Thursday, 27 August 2009

Django, Kill! (If You Live Shoot!)

The success of Sergio Leone and Sergio Corbucci's Italian westerns allowed for a glut of copycat productions. Director Giulio Questi found himself financial backed for his first feature on the condition that he film a western. Questi and screenwriter Franco Arcalli took the commonplace idea of a gunslinger wandering into town and embellished it with first-hand accounts of the director's time as an anti-Fascist partisan during the second world war. Django Kill! isn't about manipulation and misdirection, it's more concerned with the idea of the mob as an unthinking engine of inhuman brutality.

The town Tomas Milian's Stranger finds himself in is not filled with a cowed citizenship in the thrall of polarised criminality. Instead they're a fired-up throng of homicidal puritans. Children wander the streets like stray animals, and the meagre amount of women are trophies for scheming industry bosses. When the thieves that bushwhacked Stranger breeze into town ahead of the trailing hero, the townsfolk gang up and horrifically murder them. Professional killers proving useless in the face of a ruthless, incentivised herd. Owners dissolved, the ruling class spends the remainder of the film battling over the spoils, with Stranger as the hapless observer. Milian's Stranger is an odd, dispassionate hero. Little attempt is made to pattern Django Kill! after its double-crossing Spaghetti forebears, instead Stranger is a bewildered malcontent struggling to make sense of this Unhappy Place.

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