Dark Command (1940)

Approved  |   |  Drama, Romance, Western  |  15 April 1940 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.9/10 from 1,596 users  
Reviews: 41 user | 20 critic

In Kansas, during the Civil War opposing pro-Union and pro-Confederate camps clash and visiting Texan Bob Seton runs afoul of William Cantrell's Raiders.



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Complete credited cast:
Fletch McCloud
Doc Grunch (as George Hayes)
Porter Hall ...
Mrs. Cantrell / Mrs. Adams
Raymond Walburn ...
Joe Sawyer ...
Bushropp (as Joseph Sawyer)
Helen MacKellar ...
Mrs. Hale
J. Farrell MacDonald ...
Mr. Hale


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 garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A drama of undying love


Drama | Romance | Western


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Parents Guide:





Release Date:

15 April 1940 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Comando Negro  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$1,000,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA "High Fidelity" Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


The character of Will Cantrell is loosely based on the real life Confederate guerrilla leader William Quantrill. Like Cantrell, Quantrill was born in Ohio, taught school in Lawrence, Kansas, became a guerrilla fighter on the Confederate side and burned Lawrence to the ground. However, the Confederacy eventually distanced itself from him and later revoked his commission and disowned him, because of his band's propensity for executing prisoners, massacring civilians, looting and raping. The real Quantrill died not at the hands of "Bob Seton" but during an ambush by a Union cavalry unit, Unable to escape on account of a skittish horse, he was shot in the back and paralyzed from the chest down. He was brought by wagon to Louisville, Kentucky and taken to the military prison hospital, located on the north side of Broadway at 10th Street. He died from his wounds on June 6, 1865, at the age of 27. See more »


Early in the picture, Franklin Pierce is president (1853-1857) and Kansas is not yet a state (admitted 1861). Angus McCloud announces he is going to Dodge City. Dodge City was founded in 1872. See more »


Andrew 'Doc' Grunch: That'll be four and half
Andrew 'Doc' Grunch: . Two for the tooth, two-and-a-half for the whiskey. You got another swig coming.
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Crazy Credits

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 »


Featured in That's Action (1977) See more »


Camptown Races
Written by Stephen Foster
Played at Cantrell's Camp
See more »

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User Reviews

Fascinating Wild West Moral Fable
1 July 2000 | by (Kent, England) – See all my reviews

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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