1967; directed by Giulio Questi; written by Franco Arcalli, Benedetto Benedetti and Giulio Questi; 117 mins
Well, first things first – it’s not a Django movie. The title was tacked on after the success of Sergio Corbucci’s smash hit original in the hopes that it would soak up some of that audience. What it is is a bizarre, vicious tale about one-time gang member, The Stranger who, after helping to steal gold from Union troops, is betrayed by leader Oaks and left for dead. Mysteriously, he survives and is rescued by a couple of Native Americans whilst his executioners are themselves summarily executed when they enter a weird town populated by fucked up yokels! Once on his feet, The Stranger makes his way to the town and finds himself caught between the warring factions of priest (Hagerman), bar owner (Templer) and gang boss (Sorrow) all vying for the stolen gold.
A more convoluted version of A Fistful of Dollars, basically. Except, not as interesting, which is a shame when this film is so regularly cited as one of the most shockingly violent films of the era… and it is, in places but few and far between and not enough to sustain the complex narrative. Because God knows the dialogue and the characters aren’t sustaining it, either; it’s just all fairly standard and unmemorable for the most part which is disappointing, it has to be said. It’s not even that the film has diminished with time. The fact that it’s too long, flatly written and confusing would’ve been fine if it were as out there as all the hype said it was. Sadly, for the most part, it ain’t!
I’m being perhaps a bit too down on it because my interest was there enough, throughout that I didn’t drop off, at least. There are some really good scenes in there, in particular, the gang’s arrival into the town which reminded me of Johnny Depp’s first time in the town of Machine, in Dead Man. Creepy children, abuse and lame hedgehogs become something of a freak-out for the gang as they seek sanctuary for the night. Also, the stockroom shootout between Oaks and The Stranger is well done, as are Oaks’ final, gory moments, which is a shock scene that works really well because of the avaricious madness of the townsfolk. In fact, the first act, really gets off to a good start and makes you believe you’re in for an oddball, sadistic Spaghetti Western treat but all the flair disappears once the filmmakers get bogged down in the local politics of the town.
In keeping with tradition, the dubbing is ropey as hell (but that’s fine, it’s a Spaghetti Western), although, in this version, there are subtitled scenes where the most violent bits occur because they were cut out of most release prints and presumably the dubbing tracks were lost or never done. However, the dubbing on the parrot is pretty funny because it’s so obviously a human voice. Add in the most stilted sex scene ever filmed and you have a movie for hardcore genre fans only.