Taglines: One was a legend, The other would become one.
Young Karl Westover (Gary Busey), a pre-Civil War Texas farm boy, accidentally kills his brother-in-law and must flee to Mexico. Early into his flight he is met by the outlaw Barbarosa (Willie Nelson) who, seconds later, kills a man who was following him. It is apparent that Barbarosa knows him, but doesn’t say. Despite his disgust that Karl has nothing worth robbing, is loath to leave the poor rube to die in the desert. Barbarosa shows Karl how to find water, make a fire, and catch an armadillo for his supper before leaving him with the advice to go home to Texas.
Karl makes his way to a small pueblo and finds a grubby cantina. He is enjoying his first good meal in a long time and receiving the attentions of his first working girl ever when Barbarosa bursts in and robs everyone at gunpoint. Filling his sombrero with loot, Barbarosa instructs Karl to gather the rest, and steals away while everyone is bemused by Karl’s amateurish performance. Nevertheless, Karl escapes, and he and Barbarosa ride together for the winter while Karl learns the life of an outlaw adventurer.
Karl is being pursued by Floyd and Otto Pahmeyer, the brothers of the man he killed, sent by their vengeful father. They are naive farm boys as Karl once was, and Karl and Barbarosa easily get the drop on them. Again to Barbarosa’s disgust, Karl leaves them alive and tells them to go home. They say they can’t, being more afraid of their father than the banditos. “You know how Papa gets”, they tell Karl, and hike off to replace their guns and resume the chase.
Barbarosa is a 1982 motion picture starring Willie Nelson and Gary Busey about a young cowboy on the run from the law who partners with a famous bandito and learns about life from him. “One of the best overlooked westerns of the last 20 years” according to reviewer LG Writer, and featured on an episode of the television show Siskel & Ebert dedicated to uncovering worthy sleepers, it is “a tale of betrayal, vendetta, honor, and dignity”. Barbarosa was the first American film by noted Australian director Fred Schepisi.
Directed by: Fred Schepisi
Starring: Willie Nelson, Gary Busey, Isela Vega, Gilbert Roland, Danny De La Paz, Alma Martinez, George Voskovec, Sharon Compton
Screenplay by: William D. Wittliff
Cinematography by: Ian Baker
Film Editing by: David Ramirez, Don Zimmerman
Set Decoration by: Thomas L. Roysden
Art Direction by: Michel Levesque
Music by: Bruce Smeaton
Distributed by: Associated Film Distribution, Universal Pictures
Release Date: February 19, 1982