KEOMA / TEXAS, ADIOS
Argent's Region 2 Edition
Enzo G. Castellari
Franco Nero, Woody Strode, William Berger, Donald O'Brien
Reviewed by Mark Frost
quite safe to say that to most people, Spaghetti Westerns begin and end
with Sergio Leone.
‘Dollars’ trilogy (A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More
and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly) was so revolutionary that
they changed Westerns overnight, effectively saying goodbye to the
American Western – leaving it with nowhere to go, and ushering in a new
breed of film that is still being made today.
what if you want to look beyond Sergio Leone and discover more of the
genre – where would you start? In the ten-year period following A
Fistful of Dollars’ release, literally thousands of Spaghettis were
made. What with all of your Ringo’s, Sabata’s and Trinty’s,
it can be quite a daunting prospect.
always suggest starting with the work of Franco Nero, an excellent actor
who never quite got the break he needed in America. His breakthrough role
overseas came in the form of Django, a dirty, atmospheric Western
that really showed what the genre was capable of. Over the next few years
he was involved in other great entries in the cycle, including
Companeros, A Professional Gun, and what I believe to be the
finest non-Leone Spaghetti Western ever made – Keoma: The Violent Breed.
Keoma (Franco Nero), a battle weary half breed, returns home after many
years away fighting in the civil war, to discover that his home town has
been overrun by Caldwell, a ruthless land owner. The plague has descended
upon the area and Caldwell, with Keoma’s three half brothers in his
employ, uses this as an excuse to drive the inhabitants out and seize
control of the town.
Keoma must free his hometown from the viscous stranglehold, save the life
of a pregnant widow, and try to salvage the relationship between himself
and his family.
1976, when Keoma was made, the Spaghetti Western was all but
finished. The same people who had created it had also killed it off, with
each entry being more cruel, masochistic and inhuman than the last. Sergio
Leone had added a hint of sadistic violence to his Westerns and made the
world sit up and take notice, Italian producers could not see beyond this
to the style and talent of Leone, so they proceeded to churn out film
after film based on violence and not much else.
the early seventies the genre had evolved, and directors were using the
medium as a portal to vent their political opinions, often telling a story
that had parallels with modern day Italy or Mexico. Some truly great
Westerns were produced over this period - Face to Face, A Bullet
for the General – but the big budget Hollywood entry A Fistful of
Dynamite signalled the death of this offshoot. Not forgetting the
introspective efforts such as Once Upon A Time in the West and
My Name Is Nobody that looked at the genre from the outside in,
deconstructing the conventions and not treating the old West as myth, but
the Western itself.
where had the Western left to go? It had turned in every direction it
could, destined to run out of steam until it was left looking back at
itself. The answer was back to the start, but with knowledge of the road
it had travelled.
Nothing about Keoma is tired and expected. It takes you completely
by surprise on the first viewing. If this is supposed to be a Western,
then why is the town surrounded by lush green hills?
filmmakers’ love for the genre is obvious from the outset, with what looks
like every energy thrown into making this last hurrah something to
remember. Director Enzo G. Castellari composes every frame with care,
creating a film full of consistently impressive compositions that are both
visually striking and meaningful. Tired conventions of the Spaghetti are
given a new lease of life – the flashbacks ingeniously keep you within the
timeframe of the story without bringing the film to a halt; the violence
is spectacularly shot in an obviously-Peckinpah-inspired style that
manages to be both fresh and welcome; and the ‘lone man’ motif employed
here, as in nearly all that preceded, is used not just for laconic effect
but for the very narrative structure itself.
content with a solid Western story, Castellari infuses the piece with an
existential quality, creating characters that are literal representations
of life and death, affecting the players who cross their path. This search
for a deeper meaning should have made the picture an embarrassing mess,
but the supreme confidence in what the filmmakers were making has actually
given the movie an edge over similar efforts, with you as the viewer
searching for significant meaning in compositions, characters and
freely admits that he borrowed from Peckinpah, Bergman, Leone, etc.
Regardless, he has managed to fashion a superb mix of all these influences
and his own talent to create a film that excels in so many areas. I
challenge you to find a better use of extended slow motion in conjunction
with score to create the heart pounding moment when Keoma’s father
Yes, you heard me right – I praised the score. The most controversial
aspect of Keoma is the music supplied by the De Angelis Brothers.
You will find it very hard to track down a review of Keoma that
doesn’t slate the soundtrack. Those expecting the typical Morricone-style
guitar twangs and harmonica will get quite a surprise. What you get
instead is something akin to Kate Bush being chased through a tube tunnel
with a TASER. The first taste you get of the score is bewildering – a
woman screams and warbles her way through lyrics that, for the most part,
actually tell us what is happening and what that character may be thinking
at that time, no matter how obvious. The first time you hear it it’s
off-putting, to say the least, but I personally believe it is massively
important element, the kind that sets Keoma apart from the
competition, rendering it the unique experience that it is. After multiple
watches I wouldn’t have it any other way.
