“Vamos a matar compañeros” bellows a shaggy Franco Nero atop his horse in a most memorable scene from director Sergio Corbucci’s Companeros. Set during the Mexican Revolution, Compañeros presents us with the misadventures of two unlikely bedfellows brought together by a common desire for wealth and power. This film is one of the best examples of the quintessential spaghetti western: it’s adventurous, funny, and suspenseful all in the right places.
Starring next to Nero is Thomas Milian—you might remember him as Salazer in Traffic—who plays Vasco, an up and coming soldier in general Mongo’s (José Bódalo) army. Vasco is made to look like Che Guerva which you’ll discover is not a mistake as the film has a socialist theme running in the background. The versatile Jack Palance stars as John, a one-armed Texas business man and all around bad-ass who is after Nero’s character Yodlaf Peterson aka the Swede–it was Peterson after all who caused John to lose his arm. The icing on the cake is the Companeros soundtrack, composed by none other than music legend Ennio Morricone. if you enjoyed the film, the theme will stick in your head long after you’ve finished the film.
In typical spaghetti western fashion, Compañeros strays from the classic antagonist versus protagonist plot-line, focusing instead on the response of its characters to a constant turning of tables. The film represents a thought experiment that many spaghetti westerns dabble in: “how do humans behave when they are put into unlikely situations?” This motif has found its way in several of Quentin Tarantino’s earlier works such as Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. On a side note, Django, the name and film title of one of Franco Nero’s most notable characters has been borrowed by Tarantino for his most recent film Django Unchained, set to release in 2012.
Although Companeros borrows many elements from The Good, Bad, And The Ugly, I’d consider it more comical, modern adaptation of the film than a cheap-rip off. As a lover of undiscovered gems, Companeros ranks high up on my list of kick-ass spaghetti western movies. On a side note, make sure to find the English subtitles as the film was originally produced in Italian
If you’re new to spaghetti westerns, it’s a great film to get you started. I remember watching it on a random Saturday afternoon with a few beers and box of pepperoni pizza. I had no idea I’d be in for such a treat that day. Now that you’ve read my positive review, I hope you will, too.