Plot: What’s it about?
Yolof Petersen (Franco Nero) is a Swedish arms dealer who seeks to make a massive sale, but when he learns the money is locked up, he knows he needs a new course of action. In order to access the safe which holds the cash, he will have to free Professor Xantos (Fernando Rey), who is being held prisoner by the Americans. If he can rescue Xantos, then they can take the safe’s key from him and of course, then have all of his cash. But Petersen can’t manage this kind of mission alone, so he has to team up with an unlikely partner in Basco (Tomas Milian), a trigger-happy Mexican bandit with a dislike for guys like Petersen. But with a ton of loot on the line, Basco and Petersen forge a shaky bond and head out to complete the mission, unaware of the dangers involved. The two soon finds themselves in the middle of a potential revolution, chased by a drug addict with a bad temper (Jack Palance), and pursued by the United States military. Can these two manage to overcome these odds, as well as survive each other?
If you’re a fan of spaghetti westerns then you’re in for a treat, as Anchor Bay has issued the first releases in their Spaghetti Western Collection. One of the first titles in the series is Companeros, presented in complete & uncut form, with language options in English and Italian. I liked Companeros, but I have to say that with two names like Tomas Milian and Franco Nero involved, I had set my expectations a little too high. I’d seen this movie before in a shorter edition and had the same thoughts, but I did enjoy this complete version more, to be sure. Nero and Milian are in fine form and provide their usual level of work, while Jack Palance is great as a very unusual character. The direction from Sergio Corbucci (Django, Odds and Evens) is also quite good, although Companeros doesn’t measure up to some of his finer efforts. Even so, Companeros is a good movie with some terrific moments and of course, Ennio Morricone’s score alone is worth visiting the flick to listen to. I give this film a solid recommendation to genre fans and since Anchor Bay has issued a fine disc, whether you choose to rent or purchase, it is money well spent.
Although most people would think of Clint Eastwood when spaghetti westerns are discussed, I always go right to Franco Nero, without a doubt. I love Eastwood’s films to be sure, but Nero’s work seems to much more raw and powerful, at least to me. Perhaps it is because Django is my favorite western, but Nero has always been an icon to me in the genre, even to the same level as Eastwood or John Wayne, which is of course good company to be in with. Nero is so fierce, yet so refined in many of his films, such as Companeros. I hold his work here is high regard, as he has a great character and plays it very well, including some wonderful moments between himself and costar Tomas Milian. You can also see Nero in such films as Django, Die Hard 2, The Citizen Rebels, Querelle, and Django Strikes Again. The cast also includes Tomas Milian (Traffic, Don’t Torture A Duckling), Fernando Rey (Esmeralda Bay, That Obscure Object of Desire), and Jack Palance (City Slickers, A Bullet from God).
Video: How does it look?
Companeros is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. I never thought this movie would look this good, complete with a clean source print and sharp overall image. There is still some grain and marks on the print, but not too much and not even close to what I had expected, so fans should be pleased. The colors retain their intended scheme, which means a little washed out, but still bold enough when needed. The contrast is also impressive, with stark black levels and a very high detail presence throughout. This is a wonderful visual treatment for this movie, which I never figured would look this terrific on home video.
Audio: How does it sound?
The audio here is presented via mono, with language options in English and Italian. Since this release includes some material that was never dubbed into English, those sections are in Italian, with English subtitles. I had no problems with this approach and since we’re getting the longest cut of the film that exists, I’m as pleased as punch. Of course, this is mono and aged mono at that, so don’t expect miracles from this release, ok? The superb (as always) musical score from Ennio Morricone is clean and never falters, which is great news, I think. The sound effects have a solid tone, but this is mono, so there’s not much power to speak of. The vocals in both tracks sound great also, with minimal harshness or distortion to report. This disc also includes optional English subtitles, in case you’ll need those.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The main bonus here is a collection of interviews with folks like Ennio Morricone, Tomas Milian, and of course, Franco Nero. I found these to be worthwhile and informative, but I simply wish they were longer and perhaps with more participants. Even so, I commend Anchor Bay for including these, as most studios wouldn’t have put forth the extra effort, I don’t think. This disc also includes some talent files, as well as the film’s theatrical trailer.