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When transplanted Texan Bob Seton arrives in Lawrence, Kansas he finds much to like about the place, especially Mary McCloud, daughter of the local banker. Politics is in the air however. It's just prior to the civil war and there is already a sharp division in the Territory as to whether it will remain slave-free. When he gets the opportunity to run for marshal, Seton finds himself running against the respected local schoolteacher, William Cantrell. Not is what it seems however. While acting as the upstanding citizen in public, Cantrell is dangerously ambitious and is prepared to do anything to make his mark, and his fortune, on the Territory. When he loses the race for marshal, he forms a group of raiders who run guns into the territory and rob and terrorize settlers throughout the territory. Eventually donning Confederate uniforms, it is left to Seton and the good citizens of Lawrence to face Cantrell and his raiders in one final clash. Written by
Opening credits: Some portions of this photoplay are based upon actual incidents in the lives of its principal characters. All other events and characters are fictitious, and any similarity to actual events or persons is coincidental. See more »
Throughout the film, Colt Single Action Army revolvers (commonly known as Peacemakers) are used by various actors including John Wayne, Roy Rogers, and George 'Gabby' Hayes. This revolver was not produced until the 1870s. The film is set in the late 1850s and 1860s. See more »
Bob 'Shortcut' Seton:
[accepting Cantrell's dinner invitation]
This is the first time I've had two kinds of bird for dinner - turkey to eat, and buzzard to look at.
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Opening credits prologue: In those years, 1859 and on, in the dusk before the nation plunged into the red night of civil warfare, the plains of Kansas were an earlier battleground. Down from the north, down to Kansas: up from the south, up to Kansas, came hordes - each bent on voting the territory into the Union as its own. The battle cry of the day was - - "On to Kansas." See more »
Although 'Dark Command' reads like a 'Who's Who' of Westerns (John Wayne, Roy Rogers, Gubby Hayes, Clare Trevor etc), the real 'star' is its writer - William Riley (WR) Burnett.
He created a vivid moral fable of the wild west - William Cantrell (Pidgeon)gives up the role of good School teacher to become a ruthless bushwacker and gunrunner. In the opposite corner is the illiterate Bob Seton (Wayne) who keeps the Faith and becomes town marshall. Both want to achieve things and get the same girl before the Civil War strikes(Trevor)
Seton stands up for right even if it means losing friends and the girl, whilst Cantrell will stop at nothing to make a difference and as his Mother (Main) remarks "the Devil is walking with you". The title of the movie must say it all for W R Burnett.
The picture is not only gripping but hilarious and good hearted in parts. Gubby Hayes is superb as Seton's Dentist/Barber/Butcher and is responsible for most of the humour and keeps your interest when the film starts to fade.
For Western fans, 'Dark Command' is a must - to see Wayne, Rogers, Hayes & Trevor together should not be missed. But general moviegoers should try and catch it if they can - to see the work of the man who (amongst others) penned 'Little Caesar', 'High Sierra', 'The Alsphalt Jungle' and of course 'The Great Escape' (all great titles!)and frankly any movie that has the line "Jumping Catfish - I can give up Barbering!" has got to be worth a looksee.
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