= Highest Rating
Nero and Sergio Corbucci, star and director of
Django, re-team for this
jaunty, action-packed spaghetti western, this
time with an emphasis on humor. Throw in Jack
Palance as a bizarre pot-smoking heavy, flavor
with a robust Ennio Morricone score, and you get
a fun, decidedly offbeat adventure south of the
Rio Grande, Italian style.
Nero plays Yolaf Petersen,
a Swedish dandy and soldier of fortune who arrives
in post-World War One Mexico to complete a lucrative
arms deal. His client is "General" Mongo (Francisco
Bódalo), a thuggish bandit chief who disguises
his pillaging under the cloak of a people's revolution
against the oppressive Federales. "The
Swede" could care less about Mongo's motives —
all he's concerned with is his payment, which
amounts to a substantial chunk of the money in
the Banco de San Bernadino. Mongo tells his men
that the loot will pay for Petersen's cache of
munitions and further the revolution; in truth
the bandito intends to split it with him
and disappear, letting him keep the arms consignment...
provided the European can open the bank's impregnable,
The Swede informs Mongo that
the best way to open the vault is to get the combination.
(Duh!) Not the brightest of brigands, Mongo has
stupidly had the bank staff shot, leaving only
one person alive who knows it — Professor Xantos
(Fernando Rey), a Ghandi-like intellectual who
is a true champion of revolution to the people.
Problem is, Xantos is across the border in Texas,
where American authorities keen to maintain Mexico's
turbulent status quo are holding him incommunicado.
The Swede offers to go and spring Xantos to gain
the vault's combination. Mongo assigns one of
his lieutenants, the uncouth, uneducated but sly
Vasco (Tomas Milian) to accompany Petersen and
watch his every move. On the way this disparate
duo runs afoul of both the Federales and
John (Palance), a cutthroat bounty hunter whom
Petersen once double-crossed. Certifiably psycho,
John — who smokes the most joints on film since
Easy Rider and keeps
a pet hunting falcon named Marsha (!) — wants
nothing more than to see the Swede dead.
culminates with a big, running gun battle where
Nero gets to go into One Man Army mode, brandishing
a machinegun Django-style and mowing down half
of Mongo's men; Milian's Vasco bags the other
half. Though Nero is top-billed, Milian gets pretty
much the same amount of screen time — this is
a Buddy film in the most literal sense (hence
the title!) and the quirky, Che Guevara-like character
of Vasco has many of the best scenes. There's
quite a bit of humor here, some of it quite broad;
this is by no means a somber and serious action
dirge, laden with heavy-handed politics, like
Sergio Leone's Duck,
You Sucker (which loosely shares some of Compañeros'
plot elements). It's a Corbucci film, of course,
so there is a leftist political theme,
but it's as comic book simplistic as the action.
The two lead actors play off each other quite
well, making most of the comedy work. And Jack
Palance is a real hoot — in his long list of movie
bad guys this has got to be one of his hands-down
weirdest performances. (Perhaps he was tokin'
on the real stuff during the shoot.) One scene
in the movie is a real anachronistic groaner,
though... I was incredulous at American army officers
— supposedly in the days of Gen. "Black Jack"
Pershing — wearing World War Two uniforms and
sporting 1970s-style long hair and sideburns.
aside, with its brawling action scenes, offbeat
characters and plentiful humor, Compañeros
is a thoroughly enjoyable adventure-comedy.
Bay comes through here for spaghetti western fans.
An entertaining featurette, In the Company
of Compañeros (17 min.), contains interviews
with Nero, Milian and composer Ennio Morriconi
reminiscing on the production, interwoven with
clips from the finished product. The disc also
features onscreen talent bios (for the two main
stars, Palance, Morriconi and director Corbucci)
and a theatrical trailer that makes Compañeros
look more serious than it truly is. As
for the film itself, this is the uncut version
complete with scenes that were never dubbed into
English; these segments are in Italian with English
subtitles, most of which come right after the
credits in the form of some backstory narration
by the Swede. (About 95% of the movie is in English.)
But unlike most of Anchor Bay's Italian films,
the entire Italian dialog track (with complete
English subtitles) is also included. The
widescreen (2.35:1) presentation looks very nice
and is enhanced for 16x9 TVs. Some print damage
is evident for a few minutes during Chapter 17,
however. Sound is unfortunately only digital mono
— it would've been nice to hear those distinctive
spaghetti western gunshots, not to mention Morricone's
score — in stereo.
The AB edition reviewed here has gone OOP; Blue
Underground is scheduled to release an identical
version in July 2007.