Keoma – Blu-ray Review
Film Title: Keoma
Release Date: 1976
Runtime: 101 minutes
Region Coding: Region Free
Studio: Arrow Video
Audio Format: PCM 1.0 Mono
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Formats Available: Blu-ray
Version Reviewed: 2019 Blu-ray Disc
Blu-ray Release Date: 04/16/19
Director: Enzo G. Castellari
Cast: Franco Nero, William Berger, Olga Karlatos, Woody Strode, Orso Maria Guerrini, Gabriella Giacobbe, Antonio Marsina, Joshua Sinclair, Donald O’Brien
Jump to Sections: Movie | Video | Audio | Bonus | Closing | Screenshots
Full Blu-ray Tech Specs can be found at the very bottom.
“Keoma” from 1976 was an Italian spaghetti western directed by Enzo G. Castellari. Castellari is best known for films like “The Big Racket” (1976), “1990: The Bronx Warriors“ (1982), “Escape from the Bronx“ (1983), and “Warriors of the Wasteland“ (1983). The film starred a spaghetti western legend, Franco Nero. Nero is best known for his other leading roles in the films “Django“ (1966), “Texas Adios” (1966), “Man, Pride and Vengeance“ (1967), “Django, Prepare a Coffin“ (1968).
The story here is set right after the civil war and a half-bread who fought for the Union returns home. The man is named “Keoma” (Franco Nero) and is first greeted by a mysterious old woman, almost seeming like the face of death, asking him repeatedly why he has returned. There’s a reason she asks him why he would want to return to a town that is ridden with the plague, where his half-brothers and a Confederate renegade are running things. Deep down he wants to return home and is constantly haunted with memories (in flashbacks) of his younger past.
Keoma has returned home searching for his father (William Berger) but on the way encounters a woman (Olga Karlatos) being held captive by a group of thugs. The men are keeping her and others fear they are carrying the plague. Our hero Keoma doesn’t believe she is carrying the plague, he just knows she’s pregnant and makes the obvious choice to rescue her. The men he will later learn are working for the ex-Confederate soldier by the name of “Caldwell” (Donald O’Brien).
Along the way, through a series of flashbacks, we learn of familiar faces from Keoma’s past such as the family’s former slave “George” (Woody Strode). Perhaps the worst memories though and enemies that Keoma will face are from his three half-brothers: “Butch” (Orso Maria Guerrini), “Lenny” (Antonio Marsina), and “Sam” (Joshua Sinclair). No matter what it takes Keomo will fight, even after he had done his share of fighting in the war, to save the town that he left behind. The story is really good and the acting is as well. The film was truly one of the last great spaghetti westerns.
Movie Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)
“Keoma” is presented in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, just as it was originally shown during its theatrical run. This was shot on 35mm film using Arriflex 35 Iic cameras with Zeiss Lenses in the Techniscope cinematographic process.
The film was first released on Blu-ray here in the United States back in 2012 via a “double feature” release. That release actually shared just one disc for two spaghetti westerns. As a result of that choice (by another distributor), the compression issues were quite evident as you can tell in screenshots. This time around though Arrow Video has given this a 2K restoration from the original camera negative and it’s one tremendous improvement. In fact, visually this in comparison with the previous version on Blu-ray is pretty impressive, as I’ll first show you below.
Sources: 2019 Blu-ray (left), 2012 Blu-ray (right)
More 2019 vs 2012 Blu-ray Screenshot Comparisons
As you can tell from looking at those screenshots – this 2K restoration brings with it a much-improved amount of visual detail, especially in close-ups. You’ll notice a whole lot more detail on pores of the skin and that individual strands of hair stand out more than they ever did. There’s finally a solid black level, with a more accurate approach to the color timing as well. The flesh tones appear to be more accurate here than ever before. There’s a very nice visible amount of film grain that has been preserved, in a very tasteful manner, with this restoration effort.
It’s not visually flawless, as it does have some occasional noticeable problems that just weren’t fixed but it still looks extremely impressive. You have to understand this film was made back in 1976 on a small budget for one. So, the quality of the film itself could really only look so good. It’s only occasionally you for short bursts of frames see the flaws and it’s perhaps fitting for this genre to have some tiny flaws still there. Spaghetti westerns, after all, were always known to be pretty unapologetic in their amount of gritty visual style.
