A mysterious, black-clad killer named Django (Anthony Steffen) is out for revenge. First to die is outlaw Sam Hawkins (Fred Robsahm). Next comes businessman Howard Ross (Jean Louis). Finally, Django zeroes in on local tyrant Rod Murdock (Paolo Gozlino), whose psychotic brother Luke (Luciano Rossi) terrorizes the town. Murdock sends Luke’s wife Althea (Rada Rassimov), who only stays with the odious madman because she is well paid, to find out what Django wants and bribe him to stay away. But Django isn’t interested in money. He may not even be human…
More than thirty so-called Django sequels reached the screen before the official follow-up, Django 2: Il Grande Ritorno (1987). In typical spaghetti western fashion they range from the good, the bad and the ugly. Some fans hail Django the Bastard as a precursor to Clint Eastwood’s High Plains Drifter (1972), although it also resembles Antonio Margheriti’s And God Said to Cain (1970). Both films are better than this early example of the horror-western since, while it is well shot, with flashes of gothic style (e.g. Django’s memorable habit of sticking a cross into the ground inscribed with the name and death-date of his next victim), Sergio Garrone doesn’t conjure much of a supernatural atmosphere.
Despite a hero who disappears at will and sometimes seems to change shape, the whole “undead avenger” angle is something of a misdirection. Anthony Steffen is wooden as always, although admirers claim this works in his favour since he is playing a ghost. If that’s really the case, then he’s a ghost who bleeds when shot and is nearly hanged. Nearly all spaghetti western plots are driven by revenge and flashbacks provide Django with a strong motivation. The elliptical approach to storytelling always worked well for Sergio Leone, but proved somewhat hit and miss for other Italian auteurs. We barely get to know the villains before Django guns them down and cloudy subplots involving Althea, hired gunmen, and the imperilled town obscure the narrative. Characterization is minimal, although Luciano Rossi makes an impression as the fair-haired monster who shoots up half the town.
As an action film, this just about passes muster. It has that familiar mix of grubby sadism, pitch black humour and cynical social commentary (one scene has two men play catch with fizzling stick of dynamite while rich folks place bets on who will survive) common to all Django movies, even if they aren’t directly related, and moves briskly through its stalking and shootouts. Sergio Garrone was a solid hand at westerns and war movies, and made two memorable horror movies with Klaus Kinski: L’amanti del mostro (1974) and Le mano che nutre la morte (1974). Apparently, he now runs a pizza restaurant in Rome.