Film Review: Keoma (1976)

Also known as: Django Rides Again, Django Returns (both US informal titles), Desperado (US cut version), Keoma: The Avenger (US dubbed version), Coolman Keoma (West Germany video title)
Release Date: November 25th, 1976 (Italy
Directed by: Enzo G. Castellari
Written by: Mino Roli, Nico Ducci, Luigi Montefiori, Enzo G. Castellari, Joshua Sinclair (dialogue – uncredited)
Music by: Guido & Maurizio De Angelis
Cast: Franco Nero, William Berger, Olga Karlatos, Woody Strode

Uranos Cinematografica, Far International Films, 101 Minutes (original), 85 Minutes (US cut version)

Review:

“I need to find out who I am. To give the simplest of my actions a reason. I know by being in this world has some significance, but I’m afraid that when I found out what it is, it will be too late. In the meantime, I’m a vagabond. I keep traveling. Even when the earth sleeps, I keep traveling… chasing shadows.” – Keoma

Who doesn’t want to watch a movie where Franco Nero and his chiseled visage and dreamy eyes take on the appearance of Jesus of Nazareth as a badass gunslinger? Okay, he isn’t Jesus of Nazareth, he is Keoma, but damn, he looks like some sort of spaghetti western Messiah here to save us from mundane and derivative spaghetti schlock. I mean, it’s like Jesus and the original Django had a baby and gave him tight pants, a cool hat and some big guns. Never has a man looked so manly, so pretty and exuded some sort of mystical sexual fire by simply standing within the frame of scratchy and grainy celluloid.

I’ll admit, I have never seen Keoma, even though I am a big fan of Nero and spaghetti westerns. Now that I have, it is pretty high up on my list of Nero gunslinger pictures. Man, he is so damn good in this and his gaze is chilling when he needs to communicate that he’s coming for your ass. Franco Nero just has a presence and never has that presence been as strong as it is here, even if he isn’t spraying down dozens of evil soldiers with a giant Gatling gun yanked out of a casket.

The film is directed by Enzo G. Castellari, a guy not necessarily known for quality but known for having a real sense of style and accomplishing a lot with very little. The man made magic with the 1978 film The Inglorious Bastards, a film that inspired Quentin Tarantino to “borrow” its title. He also did the extremely low budget but impressive 1990: Bronx Warriors, a sort of Italian ripoff of Walter Hill’s classic The Warriors.

Keoma is damn good for what it is. It isn’t just a throwaway spaghetti western in a sea of similar films. It is ballsy and gritty and showcases the great Franco Nero in his best kind of role. It is also one of the best films Enzo G. Castellari ever directed.

Rating: 8/10

Film Review: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

Release Date: April 22nd, 1962
Directed by: John Ford
Written by: James Warner Bellah, Willis Goldbeck
Based on: a short story by Dorothy M. Johnson
Music by: Cyril J. Mockridge, Alfred Newman
Cast: John Wayne, James Stewart, Vera Miles, Lee Marvin, Edmond O’Brien, Andy Devine, Woody Strode, John Qualen, Jeanette Nolan, Ken Murrary, John Carradine, Lee Van Cleef

Paramount Pictures, 123 Minutes

the_man_who_shot_liberty_valanceReview:

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is regarded as one of John Wayne’s best westerns. It is hard to argue against that point because truthfully, I think just about every John Wayne western is one of his best, as making bad films was something he never seemed to do. Okay, maybe there are a few.

In this movie, he’s teamed up with legends James Stewart and Lee Marvin, as well as Lee Van Cleef and John Carradine in minor roles. That’s a lot of bad asses to share one screen and it is almost like an Expendables film for its era, except for the fact that it’s actually a good movie.

This is one of my favorites when it comes to the role John Wayne plays. As usual, he is the suave manly man but this time he plays somewhat of a protector to James Stewart’s pacifist lawyer character. This is one of my favorite James Stewart performances, outside of his work with Hitchcock, and he almost steals this picture away from John Wayne. Lee Marvin is also at the top of his game here, as he plays a classic black-wearing western villain that you can’t not love to hate.

This film has a lot of layers to it and it isn’t just a straightforward cookie cutter western film. That is why it stands above most of the westerns of that time. There are a handful of John Wayne films I like better but not by much. This is a stupendous movie and it shows off the acting mastery of three greats.

There is a bigger message with this movie than just being a shoot ’em up affair or a typical western revenge flick. There are multiple social commentary threads running through this film and they are all well executed and presented. While light-hearted at times, this film also comes with a very dark vibe, as the evil and corruption that must be overcome feel very real and very threatening.

Rating: 9/10

Film Review: Once Upon A Time In the West (1968)

Also known as: C’era una volta il West (Italy)
Release Date: December 21st, 1968 (Italy)
Directed by: Sergio Leone
Written by: Sergio Donati, Sergio Leone, Mickey Knox, Dario Argento, Bernardo Bertolucci
Music by: Ennio Morricone
Cast: Claudia Cardinale, Henry Fonda, Jason Robards, Charles Bronson, Gabriele Ferzetti, Woody Strode

Rafran Cinematografica, Finanzia San Marco, Euro International Film, Paramount Pictures, 165 Minutes (international version), 175 Minutes (Director’s Cut)

once_upon_a_time_in_the_westReview:

Once Upon A Time In the West is currently ranked as No. 25 on IMDb’s Top 250 movies list. That makes it the 25th greatest film of all-time, as dictated by the votes of millions of IMDb users worldwide. Frankly, I think it is too low.

The fact is, I consider Sergio Leone’s The Good, The Bad and the Ugly to be the greatest film ever made. This movie, is just one very small step behind it. Once Upon A Time In the West is just about as flawless and as perfect as a film can be.

The direction by Sergio Leone is exactly what you would expect if you have seen any of his nearly immaculate films. The actors were working with a master and being as talented of a cast as they were, they all performed at their absolute best and gave audiences something gritty, real and straight from the heart. Every talent in this movie conveyed raw, honest and sincere emotion. Acting like this only comes across in a film once in a blue moon and it is even rarer if Sergio Leone, Stanley Kubrick or Akira Kurosawa aren’t in the director’s chair.

Continuing on about the stellar acting, Charles Bronson owns this film and has never been better. For a guy as talented as he is, this is certainly his magnum opus. He is a likable bad ass who carries some serious emotional baggage and a lust for revenge that is never fully revealed until the end of the film.

Henry Fonda is so good as the evil bastard Frank, that he may be one of the greatest villains in cinematic history. I couldn’t help but hate him and appreciate the acting prowess of Fonda in this dastardly role.

Jason Robards was another great addition to this cast as Cheyenne. He was kind and caring and still a bit of a bad ass as well. He needed to be, sharing the screen with Bronson and Fonda. The trichotomy of these characters was on par with the intense and intertwined relationship of the three title characters in Leone’s The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.

Rounding out the cast was Italian actress and model, Claudia Cardinale. She was mesmerizingly gorgeous in a way that I have never experienced in any other film. She is still the most beautiful actress and presence that I have ever seen in any film and she owned this movie like no other actress could. She had an incredibly tough task to accomplish in taking on this role and she far exceeded what was needed, which is a testament to her talent, her beauty and the direction of Sergio Leone.

Yes, I am pimping the hell out of this film. I can’t help it. When I am this passionate about something so flawless and so spectacular, it is hard for me to tone it down. There are very few films that I can consider perfect. This is one of those films.

Rating: 10/10