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Back when this film came out (1982), a friend told me it was no good,
Willie Nelson can't act, blah, blah, blah. I took that at face value,
and blew the film off. Well, 22 years later, 'Barbarosa' is on cable on
American Movie Classics on a hot July afternoon, there isn't nothing'
else on, so I say, okay, I'll give it fifteen minutes to get my
Well, I gotta say, 'Barbarosa just BLEW ME AWAY!
I am Texan born and bred, and have done a fair amount of inquiry into old Texas lore, and this film is just SO RIGHT in so many details. In recent films like 'Cold Mountain', 'Open Range', and 'The Missing', it is much in vogue to get the 19th century period details exactly right. Well, 'Barbrosa' knocked that ball out of the park 22 years ago!
The basic feel of the old Texas homesteads and the horse race and barbecue, they still existed much like that out in West Texas when I was a kid.
The basic plot line is about two converging family blood feuds, one Spanish, the other German American, that is so TOTALLY authentic for this period! Also, the Big Bend scenics are superb!
While some may question Willie's talent for treading the boards, he has no problemo playing himself, and doesn't miss a beat. Gary Busey is one of my favorite actors, despite a habit of making tons of low budget el crappo films. He is at the top of his game in 'Barbarosa'.
While the film does have it's quirky moments, it is basically believable, and some of those old-timers were indeed quirky.
(Warning! As for eating armadillos, don't try this at home! They CAN carry leprosy.) My only beef is that the musical score didn't always seem to match the dramatic action, the music is wry and whimsical at the wrong time, possibly aping some spaghetti Western, but is fine when it sticks to Spanish guitar.
Some have labeled 'Barbarosa' a spaghetti Western. I don't agree, though it may seem so in the historical sequence of film-making. This was a successful attempt to make an authentically period Texas border film, by folks who knew what they are doing.
Some find the gunplay subdued and 'unrealistic', but 'Barbarosa' rightly shows the reality of old west killing where setting up the bushwhack and sniffing the ambush were far more decisive than actually pulling of the trigger.
In the old man's tale, you learn that Barbarosa was originally a Texas Ranger, who were often called los diablo's (the devils) by border Mexicans. This was a REAL legend, indeed a reality, down on the border.
From the quirky opening scenes in this film (a photographer, a dead guy
propped up in a pine box & various family members posing w/same)you are
taken to an intriguing and rather unsettling place. The cinematography in
the film suggests one of those cool(albeit weird) 'spaghetti westerns'.
director's vision comes through, chillingly well at times all throughout
Willie Nelson's performance is, well what can you say except he is his consummate Willie-ness and in this film it works particularly well. Gary Busey's interpretation of his role as Karl is understated and approaches absolute perfection. The remainder of the cast turn in very respectable performances as well. This is another one of those films that you really need to watch several times to "get" the full effect. There are some subtle and not-so-subtle plot twists and themes that are really engrossing and entertaining to watch for. The one and only negative I found with this movie is a personal distaste for the (over)use of the expletive 'G.D.' - it's totally unnecessary and my Southern Baptist ears were ringing by the end of the film. Overall though this is one awesome film, and 'G.D.' notwithstanding, I've worn my copy just about out. It is most definitely worth looking for.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The first time I saw this movie it had a scene in it where Don Brajilo berates the returning Eduardo for killing Barbarosa and explains that the feud with Barbarosa was his way of deliberately pumping up the family to make something of itself, and asks Eduardo what he will do to keep the family going when it is his turn to be patrone. Am I the only one who ever saw this cut? It makes the rest of the movie make sense. Otherwise why does Don Bralijo make such an terrible attack on his adoptive son and new son-in-law, Barbarosa? Why does Eduardo cry out "Barbarosa" at the celebration, when he knows that Barbarosa is dead---to keep the legend alive. I figure the censorship board cut it and I'm afraid there isn't a whole copy left. I didn't imagine this!
First, I have to say, the very first person to review this movie on
IMDb apparently is only attracted to violence in movies, and doesn't
want to try to actually see the story line. More explosions! More dead
people, and they need to be literally blown apart! Death! Fire! Without
it, all movies suck! I notice that everyone else pretty much says the
exact opposite. Odd, how at a later date, every review has an
"unhelpful" flag next to it.
