Thursday, December 13, 2012
Django Month: Django Strikes Again (1987)
Before I get on the unofficial sequels I thought it best to cover the single official entry that was released in 1987. Though it wasn't directed by Sergio Corbucci (a guy called Nello Rossati directed it under the pseudonym Ted Archer), he did at least give them permission to use the character's name and back story which I was hoping would be a tacit seal of approval. Unfortunately the belated sequel feels very, very different from its predecessor. Visually and tonally it's got a lot more in common with 80s 'Nam-ploitation movies than it does with 60s Spaghetti westerns.
Django Strikes Again is set in the jungles (?) of Mexico and begins (rather symbolically) with two cowboys getting gunned down by a passing armoured steamboat. The boat in question belongs to the evil "El Diablo" Orlowsky and his band of cut throat mercenaries. Orlowsky has been using the ship to kidnap locals and force them into slavery in his silver mines. One of the women manages to escape and heads to the nearby monestry where she tells the familiar looking monk "Brother Ignatius" what's going on. Of course, Ignatius turns out to be none other than Django who, following the events of the first film, has renounced his life of violence. The woman informs Django that Orlowsky has kidnapped his daughter so he (literally) digs up his old guns and set out to take down Orlowsky and his whole operation.
I'll admit the the storyline isn't half bad. The idea of Django becoming monk seems quite fitting after what he went through at the end of the original film. And the idea of a villain running his operation from a steamboat is quite novel. The main problem is that the whole film is really quite sluggish and dull, particularly when you put it alongside the zippy pace of the original film. The action scenes are also far less memorable and pretty poorly shot. Sure Django busts out his trademark machine gun on several occasions but there's very little excitement to any of these scenes. They even try to stick in a few Arnie-style quips to spice it up but they pretty much all fall flat.
The acting is pretty weak across the board. Sure, it's great to see Franco Nero back in the title role, but he gives a fairly lifeless, uninterested performance. It doesn't help that they give him long hair and a beard making him unrecognisable as being the same character as before. And he's also saddled with one of the most annoying kid sidekicks, this side of Jake Lloyd, for much of the running time. The rest of the cast is also pretty weak. Christopher Connelly is very forgettable as the butterfly obsessed villain Orlowsky. Nowhere near as intimidating as Major Jackson and General Hugo. They even manage to waste the talents of Donald Pleasence in a tiny role as a professor who helps out Django.
I think the main problem with the film is that the makers seemed too keen on ditching so many traditional Western elements. Worse still, they don't seem that interested in tying the film back to the original Django beyond a few references and some gimmicky updates. For instance, instead of dragging a coffin behind him in this film Django upgrades to a tricked out horse drawn hearse. Given that this is the one official sequel I guess I was expecting a bit more reverence and connection to the original film but it's just not there. I feel that the filmmakers were far more influenced by films like Commando and Rambo II. In fact, the end of the film in particular feels like a mash-up between those two films. That sounds like an endorsement but it really isn't. As I said, the action in this is very lifeless.
Ultimately I think Django Strikes Again doesn't really work as a film or a sequel but it's an interesting curiosity piece for fans of the original. It's probably worth seeing once if you come across it but don't go out of your way because there's far better "unofficial" sequels out there that I'll be covering soon.