Texas Adios: “A glimpse of the Spaghetti Westerns yet to come”
Say one thing for Texas Adios, the 1966 spaghetti Western reissued on Blu-Ray by Arrow Video; it doesn’t hang around. A friend of mine likes to needle me by describing Westerns as a genre where you spend eighty minutes waiting for one action scene, but Texas Adios’s first action scene begins with its first shot. It’s a good scene, too, full of the Pop Art stylings that make Italian Westerns of this era so distinctive: a crash-zoom here, a freeze-frame there. Don Powell’s theme song, though, could sit on your Western playlist alongside the title tracks from 3:10 to Yuma or The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. It’s a fine piece of balladry – but what’s it doing in a spaghetti film?
Director Ferdinando Baldi served his apprenticeship making sword-and-sandal films, much like Sergio Leone. The difference between Baldi and Leone, though, can be seen in how they shoot landscapes. Even when he got out to Monument Valley in Once Upon a Time in the West, Leone mainly saw the desert as something striking his actors could pose in front of; you almost expect them to change in between shots, like a Krazy Kat comic. The landscapes in Texas Adios, on the other hand, have banks and trees; a Western landscape, yes, but not in the larger-than-life, iconographic way the spaghettis would soon patent.
There is a limit to what you can get from an auteurist reading of Texas Adios. Baldi’s film is more traditional than you would expect from a spaghetti Western, but that’s not because he was a stylistic conservative. It’s because, at this point, Italian Westerns were celebrated more for their ability to mimic American films than they were for their own unique qualities. Once the spaghetti style bedded in, Baldi made Blindman, starring Ringo Starr as a blind Mexican bandit – this exists – and Django, Prepare a Coffin, one of the best of the long cycle of imitators of Sergei Corbucci’s masterpiece. Django himself, the inimitable Franco Nero, plays the lead in Texas Adios, a Texan lawman drawn south of the border for a chance to avenge himself on his father’s killer. (It also shares a cinematographer with Django, in the form of Enzo Barboni.)
It all turns out to be a bit more complicated than that, but the appeal of the plot to Nero was very simple indeed. Interviewed in the disc’s extra features, he says he enjoyed the chance to play a Gary Cooper-style Western hero, noting that it was the only chance he got to play a sheriff. No wonder – he’d completed Django just a few months earlier, and that film would set his image forever as the heroic outlaw. Sometimes watching Texas Adios feels like listening to a skiffle album recorded a couple of weeks before the Beatles’ first single; there’s a revolution coming, and this film seems blissfully unaware of it. Every time you’re ready to dismiss the film as an accomplished but derivative homage to Anthony Mann and John Ford, though, something more distinctly Italian shines through. There’s a lovely glimmer of the cynicism that Italian Westerns are awash with when a character claims to have magic rocks that can make anyone talk. He then reveals his enchanted minerals; two gold nuggets.
The definitive spaghetti Western indictment of gold-lust comes in Django, Kill! (aka If You Live, Shoot!) where a man is shot with gold bullets and the witnesses tear his body apart to get to the precious projectiles that killed him. There’s nothing that macabre in Texas Adios – which was promoted as Django 2 in some countries – but the action scenes are impressively frequent and full-on. I particularly liked the fist-fight mid-way through where the punches appear to be dubbed with whip-crack sound effects. It’s not a realistic noise, but Italian Westerns aren’t about realism. As a pastiche of American genre films, Texas Adios is surprisingly accomplished and convincing, but the little glimpses of what’s to come stay with you.
Extras-wise, there’s a lot going on. As mentioned before, there is a short but informative interview with Nero, as well as his co-star Alberto Dell’Acqua and the film’s co-writer Franco Rossetti. Commentary comes from spaghetti Western scholars C Courtney Joyner and Henry C Parke, and there’s a good interview with another Italian oater expert Austin Fisher. The restoration – from the original negative – is strong and evocative, allowing you to enjoy every detail of the film’s Victorian interiors. It’s also presented in Italian and English versions, the latter of which contains some delightfully hammy screams during the violent scenes.