July 29, 2019  (Web Review)

Keoma

Arrow, 101 min., in Italian w/English subtitles & English-dubbed, R, Blu-ray: $39.99

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

Franco Nero became a spaghetti Western star in the original Django (1966), which helped (along with Sergio Leone’s films starring Clint Eastwood) propel the genre of dusty, violent Italian Westerns into an international phenomenon. A decade later, as the genre was dying, Nero took the lead in the last memorable spaghetti Western. Directed by the prolific Enzo G. Castellari, a favorite of Quentin Tarantino (who appropriated the title of Castellari’s The Inglorious Bastards for his own World War II film), Keoma (1976) is a thoroughly cynical portrait of greed, cruelty, depravity, and racism in an isolated town suffering from both the plague and an outlaw gang. Nero is the half-Indian hero who returns from the Civil War (where he fought for the Union) to find that his hometown is now run by a brutal Confederate soldier who rules like a dictator with the help of Keoma’s racist half-brothers. Nero plays a mix of outcast underdog, prodigal son, reluctant hero, and Christ-like figure in a film filled with biblical allusions and Shakespearean echoes (including a witch). The actor looks like a frontier hippy with his long hair and beard and is, in one scene, crucified on a wagon wheel. Woody Strode costars as his family’s liberated former slave, another outcast who teams up with Keoma to free the town. Although not well known to general audiences, Keoma is one of the most interesting and entertaining spaghetti Westerns, as well as one of the darkest. Presented in a new 2k restoration, extras include audio commentary by spaghetti Western experts C. Courtney Joyner and Henry C. Parke, cast and crew interviews, a new video appreciation by scholar Austin Fisher, an archival featurette with filmmaker Alex Cox, and an image gallery. Recommended. (S. Axmaker)