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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Barquero (Blu-ray)
Barquero (Blu-ray)
Kino // R // April 28, 2015 // Region A
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted April 2, 2015 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
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A U D I O
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The Movie:

A distinctly American film masquerading as a Spaghetti Western, 1970's Barquero was directed by Gordon Douglas and shot not in Europe but in Colorado. The name and the casting of Lee Van Cleef in the lead might give you the impression this is an import, but nope, the film is as American as mom and apple pie.

The film introduces us to a man named Travis who makes his living operating the barge that is the only means of crossing a river that serves as a border between the United States and Mexico. It's hard work, but he's good at it and it allows him to more or less keep to himself. Aside from some interaction with the lovely Nola (Marie Gomez), that's more or less what he does: he mind his own business.

Travis' non-interventionist stance starts to change when a group of merciless bandits led by Jake Remy (Warren Oates) start harassing the inhabitants of a nearby settlement. Remy's reputation precedes him and he's well known as a murderer. Travis doesn't want to see Remy repeat here what he did at the last town he and his cronies decided to exploit. In order to get to the townsfolk, however, Remy and company will need to cross that river, and there's only one way that they can realistically do that… but Travis and his cohort, Mountain Phil (Forrest Tucker), say otherwise.

Barquero is merely good when it should have been great. Casting Oates and Van Cleef, both men at the top of their game here, really should have ensured a masterpiece but we don't get one. The movie is entertaining enough and far from terrible but the story is pretty much middle of the road material. We know fairly early on how this will play out and how, and the middle part of the film drags thanks to some long stretches that focus on lackluster character development (that never really goes anywhere) and are, as such, devoid of much action or suspense. These sequences hurt the movie to be sure, but there's enough to like about the first chunk and the last chunk of the movie that it's not particularly tough to get through the movie, particularly if you're a fan of Van Cleef or Oates.

Both actors do fine work here. Van Cleef is the noble hero, the one who doesn't want to get involved but winds up doing just that because it's the right thing to do. He's a fairly traditional western movie ‘good guy' in that regard, and he handles the role quite well. Oates, on the other hand, is a complete rat bastard. He's here to take advantage of anything and everyone that he can and he's quite obviously coming to his wits' end as those in pursuit start closing in on his men. Oates really steals the show here, barking orders at everyone and blasting away with his guns. It's a bit over the top but that's exactly what you want out of Warren Oates in a role like this. Supporting efforts from Marie Gomez, Kerwin Matthews and Mariette Hartley are also fun but out of the supporting players cast here, it's Forrest Tucker who makes the biggest impression. As Mount Phil, a literal ant-eater of a man, he cuts quite an imposing figure and he and Van Cleef make for a great, if very unlikely, team of heroes.

The location photography is spot on. The river becomes as much a character in the movie as any of the humans, as pretty much the entirety of the conflict established in the picture revolves around conquering it. Jerry Finnerman's cinematography captures the locations in all their ragged glory and some really impressive camerawork helps to set the mood nicely. We really feel that this is some serious frontier action we're witnessing, and the score that comes courtesy of composer Dominic Frontiere helps out in this regard too. It feels era appropriate and enhances the action scenes quite nicely. So yeah, more effort in the story and character development departments would certainly have gone a long way and maybe established Barquero as a classic, but as it stands that never happened. Instead, it's a passably entertaining film made more interesting thanks to the acting and the overall look and feel of the film.

The Blu-ray:

Video:

Barquero debuts on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed in a 1.78.1 widescreen aspect ratio. There's some minor print damage evident in a few spots, just white specks and the like, nothing all too serious or distracting. For the most part the image is pretty clean and generally quite colorful as well. Skin tones look nice and lifelike, never too pink or too orange, while black levels are strong throughout the movie. Detail is pretty strong throughout, this is a sharp picture with good depth. All in all, Barquero gets a pretty solid transfer. There are no problems with any compression artifacts, edge enhancement or noise reduction and all in all, the movie looks very good on Blu-ray.

Sound:

An English language audio option is provided in DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio with optional subtitles provided in English only. This is a fine mix and if it isn't super fancy it gets the job done. The dialogue is easy to understand and quite clear while the levels are remain nicely balanced. Sound effects have some noticeable punch behind them, gun shots in particular, and the score has some nice weight to it that help add to the drama and tension inherent in certain scene.

Extras:

The only extra on the disc is the film's original theatrical trailer. Static menus and chapter selection are included.

Final Thoughts:

Barquero is worth seeing not so much because of the story, but because of the two leads. Van Cleef and Oates are great here and they completely redeem the film, allowing us to easily look past whatever shortcomings it might have. A few decent action set pieces help there too. Kino's Blu-ray release is light on extras but it does look and sound quite nice. Recommended.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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