Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Seen It: Keoma the Avenger (1976)

No, that is NOT Dan Haggerty... it's Spaghetti Western icon Franco Nero as Keoma!

Also known as simply Keoma or by any number of Django-inspired titles such as Django Rides Again or The Return of Django, due to the fact that its star, Franco Nero, originated the role in the original (and as yet unseen by this film buff) classic Django (1966). This is the first film I have seen with Nero, who upon first viewing strikes me as a slightly more wooden Gianni Garko. Fortunately, this film also features William Berger, who just keeps popping up in what are quickly becoming the most usual places... like nearly every other Spaghetti Western I choose to watch!
Spaghetti Western Database Synopsis: Franco Nero plays Keoma, a half-Indian, who returns home from the Civil War. He discovers that the town nearby is plague ridden and unscrupulous types are using this as an excuse to keep the town under their tyrannical control. Keoma rescues a pregnant woman from being sent to the camp with all the plague victims, which makes him somewhat unpopular with the town's more evil elements. Additionally, he comes into conflict with his brothers who are siding with the aforementioned evil elements.
This is a much more bleak and dark Spaghetti Western than most I have seen, unique both in some of thematic content as well as the tone. This is perhaps due to its being produced and distributed during the final gasp of the genre was being choked by parodies. Using a grey and brown palette to paint a visual picture of a plague ridden community, this film is almost absent the trademark comedic relief of any sort, save maybe the characterization of the town doctor who, along with Koema's childhood hero, a freed Slave named George played by Woody Strode. But, really none of it is played for laughs.

The seriousness of the procedural is further enhanced by the performance of a very stoic (and thickly European accented) Nero as half-breed Keoma, trying to return to the last place he's known as "home" following years wandering after the Civil War. The story is further developed by exploring Keoma's own daddy issues with the father who raised him and (according to the three half-brothers) showered him with the type of affection that resulted in Keoma becoming only "the second person alive" who could hit a target without looking--the first being Keoma's dad, played here under old age make-up by the aforementioned William Berger. It's no wonder Kemoa's brothers are just a tad jealous--Keoma grew up to be a bad a** drifter and crack marksman and the three of them became a sort of Western three stooges who have their own father turn on them!

Director Enzo G. Castellari also adds a touch of Shakespearean flair through the inclusion of a character referred to simply as "The Witch," played by Gabriella Giacobbe. The Witch is the first to greet Keoma upon his return and pops up throughout, usually signalling some sort of negative event which forces Keoma to respond bravely. She also has a secretive link to the avenger's...

Keoma the Avenger (1976) is a slightly above average late-era Spaghetti Western which offers some unique refinements making it well worth an initial viewing, as well as a strong candidate for e re-watch in the future. Though no relation to the currently "hot" Avenger's properties Thor, Captain America, or Iron Man, this dark Spaghetti Western was at the very least slightly more entaining than Iron Man 2 :)

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