A large nod
must be given to the main cast. Apart from the aforementioned Franco Nero,
there is William Berger – veteran of many Spaghettis, and totally
believable as Keoma’s father, even though he and Franco Nero are almost
the same age. And, in his last great role, it is Sergeant Rutledge
himself – Woody Strode – playing the family friend George, an ex-slave who
has turned to drink in the years Keoma has been away. Strode is
magnificent, giving the character great dignity and enough weight to
shoulder the social subplot, concerning the racism that George and
half-Indian Keoma suffer from the three brothers.
film is presented in anamorphic 2:35:1 widescreen, at an average bitrate
of 6.98Mb/s. The image is washed out and quite blurry. The film has
obviously not been re-mastered, as many imperfections appear on the
screen, from dust, to burns to excessive grain.
is not all doom and gloom, however – it is perfectly watchable, and
certainly the best it has been available in Britain. The reason I am
negative is because it suffers by comparison - I was horrified to see that
the clips shown in the two interviews on the disc show detailed contrast
and sharpness, outperforming the actual film image. How on earth is this
allowed to happen?
Secondly, Anchor Bay has released a region 1 version with far superior
picture quality. The image on the American disc is warm and detailed, not
remastered, but very stable and highly agreeable to those who only sampled
the film on VHS. Argent has missed an opportunity here.
Nobody puts a Spaghetti Western in their player expecting a perfect
quality soundtrack. Due to the recording techniques and dubbing employed,
the tracks tend to be a bit shaky – but that’s all part of the experience
and should not be penalised. The audio here is mono at 192kbps and sounds
adequate. It doesn’t excel in any department but is clear and reliable.
It’s the original soundtrack, unmolested, and that’s all that matters.
Apart from the assorted trailers of coming attractions from Argent, there
are two extras on the disc:
Interview with Enzo G. Castellari (15m 16s) -
Castellari obviously has a great love for this film, and is hugely proud
of it. The interview is just one camera shot interspersed with clips, in
which Castellari tells anecdotes about the filming – informing us that
they threw out the script before shooting and made up the story one day at
a time, with the whole cast helping. There is a lovely anecdote about
Woody Strode that almost brings the interviewee to tears.
Introduction by Alex Cox (5m 16s) -
I’ve always got time for
Alex Cox when it comes to Spaghetti Westerns, as the BBC Moviedrome
showing of Django Kill was what got me interested in Spaghetti
Westerns past Leone. Not to mention the fact that he has made his own –
Straight To Hell.
doesn’t really say anything too meaningful here, but given that he’s only
got 5 minutes, you can’t blame him.
As I stated
in the first paragraph, this is my favourite non-Leone Spaghetti Western
so I am a little bias when it comes to recommending this film. The disc
itself from Argent I cannot recommend so heartily, as there is a better
option in the form of the region 1 Anchor
Bay disc. The region 2 gains the
Enzo G. Castellari interview and the Alex Cox introduction, but loses the
director’s commentary and Franco Nero interview from the US disc.
But, if you only have a region 2 player, then you really have no excuse
not to get this fantastic film presented on an acceptable disc.
Franco Nero, Alberto Dell'Acqua, Livio Lorenzon
Reviewed by Matt West
Franco Nero. What a terrific name. It sounds almost like a Bingo call. If
you’ve not heard of Franco Nero then allow me to help you out – he was in
DIE HARD 2. I’ll be amazed if the DVD box of this film doesn’t say that:
“Franco DIE HARD 2 Nero”. Tsk. The man is, was, and always shall be a
legend… probably one of Italy’s greatest stars. And in this film you can
see the seeds being sown for his later, greater, Keoma.
Enough about Franco Nero, the hero.
Texas, Adios (the
title on this particular print of the film) is pretty much a
run-of-the-mill Western. There’s nothing particularly outstanding about it
– all the elements are in place: Sheriff quits his job to get revenge on
the man that killed his father, and takes his little brother with him.
Massive Empire Strikes Back-style ending with a twist. And we even
have the townspeople armed and fighting back.
It’s difficult to pinpoint the appeal of
It’s a very easy, very fluid film to watch with a terrific soundtrack and
occasional surprising direction.
When I was at college with fellow Zeta Minor reviewer Mark Frost – we
started to buy up as many of the Spaghetti Western videos as we could. Not
the Hollywood junk – but stuff like
Bullet For The General, Keoma and Django etc. The
major appeal being that they were budget priced videos and in widescreen.
We never got a bad one. They were all watchable.
times have moved on now. That’s well over ten years ago and DVD has since
taken over. It’s taken quite a while for those films to come back to us in
the new format and one would expect them to be nothing short of amazing –
Well, in the case of
Texas, Adios we
have some sorry news. I was really looking forward to seeing this disc
with a crisp new transfer, Italian dialogue, all the pixel-sharp Franco
Nero money can buy. I couldn’t be more disappointed with the transfer on
this disc. It’s almost like watching a £5 Petrol Station DVD… and yet it
really shouldn’t be. Other Italian cinema, especially the giallo and the
horror titles, are getting incredible releases from the likes of Anchor
Bay, Blue Underground and even Media Blasters.
film is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic format, with Dolby Digital 2.0
audio (at 192kbps), split into thirteen chapters. The bitrate lingers
around the low sixes and rarely braves the sevens during the main feature.
However the non-skippable logos at the start of the film are presented in
glorious 8Mb/s!! Even the black bits.
menu is gorgeous. Garish, and retro with a stylised dirt and film grain
look. That is until you play the film and realise that that’s exactly
what you’re getting! There’s a two and a half minute trailer on the disc
as well, which seems to have been sourced from slightly better materials.
That’s your only extra – in spite of Nero and Baldi still being alive.
am really disappointed with this disc and hopefully it’s not a sign of
things to come from new boys Argent. The A-side of this disc features
KEOMA. This seems to have had much better treatment.
Good luck, Argent – we’re
all counting on you.