Django Strikes Again (1987)
Director: Nello Rossati
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.

The Review
Within the realm of genre cinema, there have been some industries that have solidified their reputations for proving that they hold nothing to be sacred. Most certainly, they proved this when it came to adhering to copyright laws. The Hong Kong film industry was notable during the seventies and eighties for continually “borrowing” music that was not their own, and spotting the unlicensed music can sometimes be part of the fun when watching those movies. Although they were not quite as liberal with their borrowing of music, the Italian genre film community during the sixties/seventies definitely did their fair share of cinematic cannibalism. Characters such as Django, Sabata, Sartana, and Ringo all had their own “unofficial” sequels made during the heyday of the spaghetti western. These characters were often portrayed in films that featured no ties to the originals, featured actors who were in no way related to the original films, and crew members that also, needless to say, held no ties to the original movies. In fact, many of these characters eventually crossed over and made movies together! However, if you expected to see Franco Nero reprising his role as Django, you would be sorely disappointed. In fact, Nero and Corbucci’s brainchild, the original Django, only spawned one sequel and it was at the close of the 1980s. Now, this topic is very much open for debate, because many consider Django, Prepare a Coffin (aka Viva Django) to be the first official sequel to the original Django, but this is a very touchy situation and I will get to shortly. However, no one argues the fact that the film we are looking at today is certainly an official sequel to the original film. With Sergio Corbucci stepping in as an adviser (of sorts) and Franco Nero taking up his machinegun yet again, Django Strikes Again is most assuredly the followup that audiences were waiting for… or is it?

Django, Prepare a Coffin is a spaghetti western that was produced two years after the original Django film. It featured a titular character named Django, this time portrayed by Terrence Hill in a non-comedic role, who dressed and acted the same as Franco Nero’s character. Within the movie, the character even digs out Django’s infamous machinegun from a buried coffin, which is a feat that would later be duplicated within the film we are primarily discussing today. So, the question is, why wouldn’t I consider this a true Django sequel? Easy, because neither Sergio Corbucci nor Franco Nero had any involvement in the finished product. Although there are multiple stories going around about Corbucci’s involvement in Django Strikes Again, he was at least attached to the project and made some contributions. It has been said that he contributed to the script and sat in as an adviser for the film, while Django, Prepare a Coffin is only notable for featuring the involvement of Franco Rossetti. Rossetti was a contributor for the original Django script, and he joined with Ferdinando Baldi for a few notable westerns (including the aforementioned Django, Prepare a Coffin, as well as Crazy Westerners and Texas, Addio) in the years following the original Corbucci film. However, without Corbucci being involved, I do not feel comfortable calling it a true Django film. Afterall, if Gianno Garko (the original star of Sartana) could be featured in an unofficial Sartana movie (Sartana Kills Them All), then a film being co-written by someone does not constitute an official sequel. Certainly not in my book!

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?

There are many reviews out there that will swear up and down that Django Strikes Again is a horrible movie, I will contend that it is a interesting, but flawed, piece of work. The change of scenery works, even the change in Django’s character could be adjusted so that it works, but overall the project doesn’t have a script that immediately engages the audience. There are interesting moments that arise, but for the most part the story seems to flow in an attempt to try and gather its audience. The quick detour to an internment camp, where Franco Nero first meets Donal Pleasance, is certainly a moment that shows the lack of decisiveness from the writers. The story stops in at this camp for a whopping five minutes before Django is thrown back out into the world where he can find his machinegun and establish more action for the audience. Very little time is given for character development, and cheap shortcuts like this prevent the audience from grasping just what the film is trying to do. Even after watching, I still don’t know exactly how to describe the movie. The filmmakers took too many eggs and tried to shove them into one basket, and unfortunately it does not work.

The Conclusion
Despite everything, there is some fun to be had in Django Strikes Again. I wouldn’t say it is a classic, nor even a necessary sequel to the original, but there is a good cast in this movie and there are a few interesting tidbits that pop up that are worth recommending. Overall, I give the movie a three out of five. It is above mediocre, but nothing all that outstanding.