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4.3 out of 5 stars
Barbarosa
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on February 24, 2008
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
First, I LOVED "Barbarosa." I was one of the underwhelming few who tracked it down when it was in its original theatrical release, and greedily recorded it on VHS from a widescreen cable broadcast. Alas, that recording is gone, along with a heartbreakingly large quantity of other presently unobtainable material.

The fatal flaw with this product is that it is presented ONLY in what they ironically call "full-screen" format; chop off nearly half of what you saw on the theater screen, and you get "full-screen." This film has been tragically butchered.

The logic of producing this product in this manner utterly eludes me. Those of us who appreciate and value good films enough to lay out our money for an individual title on DVD want to experience the vision of the director who made it, and/or re-experience, as nearly as possible, what we first saw in the theater; not the "vision" of some nameless technician artlessly cropping two noses to fit into the same frame.

This is not a widely known film. Who is more likely to seek out and buy this title? Someone who appreciated it in its original form, and now wants to see it again, or watch it with others he believes could share in his appreciation of it? Or, someone who just needs something the right size and shape to fill the blank picture tube of his standard format television? I posit that ANY piece of junk will fill that empty space, and such a person is far more likely to fill it with free broadcast content than to pay to fill it with this film which they probably never heard of in the first place! I believe that anyone who is looking for this movie will be disappointed or angry that it was hacked apart; it reminds me of knocking the arms and head off from a statue to get it into a packing crate. This was a good-- I'd say great-- movie. No one had to do a thing except transfer it to digital and ship it out the door, and I'd have bought it, and loved it. The director had one vision; whose vision is THIS? Instead of "the director's cut," we're presented with "the vandal's cut."

This is an awful shame, because, as I said in the beginning, I love this movie in its true form. I believe the story is memorably good, the photography was beautiful, the actors were well-chosen. If you can get past the fact that this film was vandalized, there is still much to like. I'm going to wait and hope for an undefiled version to be released, or record it on my computer the next time I see it shown in widescreen on cable. But, if you're too impatient for that, or seeing the original version did not spoil this version for you, then I can recommend this. "Barbarosa" is one of my favorite movies... but, sadly, I do not recognize this version as that movie.
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45 of 49 people found the following review helpful
on March 20, 2003
Format: DVD
Beware. Artisan has only released a full-screen version of this movie. If aspect ratio is important to you, don't buy it.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
Some movies are eternal victims. Case in point: Barbarosa, which had the best script and the worst luck of any of the late-70s-early-80s Westerns. Barely released to theatres after production company ITC went bust, little seen on TV and almost impossible to find on video, it turns up on DVD cropped from the impressive original 2.35:1 widescreen to a very cramped fullscreen 1.33:1, begging the question why bother to release a film in the wrong ratio this day and age?

Even awkwardly cropped it still holds up, managing to straddle the middle ground between the revisionist and the mythical, taking place in a landscape at once all-too real (parched Texas wilderness, ramshackle farmsteads) and stylised (the almost cave-like room where Gilbert Roland's bitter paterfamilias endlessly retells the legend of Barbarosa to each new generation who will grow up to hunt him down and die in the attempt). As the two unlikely partners caught up in pointless blood feuds with their in-laws, Willie Nelson isn't always as good as he should be and it takes a reel or two to get used to his style and Gary Busey is nobody's idea of a Western hero, but their very unlikeliness as movie icons helps sell them as closer to the reality of the old West. And the film is also blessed with one of the best endings of the 80s, as a supposed fiesta becomes almost funereal, the dead faces of the film's `victors' sapped of all purpose until... well, see it for yourself, it's worth it. Barbarosa! Barbarosa! Barbarosa!
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on July 29, 2003
Format: DVD
One of the best unknown Westerns of the last 20 years or so, Barbarosa stars Willie Nelson and Gary Busey in a story of revenge and honor. Nelson plays a ex-Texas Ranger, Barbarosa, who's now a lone bandit, preying on rich Mexicans. During a disagreement, he formerly crippled his father-in-law to be, a Mexican landowner and still deeply loves the landowner's daughter with whom he has had a daughter.
Busey is a Texas farmhand who accidentally killed his brother-in-law--his sister's husband--and is now out on his own, pursued by his brother-in-law's two brothers for revenge. Similarly, Barbarosa is being pursued by the landowner's top gun, a fiery Mexican who vows Barbarosa's death.
The two, Nelson and Busey, meet by accident and join up for a time. During that time we get to see the West as it very likely really looked about 100 years ago (more specifically, the Southwest--i.e., southern Texas); the cinematography is magnificent. One of the critical ingredients in any great Western is great cinematography and that is very much in display here. As well, the score by Bruce Smeaton is excellent.
Nelson and Busey do a great job--their accents certainly don't hurt (both men are originally from that part of the U.S.), and so does the supporting cast. Fred Schepisi, the director, has a perfect sense of pacing and momentum that pulls the viewer along with very little tugging indeed. Armadillos figure in the mix, as do old men with guns and younger men buried up to their necks. There's a hacienda, a cantina, and an outdoor festival. The film drips with Western atmosphere, no question.
Highly recommended for fans of the genre.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on July 21, 2006
Format: DVD
Beautiful western! Just beautiful!

And I can think of no other western, besides Walsh's "The Big Trail" which so clearly NEEDS a widescreen transfer yet, for some reason, doesn't have it!!!

