Djang Kill!...If You Live, Shoot
Dir: Giulio Questi
Before I start, I would just like to make it clear that the following synopsis is not the result of a drug fueled lost weekend on my part. Unbelievable as it may seem, this really is what the film contains.
Clawing his way out from a mass grave, Tomas Milian is rescued and healed by two Indian medicine men who, having discovered his bag of gold dust, make golden bullets for him which are apparently the right things to use when killing one's enemies in revenge. They do this on the proviso that Milian will tell them what lies beyond death and advise them what they can expect to find in the happy hunting grounds.
Milian's character had been betrayed by his gringo gang members after a big robbery of army gold and shot and left for dead along with his mexican colleagues in the mass grave previously mentioned. Armed now with his golden bullets he travels to the nearest town where he expects the villains to have fled. On arriving however, he discovers all but one already hanged by the local townspeople and the stolen gold disappeared. The only survivor is the treacherous gang leader who is holed up in a local store. Milian flushes him out and guns him down.
The stolen gold has been hidden away by two corrupt local officials, the saloon owner and the alderman, and they intend to keep it for themselves. Meanwhile, the local baddie (played by Roberto Camardial) has heard tell of the gold and rides in to town with his band of black shirted homosexual 'muchachos' in order to claim it for himself. Finding the only man who may know of its whereabouts (Milian's treacherous enemy) dying in the street he orders his doctor to operate on the man and keep him alive. The doctor starts to operate and quickly discovers a golden bullet in the man's torso. Cue a gold seeking frenzy from the attending townspeople; ripping the unfortunate patient's body apart in search of more golden bullets. One of the best lines in the film follows this scene when the doctor is apologising to Camardial for letting his patient die. "I'm sorry", he insists, "It is just that I have spent my whole life searching for gold and that man is full of it!"
The film then progresses as a tale of two masters with Milian switching between Camardial and the corrupt townsmen as they wrangle with each other over the gold. Eventually, Camardial kidnaps the saloonkeeper's son and takes him back to his hacienda for a 'party' with his muchachos. Cue open shirts, lingering looks and banana eating. (I kid you not) Camardial sends word to the boy's father that if he doesn't hand over the gold his son will die. This quickly becomes a mute point as after the 'party' the boy commits suicide.
Meanwhile, the corrupt townsmen fall out and the alderman kills the saloon keeper. He then recruits Milian's character to protect him from Camardial, offering him the wife he keeps locked in the attic as some sort of sweetener.
All, unsurprisingly, ends badly. Milian blows up the muchachos with dynamite and then dispatches Camardial who was busy killing his own pet parrot for talking too much. Meanwhile, the mad wife sets fire to her husband's house and during the ensuing blaze the alderman tries to retrieve his hidden gold only to be smothered by its molten mass and sent to a painful, if shiny death.
Milian rides off into the sunset.
Now that is not the kind of synopsis you'll hear every day.
Django Kill is often cited as the most violent of all spaghetti westerns. It is, undoubtedly, violent in places but, in reality, no more than many others of the genre. What it does have is some explicit scenes of quite gratuitous bloodletting (in particular the operating table scene and the later scalping of one of the indian medicine men) and this is probably where its notoriety stems from. Indeed, these scenes were cut from the original film and only re inserted later when the climate for censorship was somewhat more forgiving. Even then, these scenes were only ever included in the italian version of the film. No english dub was ever recorded for these eliminated scenes and, as a result, recent english language versions which have them included again can only switch to italian during the scenes concerned. Having said all this, outside of these isolated scenes the film is genuinely no more violent than many other films from this period.
What can be said, with reasonable certainty, is that it is one of the weirdest westerns ever made. Black shirted homosexual henchmen, a drunken parrot who doesn't just mimic but genuinely speaks, a hero who climbs out of a grave at the opening of the film, a mad woman in the attic and body full of golden bullets is just the beginning. There's also a wicked stepmother, some grave robbing and no real explaination as to how Milian's character survived being riddled with bullets in the first place. In fact the whole narrative sweeps along with little cohesion and an almost halucinagenic quality. All in all then, it sounds a bit rubbish.
Not in the least.
Django Kill is a wild and whacky ride through a sixties nightmare but it is never dull. Rather, it is its very weirdness that keeps you hanging on and, above all, smiling as the trip takes more and more bizarre turns. The characters that populate this town from hell are all played way over the top but it is absolutely right that they should. This is not a piece for underplayed subtleties. It is a no holds barred free for all where the only limits were in the budget. Once Upon a Time in the West it most surely is not. But, man, it sure is a lot of fun. And it is safe to say that they really don't make 'em like this anymore.