Companeros (1970)

Director: Sergio Corbucci

Our third Tomas Milian film in a row unites him on-screen for the first and only time with Franco Nero, who was of course long established as a star of the spaghetti western, and director Corbucci was one of the more notable figures in that field behind the camera too… so putting the three together should’ve worked out well, and so it did; we’re in “Zapata” territory again, various revolutionary factions have sprung up against the government—and against each other—and, as with the last film, the plot revolves around a substantial amount of wealth that’s being kept secure… so much so that no one can get at it. The only person left who knows how to get into the safe holding the goods is Professor Xantos (who’s inspired one of the competing groups) being held prisoner by the Americans; as such, his enemy General Mongo hires two men to go and rescue him. Said two men, Vasco and Peterson, are a distinctly odd couple, a Mexican bandit and a Swedish mercenary, with no particular love lost between them, but they have more problematic conflicts ahead of them, one involving a team of killers sent to wipe out Xantos for opposing the Americans, and one involving Xantos’ own pacifist principles in the face even of his own annihilation. Fernando Rey plays the good professor with straight dignity that contrasts with the greater broadness of Milian and Nero, and gives a certain weight to an otherwise fairly light and rollicking film, which is a huge lot of fun. It’s kind of sad the two stars never worked together again; as friendly as they later were, Nero was apparently unhappy with what he thought was Corbucci’s greater focus on his co-star than on himself, and evidently succeeded in getting Corbucci sacked as director of the next film they would’ve worked on. I suppose Nero’s star power counted for more than Corbucci’s…

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