Django, Kill… If You Live, Shoot! (1967)

Director: Giulio Questi

An example of another important spaghetti western subgenre, the Django “sequel”… of which there were a few dozen, none of which had anything to do with the film of that name in any way; in this case the appellation seems to have been an international distributor decision, which star Tomas Milian is quite unhappy about on the DVD featurette; the film’s other title Oro Hondo (“deep gold”) is actually much more accurate and descriptive. Anyway, DKILS or whatever it should be called has developed a certain cult reputation for its overall strangeness and violence; the latter is perhaps overstated (resting mainly on a couple of scenes that would admittedly have been beyond the pale in 1967 and earned the film quite a lot of censorship trouble back then), the former perhaps less so. I mean, you’re not really dealing with an ordinary western when it begins with a man clawing his way out of his own grave, are you? Our hero is Milian’s nameless half-breed, whose gang of Mexican bandits joins forces with an American gang to rob a Wells Fargo coach of its gold, and who then find themselves being turned on by their northern former friends (damn perfidious Yanks again!). Somehow Milian survives, and with the help of a couple of passing Indians makes his way to the town the Americans have fled to for a revenge showdown… Said showdown comes only about a third of the way into the film, however, and is more like the beginning of the story than the ending it might otherwise be in a normal film; Milian’s real problem now is with the townsfolk, as the promise of all that gold brings out the worst in them (cos there doesn’t seem to be much good in them to bring out). This was a pretty arresting feature debut (after a bunch of shorts, documentaries and anthology segments) for Questi, who also gave us Death Laid an Egg (which I now learn was supposed to be his actual debut but the producer asked him to do this first); accordingly I had expectations that this would be something a bit… other, and to some degree so it is. It also doesn’t make a great deal of sense after that first third or so, and seems to get sketchier as it goes along; maybe the several minutes the film lost to censorship back then might not have been a bad thing for the pacing? I don’t know. I understand the position some critics take about it not exactly being a film for SW newcomers. Still, I think it might grow on me more with rewatching.

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