The story woven in Barbarosa is an excellent one, and no one could've pulled off the title role except Willie. The eventual transformation of Karl, from naive farm boy on the run into Barbarosa himself, is astonishing, everything from the way he looks to the way he sounds. Rancho life is authentically depicted, as is the West Texas farm life of the period... and the "eye for an eye" mentality of the people involved, and it's tragic consequences is a lesson hidden away in the storyline, almost as an afterthought. The photography is incredible, and at times the music is is almost overwhelming.
"...you ain't got enough ass in your britches to kill Barbarosa..."
We've have seen all of the formula Westerns; evil cattle baron,
gunslinger, alcoholic sheriff,damsel in distress, kind but shrewd gambler.
It goes on and on. How about real history-like the way Texas was in the
19th century. It was a center of lawlessness and the golden rule, "them
that has the gold makes the rules" more interesting than any screen writer
How about this? Gary Busey playing a second generation German American
farm boy being pursued by Old World family members to avenge a death.
Ironically, he teams up with Willie Nelson to escape his executioners only
to find that Willy is being pursued by Mexicans who call him "Barbarosa".
Busey is excellent as the farm boy and Nelson just plays himself in this unique Western that appears to utilize great scenery to include authentic 19th century farmhouses and a great plot. Gilbert Roland, in a classic supporting role, plays the elder of the Mexicans who utilizes his respect in the Mexican community to whip up hatred towards "Barbarosa".
This acknowledges that Texas, like the rest of the U.S., was formed and shaped by many ethnic groups. A great movie and entertainment.
Barbarosa is one of the best westerns ever made. The subject here is myth and the people who become mythic heroes. Barbarosa is, on the one hand, a legendary bandit and, on the other, an ordinary Texan who steals for a living: "Cattle, horses...Anything except sheep. You couldn't give me one of those wooly bastards." A young man on the run becomes Barbarosa's companion, then his acolyte. Both men are looking for a place in the world and the role they find is that of outlaw hero, players in a mythic drama that gives them meaning. The myth is that of the Outlaw Lover ( as in Hughes' The Outlaw or Brando's One-Eyed Jacks ) and both Nelson and Busey play their roles to perfection. The directing is excellent and the dialogue nigh perfect -- a great western! A swell movie!
This obscure Western was one of my favorite movies as a kid. It was a
box office sleeper, but with the advent of HBO, it achieved a cult
following - at one point it was the most-requested movie on HBO. While
this must mean that a large number of people watched the movie,
everyone I know who has seen it saw it on my TV.
Willie Nelson, not someone I think of as an actor, is excellent. Gary Busey, in the height of his coke-head days, turns in another wonderful performance. Truth be told, all of the actors are perfect. The story is different, as the previous reviewer pointed out, from all the other Westerns, and the cinematography is unbelievable.
Definitely a movie to rent or buy.
I have been an avid watcher of the western genre since I was a kid. I
up watching Roy Rogers, Zorro, and the Lone Ranger on TV and watching John
Wayne, Gary Cooper, and Clint Eastwood in the theaters. A lot of westerns
end up being remakes of previous outings, so when someone comes up with
something original, I take notice. This is one such movie and it is one
my all time favorites.
While Willie Nelson will never get an Oscar for acting, he plays himself brilliantly ... and he's perfect for this part. And Gary Busey does a fine job playing a farm boy turned outlaw. Their relationship grows with each scene and draws you into it until you are emotionally connected with them both.
This movie is definitely not for the folks who want non-stop action with guns blazing from the opening scene until the final credits, but if you like a slower paced movie that takes it's time building it's characters and drawing you into their lives, this movie is for you.
This movie was apparently never released in theaters. Not sure why. It is in my top 100 westerns. I watch it every year or so, and see something new every time. Willie Nelson is appropriately understated. Busey is perfect for his role.
I've seen this movie several times over the years, since it first came out on VHS. All of the people in and behind this movie should do more movies like this, again...Schepisi has the confidence to let this story tell itself at its in own pace. Although the plot may seem to skip over key details, I really feel that Schepisi was only trusting in the audience's intelligence and ability to piece the puzzle together. The way he presents the different approaches of the families' blood rivalries is particularly subtle . Busey is amazingly lively. Nelson and Roland each have great screen presences, are good throughout, but particularly in their one scene together. I enjoy this movie everytime I see it.
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