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November 21, 2014

Movie Review: Companeros (1970)

Directed by Sergio Corbucci

Movie Review by Greg Goodsell

Franco Nero is a most unlikely Swedish arms dealer named Yodlaf Peterson out to make easy money in revolutionary 19th Century Mexico. Franco's English track voice has a defiantly Italian accent – of no consequence, it just adds to the fun). Eurotrash favorite Tomas Milian plays a Mexican bandito out to have good time, and give Yodladf a hard time along the way. Both are recruited by the local warlord to retrieve a pacifist college Professor Xantos(Fernando Rey) who holds the combination to a safe that holds gold bullion to fund the ongoing revolution. Nero and Milian trek great distances to Texas in order to spring the professor, playing a series of practical jokes on each other along the way. Jack Palance, as a one-armed villain with faithful pet falcon – he could have walked off the set of the “Batman” TV series – is out to get both of them.

Many have cited Companeros as their favorite “spaghetti western.” It's an easy film to like: very light on plot, powered by the charisma of its two male leads. Both Nero and Milian thwart disaster at the last minute at every turn, but make no mistake: director Sergio Corbucci was the mastermind behind the brutally nihilistic The Great Silence (1968). Companeros has a moral that many would disagree with, that violence is frequently necessary to protect the good and innocent. But fear not, as the film is not intended as a sermon, but as an undemanding popcorn muncher.

Blue Underground has done a blue-ribbon job with their Blu-Ray release. There is the English language version of the film at 115 minutes, as well as the Italian language version at 119 minutes. This makes the English language version a bit superfluous, eh wot? There are subtitle options in English, Spanish and French as well as English and Italian audio options. The Italian version is revelatory if you play it with English subtitles; the subtitles have a lot of information not shared on the audio. “You can stay at this hotel,” in the spoken version, becomes “You can stay at the hotel here, although it smells of piss!” in the subtitles.

There are extras galore: There is a separate audio commentary with journalists. Courtney Joyner and Henry Parke. There is also the documentary, “In the Company of Companeros." Nero, Milian and composer Ennio Morricone – providing yet another classic film score. This brief docu goes into the serious man-crushes Corbucci and Nero had on one another. Corbucci once remarked on Nero's distinctive blue eyes “as blue ponds that will make me a lot of money!”

There are also international and domestic trailers and TV sport and a lengthy, extensive posters and still gallery. Just as its heroes Nero and Milian get lost in the expansive European desert, the Blu-Ray of Companeros likewise invites fans of this title to get lost in the deep-dish presentation of this old favorite. What are you waiting for?

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