I’ve had a great time this past year learning and appreciating Italian Westerns. It’s a learning process; you know what the “good” ones are. You’ve seen them a thousand times on network TV growing up and can sing the Ennio Morricone score that accompanies it even if you can’t remember the plot of the damn movie. But what about movies that may NOT star Clint Eastwood? You see I was raised on spaghetti, not Spaghetti Westerns. There is a learning curve and being exposed to new stuff including our featured title from Blue Underground as well as B.U.’s recent release of Man, Pride and Vengeance, Grindhouse Releasing The Big Gundown and Arrow’s release of Day of Anger. A few years back I started to explore Shaw Bros movies and Kung Fu cinema and in that minor immersion I learned a great deal and came out with a serious desire to collect the available titles from the Bros. Companeros has inspired a similar sense of wonderment and intrigue. It is by far my favorite Italian Western so far though I must admit that my viewing scope has been limited.
What Companeros brings to the table is a sense of humor. This is a lighthearted film with a dark chewy center that evolves and plays from romance to espionage flick to revenge picture. At the helm is a triumvirate of Western fame, Franco Nero who played the immortal Django, Tomas Milian and Jack Palance as the big ol’ bad guy. If watching movies from the 1970’s taught you anything, it’s that Jack Palance is one sadistic mofo, creepy and leathery even at his young age in the 1970’s I recall watching Ripley’s Believe It or Not as a kid, narrative by Palance followed by seeing him as a mobster in Burton’s Batman and finally in City Slickers. He never lost his creep, and in Companeros he is an evil bird toting, marijuana toking madman. He’s like a snake that sneaks up through a pile of brush to constrict you. Nero plays a Swedish arms dealer that comes off a little like a hapless James Bond with charm, mystery and an almost debonair quality. Quite the contrast from his role in Django or in Man, Pride and Vengeance. Milian opposite Nero balances out the comedy with a more serious role playing the polar opposite of the Swedish arms dealer, a fighter engaged in an act of revolution for freedom.
There a near perfect slapstick counterbalance between Nero and Milian and yet by the end of the picture you can take all involved quite seriously. Where as Nero plays the comic action anti-hero through the first two acts, he evolves into a strong moral character. Milian follows suite, becoming a romantic where a hoodlum might have stood earlier in the film. Where Palance begins as a villain with a schtick, he ends with as a sadistic, powerful force of will, a madman to be reckoned with instead of a pushover.
Sergio Corbucci creates his perfect, Mexican fight for freedom balanced with love and the imperfection of man. The comedy may be a side show to the dramatic, action-packed presentation, but it helps to provide the viewer the chance to love the characters. Where Corbucci has shined with his creation of Django, Companeros is a complex picture put together of characters and not plot points.
The Blue Underground presentation includes the English and Italian versions (the Italian version being longer by 4 minutes). The disc includes an audio commentary with journalists C. Courtney Joyner and Henry Parke as well as interviews with Franco Nero, Tomas Milian and Composer Ennio Morricone whose score is brilliant as is the recurrent titular theme song. The international and Italian trailer are both included as well as a poster/still gallery. The picture is crisp, rich in color and contrast with good grain, minimal if any digital flaws (I did not notice any).
Companeros is an exciting picture that fills the screen with challenging landscapes and even more challenging, multi-dimensional characters. Companeros is more than spaghetti; this is tagliatelle with Bolognese sauce with Mexican spices and Swedish meatballs for desert. No Ikea here.
You can order the Blue Underground Blu-ray here:
Also available is the DVD with updated English language track:
Remember that Blue Undergound has specialized in bring you Italian Westerns from Four of the Apocalypse to the Django films to Keoma. Make sure to bath in the sand and grit:
From Blue Underground:
Yodlaf Peterson (Franco Nero of DJANGO) is a suave Swedish arms dealer with a love for fast money. Vasco (Tomas Milian of TRAFFIC) is a trigger-happy Mexican bandit with a hate for suave Swedish arms dealers. But when the two men team up to kidnap a professor who holds the key to a fortune in gold, they find themselves hunted by the American army, stalked by a marijuana-crazed sadist (Academy Award winner Jack Palance) and trapped in the middle of a revolution about to explode. Can these two enemies blast their way across Mexico together without killing each other first?
Written and directed by the legendary Sergio Corbucci (DJANGO, THE GREAT SILENCE), COMPANEROS is a once-in-a-lifetime teaming of the two greatest European stars in 'Spaghetti Western' history. Fernando Rey (THE FRENCH CONNECTION) and Karin Schubert (BLACK EMANUELLE) co-star in this action-packed comedy classic that also features a remarkable score by Ennio Morricone (THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY). Now freshly transferred in gorgeous High Definition from the original negative, COMPANEROS is presented here in both its English and full-length Italian Versions for the first time ever!
Audio Commentary with Journalists C. Courtney Joyner and Henry Parke
In The Company Of Companeros - Interviews with Stars Franco Nero & Tomas Milian and Composer Ennio Morricone
Poster & Still Gallery
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