Texas Adios (1966)

Dir: Ferdinando Baldi – Cast: Franco Nero, Alberto dell’Aqua (as Cole Kitosch), José Suarez, Luigi Pistilli, Elisa Montes, Livio Lorenzon, Gino Pernice

This is the third spaghetti western Franco Nero made in 1966, after Sergio Corbucci’s groundbreaking Django and Lucio Fulci’s Massacre Time. Usually described as a more Hollywood orientated spaghetti, Texas Addio borrows only little from the more traditional US westerns. Apart from the soppy theme song and a few sentimental scenes, it unmistakably bears the spaghetti trademark: it is sadistically violent and characterized by many the mannerisms the Italian western is identified with.

Texas Addio begins in medias res. We see two men shooting at each other, running through a town street, climbing buildings, jumping from roofs, etc. And all this, so it seems, simply for the joy of jumping from roofs, climbing buildings, running through a town’s street and shooting at each other. But when one of them is lying on the ground, Nero pops up and unarms the other guy; Nero is the town’s sheriff and makes clear that in his town crooks are handed over to justice alive, not killed by bounty hunters. It’s a rather odd, almost surreal scene that, at first glance, seems to bear only little relation to the rest of the film, but will eventually turn out to be a key scene.

After having prevented the bounty killer from killing the wanted man, sheriff Nero decides, for one reason or another, that it’s time to settle an old score. When he was a boy his father was killed by a Mexican, so Nero decides to quit his job and go looking for the man across the border. He appoints his successor and wants to ride off alone, but he is joined by his younger brother (Dell’Aqua). Almost immediately after they have set foot on Mexican soil, they are confronted with all kinds of cruelty, such as the execution of a bunch of peons by the local alcalde, in a scene that even outdoes a similar scene in Django in sheer brutality. Once you’ve seen it, no cork will ever be the same. Believe me.

Mexico is a poor country, so they learn, haunted by despotism and corruption. But they also find out that there’s hope for a change, thanks to a lawyer-turned-revolutionary, played by Luigi Pistilli. The man they’re looking for is a local tyrant, but the plot thickens when he turns out to be the younger brother’s father as well . While the younger brother is locked up by his father (in a quite unconventional attempt to win his heart!), Nero is sent back to where he came from, but at the border his escort is attacked by the lawyer-turned-revolutionary and his men.

The film was called Django 2 in some countries, even though Nero’s character is called Burt Sullivan. Still there are some similarities to Corbucci’s film, and they’re not coincidental. Several people involved in the project, director of photography Enzo Barboni , screenwriter Franco Rosetti and producer Manolo Bolognini were ‘Django veterans’ and Corbucci was considered as director, but replaced by Ferdinando Baldi, who had done some peplums before, but never a western. Baldi had been a college professor in classic literature, and many of his film and writings (he co-wrote Texas Addio with Rosetti) bear witness of his original studies. The intricate family relations are a little unconventional for a spaghetti western and like some characters in classic Greek drama, Nero seems to be guided by a mystical inner voice, a daemonion as Socrates would call it, that tells to stop a bounty hunter who’s about to kill an outlaw, and to bring the murderer of his father to justice. Nero repeatedly tells Suarez, in italian : Verrai con mé nel Texas , a construction expressing a very strong determination, more or less similar to you shall come with me to Texas. In this sense Nero’s Burt Sullivan is indeed a classical hero, an epithet given to him by many critics.

Texas Addio is a very entertaining spaghetti western, but suffers a little from a series of unexpected shifts in tone. It starts as a straightforward revenge movie, takes a melodramatic turn halfway, and almost ends like a Zapata western. Moreover, the depiction of some of the peripheral characters is quite erratic, to say the least. When the alcalde responsible for the slaughter of the peons at the beginning of the movie, shows some regrets, and sheds some crocodile tears, Nero decides to let him go because he seems to be convinced that this drunkard is, deep inside, a decent man. It’s like saying that those Nazi-bullies in Auschwitz had a few drinks to many on an regular basis but weren’t bad guys after all. But, as said, this is an entertaining movie and we probably shouldn’t think too much about some of the script’s discrepancies. Baldi’s direction is rather anonymous, but he is immensely helped by Enzo Barboni’s photography. It was the first film that was shot in the brand new ‘Mexican town’ of the Elios studios (built next to the western town), and Barboni makes excellent use of it. Nero gives a rather understated performance, close to his performance in Django. Dell’Aqua, more a stuntman than an actor, is surprisingly good here as the younger brother, who attracts a lot of female attention. Pistilli, ‘the man you love to hate’, is cast against type as the revolutionary lawyer, and plays the part as if has been playing such parts all his life. The score by Anton Garcia Abril is very appropriate: traditional Hollywood when Nero and Dell’Aqua are in Texas, more experimental and Latin after they have crossed the Mexican border.

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