“I’ve got a uniform and a conscience. Right now, the uniform covers the conscience.”
A cavalry doctor (Guy Madison) reluctantly takes command of a troop when its officer dies, and must hide his real identity when asked to help Infantrymen escort a wagon train through hostile Indian territory.
Samuel Fuller co-wrote the screenplay for this shoot-’em-up cavalry flick about an “accidental” military leader (Madison) whose all-purpose savvy and willingness to think outside the box serve him well in highly stressful situations. Madison — star of the 1950s television series “The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok” — is well-cast in the central role as the humble yet brave doctor-turned-captain, while James Whitmore as his right-hand man is as solid as ever. Director David Butler makes fine use of new widescreen capabilities, with some impressive shots of a lengthy wagon train crossing the prairie, and a row of Indians perched along the ridge of a hill. Unfortunately, Fuller’s screenplay frequently devolves into cliche: Madison is given a conventional love interest (Joan Weldon); an annoying “comedic” wiseacre (Harvey Lembeck) insists on questioning Madison’s authority; and the Indians — who, naturally, lack any distinctive personalities — are repeatedly demeaned (Madison refers to them as possessing a “child’s logic” and “lacking civilization”). Otherwise, however, The Command remains an enjoyable western, and is certainly worth viewing once.
P.S. The Command is notable as the first widescreen western of the 1950s, and Warner Brothers’ first Cinemascope production
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Guy Madison as Dr. MacClaw
- James Whitmore as Sergeant Elliott
- Fine use of widescreen cinematography
- The exciting final shoot-out
No, but it’s certainly worth a look. Listed as a Sleeper in the back of Peary’s book.