Glen Campbell, one of the most popular voices in the history of country western music, has passed away at age 81. Since 2011 he had waged a valiant battle against Alzheimer's disease. He continued to perform even as the ailment took a toll on him physically and mentally. His experience was chronicled in the acclaimed 2014 documentary "Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me". Campbell hit his stride in the 1960s and became a popular country "crossover" artist who appealed to audiences that generally didn't patronize country western music. He sold 45 million records over the course of his career. The telegenic, squeaky-clean, nice guy image served Campbell well. He appealed to both young fans and older audiences and had a popular TV variety series, "The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour" that ran between 1969-1972. Campbell's acting debut was a promising one. He co-starred opposite John Wayne in the Duke's 1969 Oscar-winning classic "True Grit" and acquitted himself well enough to earn a Golden Globe nomination, in addition to singing the Oscar-nominated title song. However, the big screen did not appeal to him. His one other feature film, the 1970 movie "Norwood", flopped and he would only be seen in films henceforth playing himself in musical sequences. For more click here.
It is only in the
stories others tell about us, the legends they create, that we can achieve any
sort of immortality. And even though the stories may not be completely true, it
is better to keep them alive than to let them die. For when they die, we die
with them. Such seems to be the theme of “Barbarosa” (1982), a sly, subtle film
from director Fred Schepisi and screenwriter William D. Witliff, about two men
on the run in the desert in Old Mexico. One is Karl Westover (Gary Busey), a
young farm boy running from an old man who is determined to shoot him on sight
in revenge for killing one of his sons. Karl insists it was an accident. The
other is a legendary outlaw who has been at war for years with a Mexican family
that gave him the name Barbarosa (Willie Nelson), which means Red Beard in
No sooner do the two
men meet than a Mexican with a gun charges Barbarosa. The grizzled, bearded
outlaw stands calmly as a bullet marks his cheek and puts a hole in the brim of
his sombrero. He coolly shoots and kills his assailant, a member of the Zuvalla
family. Barbarosa explains he’s managed to survive by killing at least half a dozen
male members of the Zuvalla family over the last 15 years. The two men—the farm
boy and the outlaw—are in the same predicament, both hunted men. Barbarosa
reluctantly decides to take the young, inexperienced fugitive under his wing
and teach him the tricks of the outlaw trade.
The pairing of Busey
with Willie is unusual casting to say the least, and watching them play off
each other is quite a treat. The mercurial Busey, even then notorious for
cutting up on the set, manages to keep himself in check long enough to make his
farm boy turned outlaw believable, and Willy is just laid-back Willie,
perfectly suited to play the laconic bandido.
One of the first things Barbarosa teaches him
is how to kill a man with a gun. First, he says, point it like you’re pointing your
finger. Second squeeze the trigger gently “like you’re holding your sore
pecker.” Third: “Always stand still until you’re done shooting,” he explains.
“Nothin’ scares a man more than for you to be standin’ still when you should be
runnin’ like a spotted-assed ape.” Barbarosa is a font of such outlaw wisdom. When Carl tells him
about his trouble back home, he says, “Well, the Mexicans got a saying – ‘What
cannot be remedied must be endured.’”
Meanwhile back at the Zuvalla Rancho, Don Braulio Zuvalla (the great
Gilbert Roland in his last film), after learning of the death of the man
Barbarosa killed, selects another young member of the family to seek out and kill
Barbarosa “Bring me his cojones,” he
says. “Bring them to me on a stick.” Young Eduardo (Danny De La Paz) accepts
the task, vowing not to return until he’s done as the don has asked.
Screenwriter Witliff, whose other work for the screen includes the
“Lonesome Dove” TV series, “The Black Stallion,” and “Legends of the Fall,” slowly
pays out Barbarosa’s backstory in small pieces as the action moves forward. It
isn’t until midway through the film we hear the Don’s version of what happened
between the two men. Barbarosa had been a Texas Ranger who saved the Don’s life
and became a family friend but then married the don’s daughter without his consent.
Barbarosa’s wife, Josephina, is played by Mexican actress Isela Vega, best
known for playing Elita in Sam Peckinpah’s masterpiece “Bring Me the Head of
Alfredo Garcia” (1974). Karl and his outlaw partner sneak into the rancho to
give Josephina some money. Karl overhears the Don telling the assembled
children the story, and learns that Barbarosa had cold-bloodedly shot off the
Don’s leg at the knee, and slashed the throats of two of his sons. The Don says
the once honey-colored beard was now red with blood. “Barbarosa!” one of the
children cries. The Don tells them Barbarosa is the devil himself and as long
as they live they must hunt for Barbarosa and one day finally kill him.
When Don Braulio later discovers Barbarosa within his hacienda,
the two men face each other. “Damn you for all the misery, you’ve caused,”
Barbarosa mutters. “All I ever wanted to do is be a part of this family.” Don
Braulio tells him: “And are you not part of this family?” The bitter feud, the
endless killing, has bonded the Don and the outlaw together forever.
The second half of the film deals with Karl’s problems with the
old man who is gunning for him. Karl returns home to find his father and sister
alone and in bad health. There is a confrontation with his pursuer and later
Barbarosa shows up and the two team up once again. But young Eduardo is still
in pursuit and there is a final showdown with Barbarosa. I won’t reveal the
ending, except to say that before the film is over we learn Barbarosa’s version
of what happened with the Zuvalla family and we come to understand the violence
that happened so many years ago. By the end of the film, Karl has grown from
naïve farm boy to experienced outlaw in his own right. The events that transpire
at the story’s conclusion give him no choice but to become part of the legend
of Barbarosa himself.
Scorpion Releasing has done an excellent job presenting the film
in its first-ever wide screen release in the U.S. The 1080 p transfer to
Blu-Ray displays the movie in its original 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio. The
picture is sharp and clear and does justice to director Schepisi’s fondness for
long-distance shots of the Mexican landscape in which the characters sometimes
appear as mere dots on the screen. The disc contains several bonus features,
including interviews with Schepisi, and cast members Alma Martinez and Danny De
La Paz. There is also a trailer and a separate audio track for listening to Bruce
Smeaton’s music score. “Barbarosa” is highly recommended.