidentally gave young Michael Morrison his first starring role as a very young "John Wayne" in THE BIG TRAIL (1929) but it was a box office failure and Wayne was relegated to mainly B-Westerns until rescued by John Ford.

The fact based story is from the period starting just before the outbreak of the American Civil War depicting growing tensions on the Kansas Missouri border leading up to the infamous William Quantrill and his guerrillas burning down the town of Laurence, Kansas on August 21 1863. Based on the novel by W R Burnett Will Cantrill (Walter Pidgeon) an ex-school teacher who organises a guerrilla band to carry out raids on the Kansas Missouri border country, whilst purporting to be on the side of the Confederates. Up against him is town marshal Bob Seaton (John Wayne) assisted by 'Doc' Grunch (George 'Gabby' Hayes). To complicate matters further Cantrill and Seaton are vying for the attention of local banker's daughter Mary McCloud (Claire Trevor), also caught up in the events is Mary's wayward trigger-happy brother Fletcher 'Fletch' McCloud (Roy Rogers). The film climaxes with Cantrill and his band of guerrillas attacking the town of Laurence, defended by Seaton and the townsfolk.

This early black and white Republic Western was one of its most successful and expensive films with a budget of three-quarters of a million dollars. The most famous scene in the film is where Seaton (Wayne) and Grunch (Hayes) up front, plus two others in a wagon being chased by Cantrill's gang, the wagon and horses are driven by Seaton over a cliff into the lake below. The scene was actually filmed by second unit director Joseph Kane with Yakima Cannut and Cliff Lyons doubling for Wayne and Hayes respectively. Other less careful second unit directors and stunt men copied this, leading to the formation of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The film gathered two Oscar nominations one to John Victor Makay for black and white Art Direction and the other to Victor Young for the Musical Score. The film was also of interest to see Roy Rogers out of his normal series Western role and to his credit didn't seem out of place at all.

This 2006 DVD Release through Universal. Excellent DVD transfer, with sharp clear sixty-five year old black and white images. Plus an added bonus of an excellent documentary on Wayne's early career YOUNG DUKE (The making of a movie star) Hosted by Leonard Maltin. All at a bargain price at Play.com

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ActorsJohn Wayne, Claire Trevor, Walter Pidgeon, Roy Rogers, George Hayes, Porter Hall, Marjorie Main, Raymond Walburn & Joe Sawyer
CertificateUniversal Suitable for All
Year1940
LanguagesEnglish - Dolby Digital (1.0) Mono
Duration1 hour 30 minutes (approx)
RegionRegion 2 - Will only play on European Region 2 or multi-region DVD players.