27 May, 2009


[This is an expanded version of a review posted on my CINEMADROME site]
Here's a suggestion: read the review of Jess Franco's EL LLANERO/THE JAGUAR (1963) in the tome SPAGHETTI WESTERNS: THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE VIOLENT.... and then decide for yourself if the reviewer even saw the film.
Here are some comments, you can decide if they are a more accurate description. I have seen the film, many times, and there are no zoom shots in it. In fact, it looks nothing like Franco's later work in the 1970s.
Directed by Jesus Franco
From a novel by "David Khunne"
Produced by Julian Estaban for S.A. Big 4/Madrid

VENEZUELA, 1863: The Mendoza ranch is raided by the forces of Col. Saltierra (Georges Rollin) who massacre the family of Col. Mendoza. But his young son escapes under the protection of a servant (Roberto Camardiel). Saltierra is on the side of the victors in the war, but decades later an avenger known as "the Jaguar" fights the government with a resistance group which hides in the mountains.

José Suárez in the Spaghetti-western Texas, addio (1966).

This is an almost totally forgotten film, even in Spain where the term El Llanero is the popular name for The Lone Ranger! Nonetheless, this is a beautifully composed (by Emilio Foriscot) period adventure/melodrama which looks and plays like a western. A classical US western with its Fordian images of silhouetted riders seen on distance ridges, while also providing a glimpse of the coming Sergio Leone Eurowestern style in the scene of Saltierra's entry into the seemingly deserted town at the beginning. The empty streets, a hanged man, the sun baked architecture anticipate the stark look of the game changing FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (1964). But Franco's western takes the melodramatic, rather than ironic, path with romantic entanglements provided by Marta Reves (THE GIRL FROM RIO) and the sensual Silvia Sorente (who went topless in CASTLE OF BLOOD the next year) as the humid Lolita. As in many Franco films the director takes every opportunity to take a musical detour with the onscreen performances of the then popular LOS MACHUCAMBOS. The sing-alongs and the virtuous rebels versus the heavy handed military get a tad corny but it's so breathtakingly lensed and staged that style wins out over content in the end. That can certainly be said about many Jess Franco films.

With Betsy Blair, in a German poster of Calle mayor
Born José Suárez Sánchez
19 September 1919
Trubia, Asturias, Spain
Died 6 August 1981
Moreda, Aller, Asturias, Spain
Years active 1944 - 1977
Jose Saurez had a long career as a well known leading man in romantic melodramas before appearing in Jess Franco's EL LLANERO; but having been a very popular actor in Spain his career may have peaked by this time and he evolved into numerous Spaghetti westerns as did Roberto Camardiel, the latter most notoriously as the leader of sadistic/fascist/homosexual outlaw gang in Questi's DJANGO, KILL... (1967). Fans of that genre will note the early appearances of such regulars as Tito Garcia, Manuel Zarzo, Jose Riesgo and many others. Saurez, wearing a white hat and seeming pretty much miscast, is upstaged by Georges Rollin, Sorente, Camardiel and Todd Martin. It looks like Franco worked really hard on this film as each and every set-up is impressive and rigorous.

A terrific looking film which captures the look and ambiance of the rugged landscape in painstaking detail with absolutely no zoom or rack focus shots. Franco seems to have mastered the 2.35:1 aspect ratio at this early point in this career. In fact, it may be too carefully composed and deliberate for those expecting down and dirty action.

I've only managed to see a very fuzzy dub of the Spanish language TVE print. I'm not certain of its availability on DVD but it has been released on French video.
Finally, I doubt we'll ever see a R1 US DVD of this, but you never can tell and it does illustrate another aspect of the director's talents.
(c) Robert Monell, 2009

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Tom B. said...

Thanks for the write-up on José Suárez Sánchez who was one of my favorite Spanish actors. He always had that look of aristocracy.

Robert Monell said...

Welcome to the blog, Tom. Thanks, and I agree about that aristocratic look which is especially effective in his role as the complex villain in TEXAS, ADDIO, a sometimes underrated SW I think.

cinemarchaeologist said...

Franco helming a straight Western? I'll buy that for a dollar (or a fistful of 'em). I didn't even know this movie existed until I read it here. Now, I really want to see it. It does seem as though a future R1 release is a bit of a long shot. One can dream, I suppose.