The Spaghetti Western has spanned many different sub-genres since Sergio Leone defined its conventions with A Fistful of Dollars. From straight action (Django), to political (Bullet for the General) to comedy (They Call Me Trinity, Trinity is Still My Name) the Spaghetti has covered them them all. Where Django Kill stands alone, however, is the fact that it is the genre’s lone psychedelic, gothic, political, s&m western. To my mind one of the best movie’s of the Italian cycle of movies, Django Kill is so unique that it stands alone as one of the most daring films of the late 1960s.
On the surface a pretty traditional spaghetti western set-up, the film soon descends into a mixture of gothic horror and art movie. Tomas Milian plays the archetypal stranger, double crossed and left for dead by the villainous Oaks. Nursed back to health by two mysterious Indians who gift him a bag of golden bullets, he sets off to take revenge, ending up in a bizarre, backwards town known as “The Unhappy Place”. It is here that the tone of the film shifts dramatically, as Millian realises that the town and its inhabitants are crazed sexual deviants with a lust for sadomasochistic violence.
Giulio Questi, formally a politically motivated documentary maker creates a world transfixed by greed and violence; in one particularly shocking sequence a man shot with golden bullets is literally torn apart by the townsfolk, desperate to get their hands on the remains of the bullets. In another sequence a young boy (played with wide-eyed innocence by Ray Lovelock, later of Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue) is molested by a group of uniformed, black shirt wearing bandits (clearly a reference to the black shirts of Italy’s post war Fascist movement). It’s certainly strong stuff for its time, and compared to the (admittedly strong) violence in films such as Django goes a lot further than many of the other Italian westerns made around this period.
Combined with the bleak, graphic brutality on screen Questi and his co-writer and editor Franco Arcalli (who went on to edit Last Tango in Paris and Once Upon a Time in America) create a surreal atmosphere on screen using various editing techniques to create a dreamlike chaos to the proceedings. Frames are inserted upside down, in slow motion, and backwards so that the viewer barely has enough time to register exactly what they have witnessed. Certainly, these are techniques more common in the experimental films of Warhol or Kenneth Anger than in the Italian western.
Unfairly dismissed for many years, as another cheap Django rip-off (the film, in fact, has nothing to do with Django, it was simply an attempt by the distributor to cash in on Sergio Corbucci’s movie overseas), Django Kill has as much in common with the films of Luis Bunuel as it does those of Sergio Leone. As a western that offers so much more than the traditional good guys/ bad guys scenario, and as a radical piece of film-making that both stylistically and graphically pushes the boundaries, Django Kill is not only a hugely enjoyable movie, but an important film in its own right.
Italian director who moved from film criticism to making political documentaries during the 1950s. Was an assistant on Fellini's La Dolce Vita before directing his two best known features in the late 60s, the unsettling western Django Kill! and the very strange giallo Death Laid an Egg. Worked mostly in Italian TV throughout the 70s and 80s.