Django Kill… If You Live, Shoot! – Clumsy But Delightfully Mean Spirited

Country: Italy
Genre: Spaghetti Western/ Action
Director: Giulio Questi
Year: 1967

Rating: ★★½☆☆

WORTH A LOOK

Django Kill… If You Live, Shoot! is ultimately undone by poor direction and less than lucid screenwriting, but it definitely has it’s moments.

In a rather disgusting prologue, a group of bandits, half Mexican and half gringo, slaughter some prospectors and steal their gold. One of these bandits is The Stranger (Tomas Milian), who believe it or not, is the hero of this movie. Considering how cowardly the theft of the gold was, he shouldn’t have been that surprised when there was further betrayal down the road.

The Stranger follows the betrayers to one of those old West towns in which almost everyone is completely evil. There’s the two town leaders, Oaks (Piero Lulli) and Templer (Milo Quesada), as sanctimonious as they are crooked. And then there’s the local bandit chieftain, Mr. Sorrow (Roberto Camardiel).

They all end up fighting over the gold.

The fun aspect of Django Kill…If You Live, Shoot! is the creativity of writers Franco Arcalli, Benedetto Benedetti, María del Carmen Martínez Román, and Giulio Questi.

Normally, when the hero is betrayed in the 1st act, he kills the betrayer in the last act. Django Kill… If You Live, Shoot! is structured more philosophically, as if the gold, after it’s been contaminated by the first atrocity, leaves nothing but carnage in it’s wake. That’s kind of neat.

And the writers have given us several original and gruesome ways for the villains to get their comeuppance.

In one case, The Stranger has shot one of the villains with gold bullets, but he’s still alive. Mr. Sorrow wants to know where the villain has hidden the gold, so he enlists the local vet to dig out the bullets and save the villain’s life. But when the vet digs out the first gold bullet, all hell breaks loose, leading to one of my favorite images in spaghetti western history.

Similarly, in the finale, the house where the gold is hidden is on fire. In a panic, a villain goes to retrieve the gold, resulting in yet another iconic and wonderful image.

Elsewhere, some poor schmuck gets scalped onscreen, just for the fun of it.

Now, that’s the Trash Cinema way!

Unfortunately, writer/director Giulio Questi’s grasp of narrative filmmaking is less than firm.

In one unintentionally hilarious sequence, The Stranger is tortured with vampire bats. How does director Giulio Questi show this? He intercuts between Tomas Milian howling in pain and shots of vampire bats hanging from fruit trees. As if that weren’t lame enough, Milian has no marks on his skin afterwards.

Elsewhere, the pacing unaccountably drags at times. The blocking of action scenes is awkward.

All this is understandable considering that Django Kill… If You Live Shoot! was director Giulio Questi’s first feature film, but ultimately, Questi’s shaky skills prevent the movie from fully succeeding.

Still, I didn’t find Django Kill… If You Live, Shoot! painful to watch, and there are a handful of moments which are among the most memorable in the spaghetti western genre.

If you insist that a movie has to be good all the way through, stay away from Django Kill… If You Live, Shoot!, but if you adore amoral spaghetti westerns with a strong dose of sadism and are willing to ignore some problematic aspects of the picture, Django Kill… If You Live, Shoot! might be worth checking out.

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