|Django Strikes Again (1987)|
|Writers:||Sergio Corbucci, Franco Reggiani, and Nello Rossati|
|Starring:||Franco Nero, Christopher Connelly, Licinia Lentini, and Donald Pleasance|
|The Plot: Deep in the heart of Columbia, our film introduces us to a very familiar monk. This monk is a man with a very dark past who desperately searches for retribution after a lifetime of killing. This man is the infamous gunslinger known as Django. Taking place twenty years after the original titular film Django, we find that our leading man has separated himself from all forms of violence and looks forward to a very simple life. However, Django is soon visited by a woman from his past who claims that she is dying. She asks that Django visit her daughter and look after her, but Django refuses because he feels that he has finally found his calling. The woman soon advises Django that the young girl is his very own daughter, and with that our hero is off to meet his only known relative. When he finds the town where she was supposed to live, however, he discovers that it has been destroyed. Most in this town are now dead, but the few who survived have been taken hostage by the homicidal Hungarian aristocrat Orlowsky (played by Christopher Connelly). Django is soon captured by Orlowsky’s men as well, but quickly manages to escape his prison with some help from a man named Ben (Donal Pleasance). With vengeance on his mind, Django soon digs up his machinegun and decides to take on this European tyrant with every fiber of his being.
With all of this talk about official and unofficial sequels, perhaps it would be best if we targeted our gaze more towards the Django persona instead of the muddy waters of cinematic politics. So, what is it that made Django such an interesting character? I believe that the original movie had qualities that set it apart from both the spaghetti western genre as well as the idealized vision of the Hollywood “west.” Django himself was far from being the kind of jerk that most Spaghetti Western leading men tend to be, but he wasn’t a goody two shoes either. He had the same selfish streak that often dominates the leading men within this genre, but he still had some very heroic qualities. The original Django established its lack of black & white morality early on, and the muddy scenery within the movie gave it an entirely different feel from almost every western on the market. Although it took twenty years to be made, Django Strikes Again is certainly a return to form in the sense that is eschews the expected “look” and “feel” of a generic western. This sense of originality actually proves to be both a negative and a positive for the script. Made at the tail end of the 1980s, when the Italian market had been saturated with cheap Rambo knockoffs (such as Blastfighter and Strike Commando), there is a very talked about influence felt within this Django title. While watching, I personally never saw the film as being derivative of the Rambo franchise, however, upon retrospect I can certainly see the influence of such action films on this title. I suppose it is hard to see the influence of First Blood if you watch the movie without first seeing the original poster art which has been used for this review. The advertising campaign obviously hoped to influence viewers by promoting the movie as yet another Rambo knockoff, but this time the knockoff would feature a hero from their youth! This isn’t the first Spaghetti Western to do things different with genre archetypes though, so I generally find the change of scenery and the new cinematic ideals to be refreshing. However, Django as a goody-two-shoes is certainly a bitter pill to swallow.
Despite the fact that the copy of the movie that I watched was incredibly drained out, appearing to have the definition of a high quality VHS, it is still readily apparent that this is a movie with some visual flourish. There are a few absolutely beautiful shots found in the movie and it retains the very “different” atmosphere that made the original Django so mysterious and different. Replacing the muddy western setting, Django Strikes Again instead makes use of a different, and yet equally alluring, environment. The film is given a jungle-esque setting, which I have seen most appropriately described as Fitzcarraldo meets the spaghetti west. Following with the non-traditional look of the film, our script is also tightly focused on the plight of natives within South America. Although the story seems to focus on the Colombian region, this is a story that could very well take place within any number of areas within the South American continent during the 19th century. Django is, of course, our white knight who eventually takes it upon himself to save all of the helpless natives. This can be seen as a case of liberal wish-fulfillment, where we see the pure hearted hero take arms against the misdeeds perpetrated by the white man during the past. Franco Nero takes to the role well, however, and he exudes that heroic quality to its fullest extent. Although it generally gives the movie a very vanilla flavor, at least Nero finds a way to make it work.
Django Strikes Again, which came far outside of the prime years for the genre, is indeed very moralistic. Django is at no time morally ambivalent within Django Strikes Again. During some of his introductory scenes we wonder if he will eventually step up to the plate and do the right thing, but once he does, he becomes a crusader for good. He stands up to fight anyone who would dare cause injustice, and his character stands out from the initial run of spaghetti westerns made during the sixties. This is a western made in the leadup to the nineties, and it perhaps shows an attempt by the filmmakers to capitalize on a different form of storytelling. It is unfortunate that the movie inevitably fails, but it serves as an interesting contrast to the spaghetti western in its prime, where a few filmmakers were deciding to try and do something very different, and this late model of the Italian film industry where producers were simply trying to appease an audience in any way they could. The character Django is inexplicably good in this movie, and Christopher Connelly (of Raiders of Atlantis fame) decides to go one step further and create a villain who is absolutely monstrous in comparison! Standing out as one of the very best aspects of the movie, Connelly manages to show off his ability to go over-the-top. Despite his performance apparently being dubbed over by someone doing a rather silly accent, Connelly shows a tremendous amount of screen presence while chewing up scenery. Despite having both the brilliant Franco Nero and Christopher Connelly (who has this film listed as one of his very last screen credits before succumbing to cancer) involved, our movie today also steps up to the plate and features Dr. Sam Loomis, better known as Donald Pleasance. Pleasance does a ridiculous Scottish accent in the film, and when introduced he is actually given some very token stock music that is supposed to represent his heritage. Despite being a very interesting character within the movie. his roles is best described as a cameo. He pops in for three or four scenes before quickly vacating the set. Although he is fun here, his role is of no consequence to the movie over all. Yet, when you have a superhero Franco Nero delivering alongside an incredibly over-the-top Chrisopher Connelly, who can complain?