In the film-zine Westerns Alla Italiana (No.1, Vol.2), Ken Petit writes "My theory concerning why these films are disliked so intensely by film critics is that by and large, the Western film, by its very nature, presents a working class outlook." That is very much the case with Tierra Brava. If you like euro-westerns, Spanish westerns in particular, you my find this "proletarian" b-western worth your time.
Martin Roja's home is destroyed while he an his neighbors, poor peasants, are forced to flee to Mexico after they kill a rancher and some of his men who were responsible. Rojas forms a band of bandits which raids the border, attempting to gain back some of what they have lost. Roja's wife dies in childbirth while the Sheriff's men close in and he gives himself up, overcome with grief. The Sheriff adopts the boy. Ten years later, Rojas escapes from prison to see his son. An old partner of his is after a fortune in gold that Rojas had hidden. Rojas finds himself a danger to his son as well as unable of providing what the sheriff can, so he is forced to make a choice. . .
Thematically, this movie is interesting. It has some of the elements of the political westerns that were being made in Italy at the time, but for the most part it feels like a fairly standard paella western; Martin Rojas is the usual doomed protagonist. In the beast Spanish westerns, violence is portrayed as an epidemic that leaps from person to person, perverting and destroying them. What starts as self-defense ends in blood-lust. This pessimistic view presumably arises from the experience of the Spanish Civil War and fascist Spain. It is quite different that the exuberant optimism of their Italian counterparts. Unlike For A Few Bullets More, Garringo, or Cutthroats Nine, Rojas maintains his humanity through his love for his son and wife. This humanizing element of the family connections that bind a person to the community is another important aspect of these movies. In For A Few Dollars More, Billy maintains his dignity as long as his mother is alive. In A Bullet Sandoval, it is the death of the protagonist's lover and infant that provokes his slide into brutality.
This movie is not as bleak as these others; the connection is not severed and Rojas is in this sense an uncharacteristic paella western hero - he is redeemed in the end.
Lately, the portrayal of race and racism in American, as seen from across the Atlantic, has really been striking me in these movies. In this movies, and Long Days of Vengeance (1967), notice how the only time that you see an African-American is in the prison scenes. Also, the prisoners are for the most part people of color. It would be interesting to know what this means - was it an intentional comment on the US or an imitation of prison scenes in American movies?
Guglielmo Spoletini does a decent job as Rojas. Eduardo Fajardo steals the show with an over-the-top performance as Roja's malignant former partner, Trevor. This is the sort of nutty, histrionic villain that fans expect from the genre.
Carlo Savina provides a solid score. His other euro-western scores include Bullet and the Flesh (1965) and Vengeance(1968).
Leon Klimovsky is best known to fans of "eurotrash" cinema for his horror movies like Vampire Night Orgy, however he did direct a number of westerns. I have only seen this one, Rattler Kid, and Fedra West. While those movies were dull both thematically and aesthetically, Tierra Brava is competently made and fairly interesting. At the beginning of the film the new federal marshal arrives to find the aftermath of a gun battle. This is an effective scene, with corpses splayed on the ground, on the floor of the bar, under the water in a horse trough. The torture scene and the sequences in the desert are also well done. Telling the story in flashback adds some additional interest as enigmatic scenes and dialog from the beginning of the film are explained at the end.
Cinematograhoer Emilio Foriscot shot a number of euro-cult movies, including the Sergio Martino directed giallos Lo strano vizio della Signora Wardh (1969) and La coda dello scorpione (1971). His westerns include Anda muchacho, spara! (1971) and Due croci a Danger Pass (1967).
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