Django/Django Strikes Again
October 28, 2003
Say the words Spaghetti Western & what springs to mind? Maybe the image of Clint Eastwood in a dusty poncho, a cigar butt wedged between his teeth glaring into the noon day sun fingers hovering at his pistol trigger in anticipation of the final showdown, all under the watchful eye of the maestro Sergio Leone. However the westerns of Leone were only the tip of the iceberg, there were many more directors making similar films of varying quality. Most of these have been overlooked & gone unseen for many years, Anchor Bay are setting out to rectify this with a number of films being released on DVD, many available for the first time. Chief amongst these is the double disc set of Django/Django Strikes Again.
To the tune of the unforgettable title song a mysterious stranger trudges through a mud encrusted, rain soaked landscape dragging a coffin behind him. This is Django, the ultimate western anti-hero. After saving a young woman by effortlessly gunning down the bad guys Django accompanies her to a dirty border town. A ghost town with two factions using it as a battlefield, the corrupt racist Major Jackson & a gang of Mexican bandits led by General Rodriquez, both have a shared history with the enigmatic Django & what follows is a series of double-crosses, gold theft & violent gunplay from all concerned. The confrontations & Django’s true motives are brought to a head in the superb climax. It all ends in a glorious final showdown with the bruised & bloodied Django once again facing seemingly insurmountable odds in a desolate graveyard.
Along with Leone the master of the European western was Sergio Corbucci who created classics like The Big Silence, one of the most pessimistic westerns ever made. Although not seen much in the US Django was one of the most influential westerns in Europe, so popular that it spawned over 50 ‘sequels’ most of which had nothing in common with the original apart from the name, others were just retitled Franco Nero movies. Corbucci presents us with a gritty, sadistic remake of Yojimbo, but one that is arguably better than A Fistful Of Dollars – a stranger enters town with his own hidden agenda & plays the two warring gangs against each other. Django as portrayed by the excellent Franco Nero in this his career-defining role is a much darker, more ambiguous anti-hero than Eastwood’s Man With No Name. Cold & unemotional, undeterred on his chosen path & steadfast in his resolve to complete his hidden agenda. Clad in black, dragging his dirty coffin behind him his real motives are not fully revealed until the final real. You never truly know where his loyalties lie & what the outcome will be in this action packed western which was unofficially banned for over 20 years & is pretty violent by the standards of the day.
Co-written by Corbucci all his trademarks are here from the bizarre larger than life characters, desolate locations, over the top violence & physical mutilation. Corbucci’s west is far darker & more violent than anything seen by John Wayne & everything’s taken to excess, rather than a one on one shoot out Django tells Major Jackson to bring all his men to town & defeats them with a little help from the contents of his coffin, it also gives us mud-wrestling whores & a scene involving a priests ear that goes one step further than Reservoir Dogs!
This is a great introduction to the world of the Spaghetti outside of the Leone cannon & has some fun extras adding to the enjoyment. There are the standard trailers & each disc contains an interview with Franco Nero. Although short they are both very informative. Django also has a fun little interactive feature, a primitive version of console games like Time Cop – you are Django & to the sound of the films score must gun down bad guys with your DVD remote now a six shooter! Included in the package is a great booklet, which gives a brief background to Django & also details some of the ‘sequels’ including many thumbnail pictures of the movie posters.
Also included in this DVD package is the true official sequel with Nero slipping effortlessly back into the role that made him famous after a twenty year absence. Unfortunately the film itself is not so hot. Nero is good & the transformation of his character is well down. He is also ably supported by Donald Pleasance & there are a couple of bizarre scenes reminiscent of Corbucci’s style (a female slave master pouring water over herself allowing the thirsty slaves to drink what they can from her wet body) but on the whole it is a wasted effort, having more in common with Rambo or Commando than the wild west! For real fans though the sequel includes footage thought lost. A 5 minute prologue featuring Spaghetti Western regular William Berger. This is a great addition but on the whole Django Strikes Again is not a very good movie, more akin in style to eighties action movies than its own western heritage.
Overall Django is one of the finest films to come out of the short-lived Spaghetti Western genre, rivaling the work of the maestro Sergio Leone & has its own unique style & over the top violence. It has all the hallmarks of the genre with great characters, violent action, evocative direction & an irresistible score. This film is served well on a great DVD by cult faves Anchor Bay. For a movie of this age the picture quality is very good & anamorhpic, the mono sound is more than adequate. Alas the belated sequel is disappointing but is worth seeing for some additional lost footage & a good performance by Franco Nero. The DVD is rounded off by some short but good extras & is well worth a look by anyone interested in widening their viewing of Spaghetti Westerns.