"COMPANEROS succeeds because of its excesses. Everyone but a handful of peasant students led by an ineffectual pacifist professor (Fernando Rey) is greedy and corrupt. The nominal bad guys don't simply kill the nominal good guys. Rather, in a manner that would do a James Bond film proud, they devise elaborate tortures that, as a rule, provide more opportunities for ingenious escapes than lingering deaths. If you're not convinced yet, one of the bad guys has an old-fashioned telephone mouthpiece grafted over his right ear. Franco Nero stars as a Swedish (!?) gun trader in turn of the century, revolution torn Mexico. Tomas Milian co-stars as an accidental revolutionary and the two are thrown together when an impenetrable safe, presumably filled with great riches, is discovered. Nero and Milian travel to Fort Yuma to kidnap the imprisoned Professor Xanthos (Rey), the students' hero and possessor of the combination that will open the safe. Along the way, besides developing into a buddy film with the grungy Milian and the fastidious Nero, our heroes must conquer various groups of federales, a fort full of American soldiers and, most dangerous of all, Jack Palance's group of freelancing mercenaries. Palance's character is one of the strangest... he's a pot-smoking wooden handed goon whose only friend is his pet falcon Marcia, who gnawed off his right hand to free him from a crucifixion death. If you find that more disturbing than absurdly humorous, COMPANEROS isn't for you, because that's pretty much of a piece with the spirit of this movie. COMPANEROS is fast moving and quite violent, but I found its exuberant, excessive and exaggerated violence as much fun as an old Warner Brothers cartoon or a James Bond movie. The disk also comes with 17-minutes worth of interviews with stars Nero and Milian and composer Ennio Morricone, who tells us that he conceived the choral themes for this movie as a "Gregorian chant with a reggae beat." Makes sense to me. "
A classic example of Italian Western
albemuth | 05/30/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Wonderfully extravagant political western with a lovely Morricone score. The characters, as one might expect, are overdone and hammed up, but this is one of the pleasures of Italian westerns of the time. Like Leone, Corbucci's view of the west is highly stylized, violent and compulsively entertaining. Depending on your preferences this could well be a crude film with bad acting but if you are tuned to the right frequency the film delivers: it is a classic of this particular sub-genre, made with passion and high voltage energy, and in my opinion it also is Corbucci's finest entry along Il Grande Silenzio. It's not up to Leone's standards, but then again, what could be? Worth the admission, but you do need to enjoy this brand of extravagance."
Swedish Bullets and Cuban Berets
Raymond Rice | Presque Isle, ME USA | 09/25/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Although "The Great Silence" may well be Corbucci's best spaghetti western, "Companeros" is surely his most enjoyable-- and probably the closest he ever comes to vivid characterization in his films. Franco Nero's Yodlaf Peterson (aka "The Swede") is an amusing riff on the Gringo figure with "much money but not much heart" (to borrow a line from "A Bullet for the General"). And Nero clearly enjoys playing off Tomas Milian's sometimes buffoonish yet always committed "El Vasco" (meaning "beret," which Milian wears throughout the entire film, Che Guevera style, only taking it off during his marriage ceremony to Iris Berben)--the two generate a chemistry that seldom occurs in spaghetti westerns, especially the highly political ones. ("A Bullet for the General" explores the growing alienation between the Gringo and the revolutionary, for instance; "Faccia a Faccia" documents the growing horror of the bandit for the Western intellectual; and "The Big Gundown" shows grudging respect between the American sheriff and the Mexican outlaw against the forces of capital--but no real friendship.) Significantly, the film ends with the true *beginning* of friendship-- "Companeros" turns from an ironic statement by "Il Penguino" (the Swede) to one of political commitment and personal investment. Against the amoral greed of prior Gringo characters (starting with Eastwood's "Man with No Name"), Yodlaf learns by the end of the film that there is something more important than the self. By naming himself a "companeros," he effectually rejects the greed and apoliticism typical to the role.Ennio Moriconne's music is outstanding, and, as he says in an interview in the disk's "extras," he intentionally worked to create a unique "style" for Corbucci's film, one far different from the haunting score he had just provided for Leone's "Once Upon a Time in the West." Unfortunately, Corbucci's camerawork is generally undistinguished, perhaps because he was no longer working with his longtime collaborator Enzo Barboni, who had gone on to make his own films. Alejandro Ulloa's photography is far less accomplished and stylish (perhaps a reason why he worked almost entirely in low-budget, exploitative films). Overall, a highly enjoyable movie, although the pacing (as is often the case with Corbucci's works) is at times lumbering. One particularly interesting feature of Anchor Bay's print is its inclusion of the expository "backstory" of how Milian's character receives his nickname at the film's opening (the US version cuts right from the opening gunfight back in time to Yodlaf's arrival, several weeks earlier, in San Bernadino). It's a wonderful five minute sequence, reminiscent of his "Tepepa" role-- and a shame that American viewers have been unable to appreciate it for thirty years."
Diego Cordoba | 09/01/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In my opinion this is Corbucci's best western (though some of you out there will think it was The Great Silence). It features an amazing musical score by Ennio Morricone who went beyond the usual stuff he did for the other great Sergio (Leone, the master). Franco Nero, who always wanted to shoot these films in english, but was handicapped by his heavy accent, plays a foreigner, in this case a Swede as opposed to the Polish he played on Corbucci's The Mercenary (aka A Professional Gun in the states). It also features another great actor with Tomas Milian who always went beyond his acting duties by playing the most extreme and colorful characters, in this case palying a mexican bandit that seems to have been inspired on Che Guevara (!). Let's not forget Jack Palance as the pot-smoking baddie, cruel enough to give anyone the creeps. Centered on the mexican revolution, this film is full of surprises and, akin to most spaghetti westerns of the time, twists of all sorts. Though Corbucci can't overcome the fact of adding some sort of humorous gag every now and then (after all he started as a gagman on italian films). Highly recommended, as it's chockful of action as well. The only let down is that Anchor Bay couldn't get hold of a complete dubbed version, so you'll see some bits of the film in italian with english subtitles (reason why I only give it four stars instead of the five it deserves). Other wise, the extras are great; we see interviews with both Nero and Milian. And it's also uncut and uncensored (and widescreen, of course). You won't regret buying this one, so do yourself a favor, and BUY IT!"
HOME SWEDE HOME
wdanthemanw | Geneva, Switzerland | 01/04/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Shot in the Spanish desert near Almeria, with an international cast of Italian, Spanish, Cuban, German and American actors, COMPANEROS describes maybe the reality of the American West of the XIXth and the early XXth century in a better way than the traditional Hollywood western. As Franco Nero points it out with accuracy during the 17 minutes interview added by Anchor Bay, the men portrayed in the westerns were European immigrants who mustn't be conversant with the English language. That's the reason the Italian actor didn't want to be dubbed in the American version of this 1970 Sergio Corbucci movie.
COMPANEROS deserves a pride of place in your DVD library, let's say between the first Leone's westerns and Damiani's A BULLET FOR THE GENERAL or THE GREAT SILENCE of Corbucci also. Nero, Milian and Palance give superb performances and the movie could have been entitled THE BAD, THE SWEDE AND THE DUMB without putting to shame Sergio Leone. The social and political pan of COMPANEROS is smartly treated by Corbucci and doesn't sound as an exposure of the American politics in Mexican affairs as it could have been. Corbucci suggests but never gives lessons.
All in all, a good job from Anchor Bay whose spaghetti westerns collection is a must-have for any movie lover.