‘Django' Double Features
Ever since Sergio Corbucci took his cue from Sergio Leone and became the second most successful director of “spaghetti” Westerns with 1966's “Django,” the title character has followed a long and twisting trail through more than 30 unofficial sequels (and one official one, “Django 2,” in 1987) with almost as many different actors playing the gunslinging drifter originally portrayed by Franco Nero (Sir Lancelot of Joshua Logan's “Camelot,” husband of Vanessa Redgrave).
The original film, considered one of the most violent Westerns up to that time, was also critically applauded in some quarters, but many subsequent efforts bearing the Django brand were low-budget knock-offs helmed by Leone/Corbucci wannabes. Timeless Media Group has released four of these films as double features on two separate DVDs.
One disc contains “A Man Called Django!” (1971, Italian title: “W Django!”), starring Anthony Steffen — real name Antonio Luis — in the title role, directed by Edward G. Muller, aka Edoardo Mulargier. It's violent, but not graphically so, and intentionally funny one minute, unintentionally hilarious the next. It's also loaded with references to the “Dollar” trilogy, but deadpan Steffen is no Clint Eastwood. As in the original “Django,” the anti-hero is tracking down the murderers of his wife.
The second feature is “Django and Sartana's Showdown in the West” (1970, original title “Arrivano Django E Sartana ... E La Fine,” aka “Django and Sartana Are Coming ... It's the End”), directed by — I kid you not — Dick Spitfire, aka Demofilo Fidani, aka Miles Deem, and starring Chet Davis, aka Franco Borelli, as Django. In this one, Django and the Lone Ranger-like Sartana are attempting to retrieve a kidnapped ranch woman from Mexican bandits. This one's pretty hilarious, and not on purpose. It has a villain who plays cards with himself in front of a mirror, a scene of course intending to telegraph that he's scary crazy.
The second DVD, sold separately, offers “Django Kills Silently” (1967), starring 6'9” tall Italian B-movie actor and screenwriter George Eastman (birth name Luigi Montefiori), who looks a little like George Hamilton, playing Django as a young cowboy who stumbles upon the massacre of a family, saves a young woman and takes her to Santa Anna to avenge the murder of her husband. Directed by Italian horror specialist Massimo Pupillo crediting himself as Max Hunter, this one is fraught with truly bad acting, right down to the melodramatic way that everyone falls dead when they're shot.
Finally, there is “Django's Cut Price Corpses” (1971), with Jeff Cameron (born Goffredo Scarciofolo), a stuntman with little acting skill but a great talent for fighting and shooting realistically. Unfortunately director Paolo Solvay is an amazingly inept filmmaker prone to shaky hand-held cinematography that resembles a very nervous person's home movies, while his dubbed voices and audio effects sound like they were recorded inside a tin shack.
But this is the kind of accidentally uproarious stuff that inspires spaghetti-Western/martial-arts geek Quentin Tarantino, and come Christmas we'll see how well he fares with his version of the character in “Django Unchained,” starring Jamie Foxx in the title role as an ex-slave turned bounty hunter. He's bound to better these other bozos by a prairie mile. Until then, this fistful of Djangos delivers as many belly laughs as it does bullets.
— Gene Triplett