Keoma Brings Freedom
Having been away fighting in the war half breed Keoma (Franco Nero) is returning home for the first time in a long time. On the way he comes across a group of outlaws who are set to kill a group of civilians as they are said to have the plague. Coldly watching from a distance he does nothing as one after another is gunned down till a pregnant woman is about to be shot and he finally intervenes showing his skills with the gun in doing so. Taking the woman back to his home town Keoma quickly makes enemies when they accuse him of bringing a woman with the plague in to town. But that is not his only problem as after paying his father a visit he learns that the town is now run by a man called Caldwell (Donald O'Brien) and Keoma's 3 step brothers who picked on him as a child have joined forces with him. With Caldwell and his men hunting Keoma down to get rid of him Keoma sets about ridding the town of its evil boss.
If I was to change the name Keoma to something like Bill Smith and swapped Franco Nero for say Richard Widmark and this mid 70s western would sound routine. It certainly has a mostly routine story with a man who has been away at war returning home to discover it is in the control of a mean business man and so sets about cleaning the place up in doing so making him a wanted man. But "Keoma" is not just another Hollywood western, it is a spaghetti western and for the most a damn good one at that.
Now as a spaghetti western "Keoma" has many of those elements you associate with the name. There is that dirty look where the west is shown as a grimy place where cowboys look filthy after days of riding the trail. There is also the close ups of the eyes and scene after scene which is full of style, combining slow motion with rotating camera work. Plus of course there is the atmosphere, the build up to moments of drama which all work in that classic spaghetti western way. Yes "Keoma" ticks a lot of spaghetti western boxes and does them all very well.
It also has something extra and I am not on about the violence as that is expected. Nope it has creativity with flashback scenes actually playing out in front of Keoma eye's so when he walks into a barn and remembers his half brothers beating him up as a child he is there watching it happen. And "Keoma" also has Franco Nero who looks great with the long hair and hat making him look slightly believable as a half breed even if the accent isn't right. But what Nero brings to the role is that silent mystery, that ability to just stare at the camera and communicate with it without even opening his mouth. It is because Nero is such a great actor that he manages to make Keoma that intoxicating mix of being likeable but also mysterious.
The one thing which for me is wrong about "Keoma" is the soundtrack as the dramatic songs with a woman who shrieks in a not too dissimilar way to Kate Bush, except Kate Bush sounds good doing it. It is shall we say an interesting concept of a soundtrack but one which grated on me.
What this all boils down to is that "Keoma" is a very good mid 70s spaghetti western and in truth deserves to be much better known than it is. But it is not with out its issues and that soundtrack and the singer's voice will haunt you like the plague.