“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.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Doctors and Nurses
- James Whitmore Films
- Mistaken Identities
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.
Note: 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.