There are obvious other visual imperfections along the way like hairs on the bottom of the film print or the occasional specks of dirt. Another possibility is that there is damage to the actual original camera negative and that’s what causes some of the ever so noticeable little visually glitches. Those glitches I’m speaking of can seem a bit like tiny blue splotches going across the screen in a wild manner. It’s not at all worth reducing for the video quality rating and really not at all that bothersome. It’s just there and worth mentioning.
The color palette, although subdued for the visual style, can have some occasional bright colors emphasized like the background green of trees or foliage and red on pieces of wardrobe. It’s a nice improvement to the color timing, as said. The action scenes involving slow-motion finally look much better now and you can appreciate how impressive this style of filmmaking truly was.
This is one hell of a presentation and in my opinion, is really downright impressive. In fact, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I first saw the opening scenes from this new restoration as I had grown familiar with the low-quality visual presentation from the previous release. This new Blu-ray that Arrow Video has put together one impressive effort in regards to how much of an improvement you get visually. I honestly never thought I’d see “Keoma” look this good in HD as you do here. This is almost damn-near perfect in terms of video quality.
Video Quality Rating: 5 (out of 5)
Audio here on this Blu-ray is presented in uncompressed Linear PCM 1.0 Mono. There is the option to pick either the original Italian or English sound mixes. It should be noted that these versions also visually feature different opening and closing credits sequences for each language.
The audio seems pretty clean but there’s an occasional tiny amount of his during quieter scenes like during flashbacks without much action. It’s not that bothersome and to be expected for something that comes from a Mono source. Sound effects and the music both can sound pretty good here and feel like an improvement over the previously released Blu-ray’s audio presentation. There’s definitely a cleaner audio presentation here. Dialogue is delivered spot-on in both the English and Italian version. The dialogue during some of the flashbacks can have an echo to it for effect and it works to set the vibe. Gunshots have their echo to them as well, which feels just a tad bit more realistic here than it did before.
It’s worth noting that the Italian version features more of the original spoken lines of dialogue, which is cool. It’s just a tad odd reading the subtitles to the film you’ve heard in English so many times. Still, it’s very nice to be there as an option. That was not on the previous 2012 Blu-ray. It’s a slightly above solid lossless Mono mix that does the film justice and has its moments where the action can be just as hard-hitting as it should be.
Audio Quality Rating: 4.25 (out of 5)
Bonus materials on this release are presented in both SD (standard definition) and HD (high definition) video with Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound. The languages here can vary between English and Italian, so I’ll be mentioning below if something isn’t in the English language. The bonus materials include the following:
- NEW Audio Commentary by spaghetti western experts C. Courtney Joyner and Henry C. Parke
- NEW “The Ballad of Keoma“ (21:41 – HD) features an interview with the film’s star Franco Nero. This interview has Nero reminiscing back to working on this film, as well as other spaghetti westerns and films he made with the director Enzo G. Castellari. He discusses his love for this film and even mentions that they are actually making a sequel to “Keoma” soon, set to be called “The Fourth Horseman“ and is listed on IMDb. This proves to be one very informative interview and is a definite must-see for fans.
- NEW “Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust” (28:53 – HD) features an interview with the film’s director Enzo G. Castellari, discussing this film. This interview is in the Italian language with English subtitles. Castellari actually admits a few interesting things here in this interview. First off, he told the Americans wanting to buy the film rights that he shot the film in the state of Montana and they [the Americans] fell for it – when it was in actuality shot mostly in Rome (Italy). Secondly, Castellari admits to this being the favorite of films he’s made and is known to still give it repeated viewings, as the western genre is his favorite as well. The filmmaker discusses the cinematic choices to shoot the slow-motion scenes in 120 frames per second. He also discusses the film’s original music that he admits was inspired by both Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. This is a really great interview and again is a must-see for the film’s fans.
- NEW “Writing Keoma“ (16:14 – HD) features an interview with the film’s writer and actor Luigi Montefiori (a.k.a. George Eastman). He obviously ends up discussing writing the film, just as the title would suggest that he would. Sadly, the audio quality here is pretty bad but this still manages to be informative and worth giving a watch. This interview is presented in the Italian language with (forced) English subtitles.
