Spaghetti westerns are, in my opinion, generally the best fictional films about the American West. You can argue that John Wayne made a bunch of great movies about life in the Old West, and you would be right to say so, but for some reason the Italians captured perfectly the specific elements of the era that made their movies seem more realistic. The frontier was a dirty, violent place full of unsavory types trying to get rich quick. Italian westerns capture this mood expertly whereas American films portray characters whose outfits look like they just came back from the dry cleaners. Hollywood films also tend to apply a black and white dichotomy onto their characters, the old "good guys wear white, bad guys wear black" philosophy that obscures the reality of the time and place. Not so in Italian films, where even the good guys often have distinctly unsavory traits. It's too bad spaghetti westerns went the way of the dinosaurs a few decades back; I never tire of watching these films even though I am not an expert on the genre. "Texas, Adios" is a part of the larger Anchor Bay "Once Upon a Time in Italy" spaghetti western box set, and serves as an excellent example of how powerful the genre once was.
The always awesome Franco Nero stars as Burt Sullivan, a slightly corrupt Texas sheriff with a fast gun and a chip on his shoulder. According to this lawman, his father died years before as a direct result of a confrontation with Cisco Delgado (Jose Suarez), a man who then moved to Mexico to build a small empire. Sullivan spends years stewing about revenge until he suddenly learns of his nemesis's whereabouts. Taking his younger brother Jim (Alberto Dell'Acqua) along for the ride, Sullivan bids adios to Texas and heads south of the border. Life threatening calamities pop up right from the start. When cashing in silver coins for pesos at a bank in a small village, Burt and Jim witness a gang of desperados gun down a bunch of meek peasants. Then a particularly loathsome looking thug beats young Jim Sullivan senseless in a bar after the youth makes a loud inquiry about the location of Delgado. Burt roars to the rescue, leaving behind a pile of bodies and a warning about staying out of other people's business, but the point has been made. Obviously, Delgado is a man of some reputation in the area, and even asking about him in the wrong company will result in extreme violence.
We soon learn exactly why everyone fears Delgado so much. It turns out that this guy owns a ton of land in Northern Mexico, employs a huge army of goons to enforce his iron will, and wishes to build even more wealth. When a local peasant refuses to sell out to Delgado, the warlord strings up the man's three sons and threatens to kill them. Relenting at the last moment, he orders them branded with hot irons instead. Nice chap, eh? He gets the land eventually by pistol whipping and killing the father. Burt and Jim eventually do face down this cruel hombre after a lengthy journey fraught with perils, but both find out that their old enemy has a few secrets up his sleeve. Burt wishes to take the warlord back to Texas in order to face charges for his father's murder, a wish leading to a shattering revelation from Delgado. Jim, on the other hand, soon discovers that the man he and his brother despise knows something about his lineage that could dash cold water all over the idea of bloody retribution. Nothing is what it initially seems in "Texas, Adios," as even the bad guy possesses endearing traits that make justice at best a tricky proposition. Fortunately, plenty of shootouts, a peasant uprising, and a high body count help propel the movie to its inevitable showdown conclusion.
"Texas, Adios" is an early spaghetti western. Made a year after Sergio Corbucci's innovative "Django" (also starring Franco Nero), the film contains in embryonic form many of the ideas we would see later on in countless other genre entries. For example, the moral ambiguity of both the good and bad characters are on full display here. Too, there's a thread of cruelty--the branding scene, the killing of innocent civilians--in the film that tells the audience immediately this picture is not your normal western. Of course the dubbing, particularly bad in this film, would never appear in an American film about the Old West. Simultaneously, "Texas, Adios" contains many elements that link it to classic American westerns. The musical score used for the picture doesn't sound anything like the great scores of later films composed by the likes of Ennio Morricone. The general look and feel of the movie resembles more an episode of "Gunsmoke" or "Bonanza" than it does an Italian genre flick. "Texas, Adios" is obviously a film straddling the increasingly blurry line between the American and Italian western genres.
The DVD contains a beautiful widescreen picture transfer, a six-minute interview with Franco Nero, and a trailer for the movie. Nero, outside of Clint Eastwood, is perhaps the most recognizable face in this cinematic genre. While I don't think anyone would say "Texas, Adios" is Nero's best work spaghetti western role (he's much, much better in "Companeros"), it's still fun to watch the man gun down the baddies and right wrongs. When I think about how many Italian westerns are floating around out there, yet to find a DVD release, I feel immensely disappointed. It's to Anchor Bay's credit that they released ANY of these films, let alone a great boxed set of some of the best entries in the genre. Fans will definitely want to check out this collection. Here's to hoping more of these films will soon emerge on DVD.