My thoughts on Companeros…
With a dream cast of Franco Nero (as Swedish mercenary Yod Peterson aka “penguin”) and Tomas Milian (Mexican rebel Vasco), a soundtrack by Ennio Morricone and Sergio Corbucci at the Directors helm, this film was always likely to deliver. And it delivers 100%.
The story centres around the town of San Bernardino, and a fight for power between General Mongo (Bodalo) and Professor Xantos (Fernando Rey). Xantos, a pacifist with a young and dedicated following, has been imprisoned at Fort Yuma by the Americans. His absence has left the town, and its safe, at the mercy of Mongo. However, without the combination for the lock, he is unable to access the wealth of the town.
Mongo enlists the help of Peterson to rescue Xantos, for both the combination code and probable execution. Vascos is sent to accompany him, having already suffered much humiliation as a result of an earlier confrontation with the Swede. This makes for a very uneasy relationship.
A brief fracas with Xantos’ followers at a hold-up on a train enables Peterson to escape from Vacos’ close watch. However, he is soon relying on his companion to rescue him, after he is captured by a former partner John (Jack Palance) - who he had previously betrayed some years ago to save his own skin. This betrayal had resulted in John being nailed to a tree, and relying on his faithful pet falcon, Marsha, to rescue him by biting off his hand. Not surprisingly, John holds a grudge (as well as a wooden hand!).
On escaping John’s grasp, the two make an assault on Fort Yuma in an attempt to free Xantos from the Americans. As the adventure really heats up, they’re paths will soon cross with the American army, General Mongo, Xantos’ followers and, of course, John and Marsha.
The first third of the film is perhaps a little slow and episodic, but does successfully reveal the characters of Peterson and Vasco to the viewer (with fantastic character play by Nero and Milian respectively). Once the background is established, the film soon explodes into action with a series of exciting and highly effective chases and battle sequences. Corbucci at his best.
Probably the strongest element of this movie however is its subtle use of humour. Much of this is provided by the chemistry between the two leading roles, but the laughs really reach a crescendo with Peterson and Vasco’s final liaison with Jack’s falcon Marsha. Just one great scene in a film full of them.
It is no doubt a crime to have got so far into my review without mentioning Jack Palance’s performance in much detail, because his performance as the unhinged, marijuana smoking John is scene stealing. Quite possibly one of the greatest villains of all the Spaghetti Westerns I have seen.
Music is provided by Morricone, and as always the score is a perfect accompaniment to the action - both memorable and rousing. In fact it always amazes me how the man could be so consistent! In summary, this is a must view film from the ever reliable Corbucci. And my mouth waters at the prospect of watching his other mexican revolutionary movies (‘A Professional Gun’ and ‘What Am I Doing in the Middle of a Revolution’)… very shortly, hopefully!
As usual… if you have seen it and would like to vote, http://mysite.wanadoo-members.co.uk/spaghettiwesterns/reviews/companeros.html is the place to do so!