The Film (4/5)
There is an unfortunate lack of spaghetti westerns (actually classic westerns in general) on the Blu-ray format. I'd have to assume the genre is not the most popular thing with modern audiences, but I do wish more of them would make their way on to the format, which translates their gritty and occasionally gorgeous style quite well. MGM, of course, have done up Sergio Leone's films on the format (in fact they finally released Duck! You Sucker last month), Grindhouse Releasing put out a wonderful special edition of Sergio Sollima's the Big Gundown last December, but the studio with the most HD contributions to spaghetti westerns on the Blu-ray format would have to Blue Underground. They have since the formats inception released Django, Django Kill: If He Lives Shoot, and a Bullet for the General. They have also done a recent DVD release of The Grand Duel, and now they have returned with another Sergio Corbucci contribution to the genre on Blu (he directed Django) Companeros.
Companeros actually falls into a category of spaghetti western known as the Zapata western. It is named as such after the Mexican revolutionary leader, and takes place during Mexico's revolutionary period. This gives the film a very interesting backdrop for the story and action, and also allows Corbucci to add to the film some strong political subtext. I will not pretend to know much about 1970's Italian politics, but the director appears to be laying it on a bit thick, and it is quite noticeable.
Companeros could almost be considered a best of spaghetti western with one of the finest directors of the genre at the head of the film, the cast includes Tomas Milian of Django Kill, Franco Nero of Django, Fernando Rey (A Town Called Bastard), and Jack Palance (The Mercenary, also a Corbucci). In the film Nero plays the Swede, Yodlaf Peterson, who is forced into a partnership with Milian's Mexican revolutionary Vasco. They learn that a significant amount of money is within a safe, but the only man with the combination is a Professor named Xantos who is across the border in Texas, together the pair must secure Xantos while coming up against the evil John played by Jack Palance, and the General Mongo (Francisco Bodalo) in order to complete their journey, and crack the safe.
Corbucci is quite possibly my favorite Spaghetti Western director of all. I wouldn't rate Companeros as one of his masterpieces, but it is certainly above the quality of his earlier Navajo Joe, but just under his more well known, and greater films like the Great Silence, and of course, Django. Still the film is packed with interesting well-staged action sequences, and with a cast like the one above you can't help but have a series of excellent performances right across the board. The story is interesting, but offers some interesting twists and offers some neat dramatic twists. Companeros is a fun, violent afternoon western experience, and sometimes that is all that's required.
Blue Underground continues their re-emergence into the public eye with another quality transfer. The film is presented in a 2:35:1 1080p transfer that looks quite pleasing to my eyes. It is a solid organic looking transfer with excellent detail, solid colors, and deep blacks. There is a healthy, but not overly strong amount of film grain throughout. The only negatives are some soft spots found throughout the film, and some sequences look a bit faded.
There are 2 audio tracks a DTS-HD mono track in both English and Italian. As with all Italian genre fare from the period, you can select either, and know that you're fine. The dialogue on both comes through nicely, as do the sound FX, and the films wonderful Ennio Morricone score. There are optional subtitles in English, Spanish, and French.
Blue Underground has created a nice special edition for their Blu-ray of Companeros. The disc includes interviews with both Franco Nero and Tomas Milian, and also one with composer Ennio Morricone. We also get an audio commentary track by C. Courtney Joyner and Henry Parke. There are also poster and still galleries, radio spots, and trailers included.
Not the finest of Corbucci's Spaghetti Westerns, Companeros is still an excellent way to kill an afternoon. The film has some fine action, and great performances. The Blu-ray from Blue Underground looks and sounds great, and comes with a nice slate of extras. If you are looking for another classic spaghetti western to add to your Blu-ray collection, this is an excellent option. RECOMMENDED.