By and large, Spaghetti Westerns are trash. They exist because they are cheap to make, because they subverted the classic Western hero archetype, and because they arrived at a time when Hollywood needed an anti-hero.
Many filmmakers tried to break the genre of the Classic Western, which had been seen to become stagnated, stale and shallow. Previously, the icons of American masculinity had ridden astride their massive horses, riding down from the wilderness and into the encroaching civilisation to save it in a way that only he can – usually with guns, fists or a good ol’ cold hard stare. Where the imposing figure of the big blue-eyed John Wayne once stood, there was now but a shadow. Westerns had become a joke. The doughy cowboy no longer represented the American dream, but was a joke figure. A laughing stock.
By the time Franco Nero’s gruff sheriff Burt and his younger brother Jim (Alberto Dell’Acqua) rolled into Mexico in veteran director Ferdinando Baldi’s 1966 revenge Western Texas, Adios, he was already being hailed as the saviour of the genre. The Italian movie star (known primarily for playing the title character in Django, also released in the same year and which this was marketed as a sequel to in parts of Europe) was the gruff manly-man that had been so idolised at the height of the genre’s popularity. Here was the man who knew right from wrong. A man who could stand up to the sadistic Cisco Saldado (José Suárez), who guns down children and laughs about it. A man who could inspire and lead.
READ MORE: Aquaman – Film Review
Of course, for all the bravado and machismo, Texas, Adios is still just a Spaghetti Western. That’s all it is and all it can be. It may seem very dismissive, but the greatest achievement that a Spaghetti Western can have, restricted as it is by the confines of this genre, is to deconstruct what came before it. Its very nature – its raison d’être – is to dismantle the hokey cowboy films of old and to be radical whilst doing it.
Baldi does not shy away from holding a mirror up to the filmmakers who put the conservatism of the Wild West on a pedestal by displaying a complete lack of countability for any of the overt violence in his movie. Innocents are murdered in cold blood by the baddies with just as much disregard as the goodies fire their pistols at anyone who even looks at them dodgy. The climactic confrontation after Burt and Jim fall in with a group of Mexican revolutionaries is as brutal as anything that came before it and is even still now quite a shocking finale.
As stunningly presented as this new Arrow restoration is – as all of their restorations appear to be, much like The Complete Sartana released back in the summer – it is probably one for collectors and genre-nerds only. Somewhat ironically, by today’s standards Spaghetti Westerns themselves now seem hokey and cheap. There’s a lot to admire in this release of Texas, Adios from the fantastic sets, the performance of the uber-cool Nero, and the astonishingly long list of special features (including newly filmed interviews with star Franco Nero, Alberto Dell’Acqua and co-writer Franco Rossetti). But perhaps one for completists rather than newcomers.
Texas, Adios is available now from Arrow Video for the first time on Blu-ray.