AKA: The Strangers Gundown or Django the Avenger
Now this is a cracking little Spaghetti western and probably my
favourite of all the Django "sequels". Though there's little connection
to the original film - don't expect any machine-gun action here - there
is a strong similarity in tone that makes it a good cinematic soul mate.
And if you're a fan of Clint Eastwood's High Plains Drifter and Pale
Rider this is definitely one to check out because it's quite similar and
pre-dates both. Here Django is played by Antony Steffen (or Antônio
Luiz De Teffé to give him his real name) who starred in a whole bunch of
Spaghetti westerns in the 60s and 70s and played the Django character
in at least 5 other films. This one is more interesting than most though
because he actually co-wrote the script and produced it.
The story revolves around Django entering a frontier town where he
systemically hunt down and kill several bad guys. In cavalier fashion,
he announces that they are going to die by sticking graveyard crosses in
the ground with their names and that day's date on. At first we don't
know why he's doing this, only that this final goal seems to be killing
two men - wealthy sadistic rancher Rod Murdoch and his psychotic brother
Luke. The most disturbing element to the story is that it's implied
that Django may not actually be flesh and blood but potentially an
avenger from beyond the grave!
So, yeah, it's sort of revenge flick with a little bit of supernatural
mixed in (I'm such a sucker for these kind of films). The whole is he or isn't a ghost is left nicely ambiguous. For
everything that points one way there's something else that points the
other and it never settles the issue right up until the end. I liked
that approach a lot. The story is riveting and nicely told. It does drag
a little in the middle but the ending more than makes up for it. Once
again, like the original Django, the film has a nice arc where the lead character
starts off seemingly invincible only for things to get much tougher by
Anthony Steffen is a little wooden in the title role but fits the part
well. To be honest the film doesn't
really demand much more from him than to just look menacing and stare
at bad guys a lot. The one big weak point for the film is definitely the
extended Civil War flashback in which we see a happy, carefree Django
(!). I get that they wanted to make a contrast with who Django was then
and is now but it's a really cheesy sequence that's both sloppily shot
and acted. Steffen should definitely stick to just strong, silent type
roles. The villains are also pretty memorable. There's a nice balance
between the calm and methodical Rod and the demented and twisted Luke.
Luciano Rossi goes gloriously over-the-top in playing the latter.
The directing was pretty good as well. I mean the set is quite cheap and
low budget but the director, Sergio Garrone, manages to make the most
of it and create a really gothic atmosphere by using a lot of low key
lighting. A lot of the time it feels like you're watching a horror film.
There was also a pleasing amount of stylised camera angles. Lots of
overhead shots and dutch angles that you don't always see in these types
of films. Much like the original Django, Garrone also uses a lot of
crucifix imagery which fits perfectly with the old testament/"eye for an
eye" atmosphere of the film.
Overall, Django the Bastard is a fantastic western that barely puts a foot wrong. Okay, it's not as great as the
original but not far behind it either. If you're going to check out just
one Django "sequel" make it this one.