Keoma (1976)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Cast: Franco Nero
Extras: Commentary Track, Cast Interviews, Theatrical Trailer, Talent Bios

Keoma. That’s a fun word to say, isn’t it? So much so, you might find yourself repeating it again and again with increasing volume just as the elderly lady does in the opening of this little spaghetti western, directed by Enzo G. Castellari and starring Franco Nero as…KEOMA. Not merely a title but also a man, ’Keoma’ is a violent tale of retribution and hard-sought justice, set among the dusty roads of the Wild West.

Keoma is half Native American, half Caucasian, but all loner. Keoma is returning to his childhood town after years of running, fighting, and killing in the war. On his way there, he stumbles across a group of outlaws set to execute a group of people infected with the plague. Keoma watches as one of the sick tries to create a distraction for the others to escape that doesn’t go exactly as planned, and he does nothing. But when the outlaws turn their weapons towards a pregnant woman, Keoma can not sit still. He quickly proves that he’s the fastest draw in the west and makes off with the woman, who as it turns out does not even have the plague at all. When Keoma reaches the town, he finds it in shambles, torn from the war and further being run to the ground by a greedy mercenary named Caldwell. After Keoma finds a safe room for the woman, he sets out to find his childhood home and surprisingly finds his father there as well. He is a bit older than when Keoma has last seen him, but he hasn’t completely lost touch with the gunslinger he used to be himself, his skills obviously shared in his young son. Keoma’s father regretfully informs him that his three half-brothers, all of whom abused Keoma as a child, have joined forces with Caldwell in an attempt to gain power and control in the town. This doesn’t sit well with Keoma, but it doesn’t’ come as a surprise either. Back in town, the word has gotten out that Keoma has brought the plague to them, and adding further fuel to Caldwell’s fire, the group of executioners Keoma shot were some of his own men. In other words, Keoma’s a wanted man, and not by the law, mind you. What follows is a tense and long standoff, with Caldwell’s men on the hunt from Keoma, and Keoma on the hunt for the restoration of decency and justice to the town. The sick are being denied medicine; the poor, hospitality. The only way things are accomplished is with a bullet. This is not the life Keoma wants. But it is not one he has forgotten.

’Keoma’ is a tight little spaghetti western, with a simple story of a man searching for freedom from oppression. While it visually and stylistically borrows more than an ample amount of Sam Peckinpah, there is some terrific camerawork and composition on display here that feels quite original. Fans of gunplay will be delighted as scores of bad guys fall (dramatically so) victim to the bullet, yet actual bloodshed is minimal. Those who are unfamiliar with spaghetti westerns are given a great sample with ’Keoma,’ and it will likely create an immediate interest in the genre.

Anchor Bay Entertainment has again done a good job with a niche film, providing a nice looking anamorphic widescreen transfer. Detail is sharp and strong in the numerous extreme close-ups, and colors are vivid and bold when they appear in this dirt-filled environment. The print is in pretty good shape, though some of the night scenes are faded and grainy. Audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 and is satisfactory. Just to note, this entire film has been overdubbed (perhaps too expensive or noisy to record sound on location?) and quite obviously so. Effects are thin and fake sounding, but the dialogue is clean and distortion-free. Also, ’Keoma’ features a soundtrack that will either highly amuse you (Leonard Cohen rip-offs, a female singer who sounds like a ghost) or absolutely irritate you to tears. But there is a song or two that has the word ’Keoma’ in it, so it’s all good to me. Lastly, Anchor Bay has seen fit to give you fans some worthy extras, including a very informative and enjoyable commentary with director Castellari (his English isn’t too bad) and journalist Waylon Wahl (his is fine), a ten minute interview with Keoma himself, Franco Nero, the theatrical trailer, and a few talent bios to boot.

Chances are you’ve never quite seen a western like ’Keoma.’ With it’s great camerawork, interesting characters, and fun stuntwork, it’s an easy film to like. You might not love it, but with the great package provided by Anchor Bay, it’s definitely worth a rent. That’s ’Keoma.’ Keoma. KEOMA!!!