|Viva Django! (1968)|
|Writers:||Ferdinando Baldi and Franco Rossetti|
|Starring:||Terence Hill, Horst Frank and George Eastman|
The story found in Viva Django! is actually a fairly interesting one. Django is set up not only as a man out for his own vengeance, but he provides an outlet for the audience to enjoy a pure dose of wish fulfillment. He acts as the catalyst for an army of men to have their own revenge, and the early portions of the movie are quite fun because of this fact. This early section surprisingly had me gripped as a viewer, and it encourages the audience to root along with our “heroes.” These innocent men, however, inevitably prove to have their very own issues, and they may not all be as honest or as good as we first think. This can be seen early in the movie during a sequence where the audience is introduced to the hatred of these “framed men.” When given free reign to raid those who had previously set them up, the actions of these men are closer to that of hooligans than the decent folks we at first understood them to be. As they go around beating their antagonists with whips, I personally felt the scenes seemed like they were a bit excessive at the time. Not knowing where the story was going, this entire segment comes across as a bit discombobulating. However, as the story progresses, we see different shades of every character involved. Despite my issues with these characters at the start, the scenes inevitably work because they establish our story with a sense of excitement and energy. This is the main selling point for Viva Django!. The movie packs excitement from the very start.
The biggest change within the Django universe, for this film at least, isn’t in the characterization. It is only in appearance. Terrence Hill steps in for Franco Nero with this feature, and he provides a very familiar and yet different portrayal of the man in black known as Django. Terrence Hill’s portrayal of the character brings something quite different than what Franco Nero, who played Django within the official movies, brought to the role. It is interesting that, from everything I have read, at one point Franco Nero was close to being attached to this project. For whatever reason, it seems that talks fell through and Baldi ended up casting Terrence Hill who has always been known to bear a striking resemblance to Nero. Although Hill certainly attempts to bring the quiet swagger that was found in the original movie, he is also a much more confident and cocky Django. This new version of the character certainly isn’t the sort of brash man-of-action that Hill became famous for playing after his popularity skyrocketed with the They Call Me Trinity series, but Hill is still very self assured in this role. If viewers have any lingering doubts about his ability to play things straight, the introductory scene where Django’s wife and friends are slaughtered in front of him should be enough to let them know that this is a very serious side of the often-comedic actor, and he does not fold under the pressure. Also along for the ride is another Eurocult staple and fan favorite, Mr. George Eastman. Best known as the writer of Antropophagus, where he also starred as the fetus-eating maniac in that movie, Eastman is great here in a role that doesn’t call for him to be deliriously over-the-top. For the most part, Eastman is very relaxed in his role and it makes him an even more terrifying villain.