One of a number of spaghetti western releases which attempted to cash in Sergio Corbucci's DJANGO (released the previous year) by including the character’s name in the title, DJANGO KILL, IF YOU LIVE, SHOOT! now gets the High Definition, Blu-Ray disc treatment from Blue Underground, hot off the heels of them bestowing the same upon another spaghetti western classic, A BULLET FOR THE GENERAL. For those of you who’ve never seen DJANGO KILL (which also goes under a number of other titles), it’s one of the most bloody and savage westerns of the 1960s.
A half-breed gunman known as The Stranger (Tomas Milian, DON’T TORTURE A DUCKLING) is part of a gang of bandits, made up of Mexicans and Americans, who rob a covered wagon for its coveted gold. After the theft has been made, the Americans, led by slimy Oaks (Piero Lulli, KILL BABY, KILL) double-cross the Mexicans and The Stranger, not only depriving them of their gold, but forcing them at gunpoint to dig their own graves. Leaving horseless (one of the Mexicans killed off or scared their horses), the Americans take off for another town, leaving the rest for dead. The Stranger somehow manages to survive, rescued by two Indians who make him some bullets out of gold and journey with him to get his revenge and retrieve his share of the take.
In the meantime, Oaks and company head for a strange town (known in some circles as “The Unhappy Place”) and make the mistake of telling the saloon owner Templer (Milo Quesada, THE BLOODY JUDGE) of the gold they carry. Making a deal with his equally slimy business partner, shop-owner Hagerman (Francisco Sanz, LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE) for half of the gold, Templer and the rest of the macho male villagers detain and hang Oaks’ gang (most of them upside down!), leaving Oaks to the incoming Stranger who fills him full of gold bullets as he took refuge in a general store. The severely wounded Oaks survives just enough for the greedy townsfolk to carve the valuable slugs out of his bleeding, dying body. The Stranger doesn’t want to just take a reward and leave town, so he stays behind to witness all the greediness and weirdness this place has to offer, with a burly big-shot named Sorrow (Roberto Camardiel, THE BIG GUNDOWN) and his gang of black-outfitted “muchachos” going so far as to kidnap Templer’s teenage son Evan (Ray Lovelock, ALMOST HUMAN) for ransom in hopes of getting their grimy hands on the fortune which Templer and Hagerman are hiding.
Though the name “Django” is never used (Milian is only referred to as “The Stranger”), the film is no doubt influenced by the lead character in Carbucci’s film, as well as “The Man With No Name” from the Sergio Leone/Clint Eastwood collaborations. Whether he’s the hero, the villain or the anti-hero (as he is here) Milian is always a remarkable actor, and this is no exception. Fans of horror and exploitation who don’t normally indulge in Italian-made westerns will want to give this one a try – it’s macabre nature and high level of violent cruelty (very extreme, considering the year that it was made) guarantee that this is one of the more unusual endeavors the genre has to offer, and it comes highly recommended, as there’s barely a dull moment.
The horror attributes begin with The Stranger crawling out of his would-be dirt-filled resting place, and is further brought on by the character being tortured (in a Christ-like crucifixion position) and threatened with such creatures as iguanas and vampire bats. The image of Hagerman’s pale-skinned locked-up wife beaconing from her barred up windows owes more to Edgar Allan Poe than John Ford. The story’s approach is unique in that you initially get the impression that the gang of murderous double-crossers that The Stranger intends to hunt down will take him through the duration of the picture. Instead, they are lynched almost immediately after entering “The Unhappy Place” by residents who turn out to be just as vile and ruthless as they are. This allows for a number of eccentric characters, especially the lead bandito Sorrow, who plays with Civil War toy soldiers and feeds a bottle of hooch to his talking pet parrot (who he later aims his pistol at when he says the wrong thing). Sorrow and his “muchachos” are homosexual fascists, and they wear matching black outfits with flowery white embroidery. It is implied that they rape the blu-eyed Evan (a very young Lovelock in his speaking role in a film), causing him to take his own life!
A co-effort between Italy and Spain, the cast is made up mostly of actors from those two countries, including the exotic, raven-haired Marilù Tolo (from Mario Bava’s ROY COLT AND WINCHESTER JACK) as a tragic saloon girl and Frank Braña (from a number of Spanish horror and fantasy films) as one of the movie’s many heavies. The direction and production values are quite stylish, with the film carrying a sort of “ghost town” gothic feel, and the editing employs an experimental rapid montage technique for a handful of sequences. Ivan Vandor’s score echoes the traditional, Morricone-type western movie variation, but some of his musical passages resemble the kind of intense strings you’d hear in a giallo. The scenes of graphic violence come when the villagers cut into and mutilate Oaks’ body, and even worse, when an Indian is fully scalped by a lynch mob. The climax also features a massacre scene where a number of victims bloodily succumb to a charge of dynamite mounted on a galloping sacrificial horse; the aftermath of this which is quite disturbing.
First released on DVD by Blue Underground back in 2002 (as a single disc and also as part of a “Spaghetti Western Collection” boxed set ), DJANGO KILL…IF YOU LIVE, SHOOT! has now been transferred from the original Italian negative for this High Definition presentation on Blu-Ray disc. Presented in full 1080p resolution, the film is in an anamorphic 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and looks quite stunning, as BU continues to do great justice to classic cult films on the HD format. The picture is consistently smooth and extremely sharp in detail, with colors looking brilliant throughout, and no excessive grain in sight. Even the darker nighttime scenes are well detailed and easy to make out. Audio is presented in English DTS-HD 2.0 mono or Italian DTS-HD 2.0 mono, with both being solid tracks (when playing the English version, two bloody sequences are seen in Italian with the English subtitles automatically coming on, as they were never dubbed into our language). Subtitles are playable in English SDH, French, Spanish, as well as English for the Italian version.
The featurette from the 2002 DVD, “Django Tell” (20:37) has been included here. It contains interviews with co-writer/director Guilio Questi and stars Tomas Milian and Ray Lovelock (only Milian is seen speaking in English, as the others converse in Italian with English subtitles). Milian starts off by saying how he originally didn’t want to make the film and talks at length about working with the director and the film’s shock value. Questi mentions how he was trained on documentaries, and what it was like shooting the film on location on Madrid, while Lovelock discusses his fear at the time of being made of fun of by his friends due to what happens to his character in the story. Both Milian and Questi were not at all happy with the film being passed off as a sequel to DJANGO, with Milian blaming that labeling on the distributor. The theatrical trailer included here is fully animated, depicting no actual scenes from the movie. A poster and still gallery rounds out the disc’s supplements. (George R. Reis)
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