Tuesday, May 21, 2019
KEOMA: THE END OF AN ERA
In 1976 when the film KEOMA was being made the spaghetti western was in decline. All westerns were in decline actually with fewer being made each year. The once stalwart genre had fallen out of favor and in spite of that fact some great movies were being made. KEOMA was one of those.
After the Civil War Union solider Keoma (Franco Nero), half white/half Indian, heads for home but meets up with an apparent witch before getting there. She warns him of trouble ahead but he blazed on indifferent to her warning. Making his way to his hometown Keoma comes across a group of men shooting a group of Mexicans who try to escape and are then about to rape a pregnant woman, he rescues her and takes most of them out on his own, telling them to let their boss know he’s coming.
When he arrives home he finds a town that is nothing like before he left. Instead of a friendly mayor and townspeople the town is now controlled by a tyrant named Caldwell (Donald O’Brien). Caldwell is being aided by Keoma’s three half-brothers, brothers who have no love for Keoma. The bad guys here are complete racists treating the townspeople as if their lives mean nothing. They are rounding up the Hispanics in town to force them to work in the mines nearby, one group of which was the group Keoma found.
Keoma continues to defend the woman and offer her protection. While walking the streets he comes across an old drunk black man and recognizes him. George (Woody Strode) taught Keoma how to handle a knife and a bow and how to fight. His return encourages George and gives him hope that things will change.
Keoma takes time to visit his father William Shannon (William Berger) who welcomes him home. The same can’t be said for his brothers. The trio always resented Keoma, the half breed son their father brought home when his mother was slaughtered. A quick draw shot William taught all of his sons well and now wants to live his life in peace. But the actions of Caldwell aren’t likely to allow that to happen.
It isn’t long before family entanglements and revenge against Caldwell come into play as well as an attempt to save the town Keoma grew up in. Before the carnage ends we get plenty of slow motion action, flashbacks of years gone by and a satisfying ending that will please fans of the genre.
I’d seen this movie available for years in various incarnations. It seemed like everyone somehow was able to release their own version of the film. I’d never picked it up fearful that this meant it was terrible and perhaps some of those versions were. But Arrow has done an amazing job with this release as they are wont to do. To begin with their offering it in one of the cleanest prints ever with a 2K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative. Then they pile on the extras. Arrow is one company where the extras are worth watching.
The extras this time are more than enough to keep a viewer occupied for some time. They include a new audio commentary by spaghetti western experts C. Courtney Joyner and Henry C. Parke, THE BALLAD OF KEOMA a new interview with star Nero, AHSES TO ASHES DUST TO DUST a new interview with director Enzo Castellari, WRITING KEOMA a new interview with actor and writer Luigi Montefiori AKA George Eastman, PARALLEL ACTIONS a new interview with editor Gianfranco Amicucci, THE FLYING THUG a new interview with actor Massimo Vanni, PLAY AS AN ACTOR a new interview with actor Volfango Soldati, KEOMA AND THE TWILIGHT OF THE SPAGHETTI WESTERN a newly filmed video appreciation by academic Austin Fisher, an introduction to the film by Alex Cox, the original Italian and international trailers, a gallery of original promotional materials from the Mike Siegel Archive and a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sean Phillips. Odds are you won’t finish the movie and the extras in one sitting.
Fans of spaghetti westerns will adore this new release of the film. Everything from the acting to the directing make for an enjoyable film and a classic of the genre. And with Arrow presenting it in such impeccable shape perhaps this might be the best version of the film out there and worth adding to your collection.