Sergio Corbucci’s 1966 film Django is a badass revenge story that stands along side of Sergio Leone’s The Man With No Name trilogy as the pinnacle of the Spaghetti Western genre. Legendary for spawning a rumored 100 unofficial sequels, though just over 30 have been accounted for, the follow ups range from gritty films that seek to recapture the feel of the original, to Takeshi Miike’s manic hipster opus, Sukiyaki Western Django.
With Quentin Tarantino’s take, Django Unchained, looming large on the holiday movie horizon, it’s no surprise that some long due attention has fallen on the franchise. Timeless had dug deep into the archives to release a quartet of obscure Django films, three for the first time on DVD. One disc pairs Django Kills Silently with Django’s Cut Price Corpses—easily the best title of the bunch—while the other double feature teams A Man Called Django with Django and Sartana’s Showdown in the West.
The character of Django strikes a chord for a number of different reasons. A hard-assed bounty hunter, he’s not a good guy, not in the traditional sense, anyway. It’s not uncommon to see him shoot a man down in cold blood. Still, he has a strict moral code, one that, in the end, usually wins out and finds him doing, if not the exact right thing, at least lending a helping hand to people who need it. An archetypal anti-hero, he epitomizes that old western adage, sometimes good guys don’t wear white.
More than just a brawler or a gunslinger, Django also uses his wits as a weapon. Always playing an angle, he executes elaborate, deceptively intricate plans, pitting opposing sides against each other in the service of his own goals. But don’t worry, all of the usual elements you long for in a Spaghetti Western are also present in these films—there’s betrayal, ambushes, heists, showdowns and shootouts, damsels in distress, towns under siege by desperados and robber-barons, and, of course, more revenge than you can shake a stick at. Django—whether the grizzled original of Franco Nero, or the wicked smirk wearing Jeff Cameron with his ‘70s hipster coif—inhabits a violent world full of violent men, where life is cheap, and burning people alive is more of a spectator sport than it is in present days.
When the titular hero (George Eastman) comes upon the troubled town of Santa Anna in Django Kills Silently, he encounters a vicious despot keeping young woman against her will, gunrunners, and a violent gang of outlaws ruled by the vile thug El Santo. He plays each one against the other, using subterfuge to entice them to do his dirty work for him as he seeks to avenge a murdered friend.
Django’s Cut Price Corpses finds the iconic mercenary on the trail of the infamous Cortez Brothers, and the handsome bounty on their heads. Of course the story can’t be that simple, and it also involves old friends, new allies, and a hidden stash of loot that everyone wants to get their hands on. Turns out in the end that money isn’t his motive at all, but he is driven by revenge and to free the woman he loves. See, told you he wasn’t an entirely bad man.
After a gang of brutal bandits rape and murder Django’s (Anthony Steffen) wife in A Man Called Django, his path is clear: swift, stunning vengeance. He sets out to rescue the only man alive who can point the finger at the guilty parties. Together with this man, a criminal with a motor mouth who was about to be strung up by his neck, they embark on a quest for, you guessed it, revenge. You may start to recognize a pattern in these movies. Out of these four films, this is the only one previously available on DVD.
Django and Sartana’s Showdown in the West features another team up, this time between the bounty hunter (Franco Borelli) and a legendary gunfighter, Sartana (Jack Betts). This is a power team up, as Sartana is a similar, though less well-known, figure to Django. Sartana also launched a prolific spawn of bastard film children. The duo track a gang of kidnappers who abduct a young girl, following the outlaws to Mexico, where they attempt to rescue the victim, and exact a little justice, Django style.
These four members of the Django family are often formulaic, and vary wildly in quality. Such is to be expected for cheap, quick knock offs intended to capitalize on the popularity of the original. However, they’re also badass, and pretty damn fun. And each one has one of those triumphant, galloping theme songs the subgenre is so known for. Morricone they’re not, but the blaring trumpet, wailing harmonica, and sparse strings let you know exactly what you’re in for.
There’s not much in the way of bonus features on either of these DVDs. In fact, all you really get are some trailers and posters. Surely these are nice artifacts, but the extras aren’t much of an attraction. The real draw is getting your hands on obscure parts of a phenomenon, and if you’re a Django fan, and are looking for some installments you haven’t seen yet, then this is definitely right in your wheelhouse.