- NEW “Parallel Actions” (22:18 – HD) is an interview with the film’s editor Gianfranco Amicucci discussing his work on this film. This interview is presented in the Italian language with (forced) English subtitles.
- NEW “The Flying Thug” (24:03 – HD) is an interview with actor Massimo Vanni, who played a Confederate soldier uncredited in the film. He’s obviously discussing his chance to get to work on this film and finally gets credited too at the same time. This interview is presented in the Italian language with (forced) English subtitles.
- NEW “Play As An Actor” (30:02 – HD) is an interview with actor Volfango Soldati (a.k.a. Wolfango Soldati), who played a Confederate soldier role in the film. This interview is presented in the Italian language with (forced) English subtitles.
- NEW “Keoma and the Twilight of the Spaghetti Western” (18:43 – HD) is a short video with academic Austin Fisher discussing his appreciation for this film and the genre of Italian westerns. This proves to be very informative and discusses much of the filmmaker’s career as well as Franco Nero’s as the “Django” character.
- “An Introduction to Keoma“ (5:03 – HD) features acclaimed director Alex Cox discussing this film and how it is one of the last true spaghetti western genre films. This archival feature is originally from a 2004 DVD release of the film.
- Original Trailers include:
- International trailer (3:47 – HD) presented in the English language.
- Italian trailer (3:43 – HD) is obviously presented in the Italian language with forced English subtitles.
- Galleries will play as a slideshow when you select them and include:
- Production Stills (3:10 – SD)
- Posters and Press (3:30 – SD)
- Lobby Cards (10:40 – SD) is so lengthy because it features 65 cards total.
- Home video and Soundtrack sleeves (4:50 – SD)
- A Collectible Booklet is included which is 36 pages in length. This features lots of artwork, scenes from the film, as well as info about the cast & crew, about the restoration, two new essays discussing this film and Franco Nero as well as some contemporary reviews of the film from back in 1976 when it was theatrically released. This booklet is pictured below in the packaging section, at the bottom of the review.
Overall the bonus materials here are rather impressive. You get well over two hours of content in just new extras, then there’s another half hour or so in archival materials such as trailers, galleries, and an intro. The collectible booklet included is very much worth giving a read and very cool as well. This is enough to leave the fans really pleased after they’ve watched this new restoration of the film.
Bonus Materials Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)
“Keoma” was one of the last real films of the spaghetti western genre in the opinion of both myself and most film fans. It was a film that had a really deep story using real-time one shot flashbacks in a way only done on a few other occasions. It also did some wonderful blending of slow-motion and normal speed cameras to make for some very memorable action scenes, especially the gunfights. It’s a great performance from Franco Nero here who is most known for his role in yet another spaghetti western classic: “Django” (1966).
The presentation here is a nice improvement over the previously available Blu-ray of the film, that much is for certain. The visual side of things is where the most work really seemed to go as it received a 2K restoration and shows it. This is by far the best I’ve ever seem “Keoma” look in HD. The audio presentation in the lossless LPCM 1.0 Mono sounds a bit more than just solid, even with a very slight amount of hiss present in the sound. This audio mix manages to deliver the film in a better presentation that gives it that extra little bit of kick that it should have.
The bonus materials are a fan’s dream with a total of seven new featurettes (interviews) as well as a new audio commentary. There are some archival extras like an intro to the film from acclaimed director Alex Cox – done back in 2004. There’s also the original trailers and four galleries of images. Plus, there’s a couple of physical extras here in terms of the collectible booklet about the film and the reversible cover artwork (both pictured below in packaging). The supplemental materials here found on the disc total up to well over two and a half hours long in runtime.
This Blu-ray release is above solid on all levels. If you’re a fan of spaghetti westerns and have never seen this I’d have to recommend it. Fans like myself have been waiting for this film to finally look and sound this good and it now does.
In terms of Blu-ray release, this gets:
5 (out of 5) for video quality
4.25 (out of 5) for audio quality
4.5 (out of 5) for bonus materials