Why???

Please, if someone is listening, these films deserve to be seen widescreen. The cinematography in Barbarosa (as well as "The Big Trail") is absolutely breathtaking and is integral to the story.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on October 9, 2007
Format: DVD
I loved this western when it came out. An tight, elegant script by Lonesome Dove screenwriter Bill Witliff, plus a sense of landscape-as-psychology from Aussie director Fred Schepisi.

Most movies are acceptable in full-screen. This is not one of them. I'll buy the DVD when it is released in its proper format.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on September 24, 2011
Format: DVD
Lionsgate's DVD is a full-screen pan & scan transfer of a widescreen film. Half the picture is missing, and there is at least one missing scene.

Director Fred Schepisi and photographer Ian Baker shot BARBAROSA entirely with telephoto lenses. Telephotos flatten depth and bring backgrounds close to the foreground. The action is in your lap, so to speak. Landscapes were chosen and sets were built so that the camera could be placed at certain distances and still get a deep depth of field under golden hour light in a wide 2:35-1 frame. That is highly unusual, and it gives this film an individuality and character that sets it apart from other westerns. No other western, and very few films, look quite like what you see here. I mention this because composition is everything to BARBAROSA.

The lions at LionsGate are sleeping at the gate. Eight years ago they released BARBAROSA in this full frame DVD that cuts off half the picture. But it does more harm than that. It's as if they deliberately tried to sabotage the director's and photographer's approach to the film. Backgrounds and foregrounds are the same blur. Without the wide frame, your eye isn't steered into the composition. You don't see the story that's being told. Pan & Scan also robs the film of its mercurial lighting and dusty, tactile aesthetic. Over the years LionsGate has ignored the protests of fans and customers and done nothing to correct the error.

Don't buy this DVD.
Wait for a widescreen edition or catch it on Turner Classic Movies or HD TV.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on June 11, 2007
Format: DVD
Fred Schepisi's "Barbarosa" was all but buried on its initial release in 1982, and has seldom been seen since. That's too bad, because William D. Wittliff's literate, poetic script shows genuine feeling for -- and an insider's knowledge of -- the American West. With memorable performances from Willie Nelson and Gary Busey, "Barbarosa" is worth seeing. Unfortunately, the full-frame video transfer here is awful. Given the poor quality of this DVD, the price comes as something of an insult.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
Here's an unjustly overlooked film that's full to the brim with energy, gusto, humor & fascinating, larger than life characters. Willie Nelson's Barbarosa & Gary Busey's Karl make a perfect pair, mentor & student, father figure & son, as they live out the myth created by Don Braulio (a superbly intense, embittered Gilbert Roland).

What makes this especially interesting is Barbarosa's knowledge that he's living out a story, participating in its ongoing creation, even commenting on it at times: the legendary outlaw who is both the foe & driving force of an equally legendary family. Don Braulio's myth-making has raised his people out of poverty & given them pride & strength. He knows it, he knows how much he owes to Barbarosa's continued presence -- a presence he reinforces with consciously symbolic storytelling to the awed children destined to sustain the myth unto the next generation. In a story made up of intertwining lives & families, in many ways the strongest relationship is the one between Barbarosa & Don Braulio.

At one point we're even treated to a scene of Barbarosa eavesdropping on someone singing a new song about Barbarosa's latest exploit, already inflated beyond what we'd previously witnessed onscreen. Barbarosa is flattered, amused -- after hearing a particularly good line, he mutters in admiration, "Son of a b*tch can write!" -- until the song comes to the part where they kill Barbarosa. The way Nelson's face & voice both go flat speaks volumes. Barbarosa knows that he's trapped in his own myth, which he's help to perpetuate, and that he's got to play it out to the end.

And let's not forget the importance of the blistering, wide-open landscape, which is practically another personality itself. The cinematography gives us the desert, the mountains, the plains in heat-soaked color & grandeur, an eternal & timeless country strong enough to bear the weight of legendary men.

It's hard to believe this film isn't better known. It has everything you could want from a great story: romance, tragedy, picaresque humor, startling shifts from the everyday to the extraordinary. And the actors give it their all, with plenty to spare. To top it off, it has one of the best, most joyous, make-the-hair-on-your-skin-stand-up-straight endings I've ever seen in a film. Most highly recommended!

(The previous reviewers are right about the crying need for a widescreen version of this DVD. This film absolutely demands it. Preferably with commentary by Nelson & Busey.)
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on July 29, 2004
Format: DVD
A rather unknown western from the early 80s starring Willie Nelson and Garey Busey. Although the plot is within the mainstream of western genres, the film is a great drama with good direction and cinematography. The film also has an excellent soundtrack.

Willie Nelson plays Barbarossa, an ex-Texas Ranger ostracized from relating with his Mexican wife because of a vendetta from his father-in-law. His father-in-law also happens to be the pueblo's chieftain. His hatred for Nelson is so intense that he holds a bounty over his head to which all the young men of the pueblo respond. Nelson is therefore left to be a desperado who can neither be too far or too close from his wife's village. Nelson soon encounters Busey roaming in the desert as an outcast from his own family feud. They join together as desperadoes roaming the Sonoran desert while evading men of the pueblo who seek to carry out their jefe's vendetta.

The acting is excellent and all of the characters are given depth. A very touching story. Definitely worth owning.
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