Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Italian Exploitation Month, Spaghetti Western Wednesdays: Keoma (1976)

            The story of Jesus, but with more guns and killing…

            Often regarded as the last great spaghetti western, there is something undeniably watchable about Enzo G. Castellari’s Keoma… I’m just not sure if it’s all intentional. The director brings together genre legends such as Donald O’Brien, Woody Strode and Franco Nero as Keoma himself to make the spaghetti’s swan song, and what follows drifts between sweeping epic and unintentional parody.

            To be sure, there was always a sense of self-referential cheesiness running throughout even the best of the spaghettis (especially evident in the genres last burst of popularity with the Bud Spencer/Terrence Hill films), but Keoma pushes all a bit too far. It’s probably all down to the score, which is fine on its own, but for some (likely ego-driven) reason, there’s a near-constant vocal chorus telling us the events as they happen on-screen, including Nero himself in a garbled English drawl (Castellari liked having Nero on the soundtrack sing-songing the story to the audience as the film played out - see also Street Law). Consider the following scene from the film:

Nero on the soundtrack: “That’s my faddurr…”

(cut to Keoma’s father)
“…and my bruddur…”
(cut to Keoma’s brother)
“…and meeEEeeee.”
(cut to Nero in all his Jesus-bearded glory)

Now certainly exchanges like this carry with them their own charming appeal, but I feel they ultimately hamper the movie in the long run, pushing Keoma far too much into the realm of self-parody. It’s not enough to derail the effort - Castellari remains a fine craftsmen, the best purveyor of pulp thrills on a budget the industry ever saw - but it does take the movie down a notch or two in my own personal rankings.

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