Comic Review: Django/Zorro

Published: November 11th, 2015
Written by: Quentin Tarantino, Matt Wagner
Art by: Esteve Polls
Based on: Django Unchained by Quentin Tarantino, Zorro by Johnston McCulley

Dynamite Entertainment, 306 Pages

Review:

Not gonna lie, I was really curious to see how this crossover would play out, especially since it was branded as “The official sequel to Django Unchained.” I’m sure this will be water under the bridge if Quentin Tarantino actually ever does a proper cinematic sequel but for now, I guess Jamie Foxx’s incarnation of Django exists in the same world as the legendary Zorro.

And that’s fine… in fact, it’s really fucking cool. Granted, I would’ve rather seen Zorro team-up with the original Franco Nero Django but I still really like Foxx’s version of the character even if I wasn’t in love with the film he was featured in.

Anyway, I thought the story was just okay. It’s not bad and this was entertaining, accomplishing what it set out to do. However, it still just feels like one of a gajillion comic book IP crossovers just made to cash-in on combining multiple franchises. But at least this one sort of fits together well unlike Transformers and Star Trek or Ghostbusters and Ninja Turtles.

Additionally, I also liked the art and overall style of the book. It felt like an homage to old school western comics while still being modern.

Overall, this was a neat experiment and an amusing read. However, it’s still kind of forgettable and will most likely slip down the memory hole fairly quickly.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other recent western comics from Dynamite Entertainment.

Film Review: Keoma (1976)

Also known as: Django Rides Again, Django Returns (both US informal titles), Desperado (US cut version), Keoma: The Avenger (US dubbed version), Coolman Keoma (West Germany video title)
Release Date: November 25th, 1976 (Italy
Directed by: Enzo G. Castellari
Written by: Mino Roli, Nico Ducci, Luigi Montefiori, Enzo G. Castellari, Joshua Sinclair (dialogue – uncredited)
Music by: Guido & Maurizio De Angelis
Cast: Franco Nero, William Berger, Olga Karlatos, Woody Strode

Uranos Cinematografica, Far International Films, 101 Minutes (original), 85 Minutes (US cut version)

Review:

“I need to find out who I am. To give the simplest of my actions a reason. I know by being in this world has some significance, but I’m afraid that when I found out what it is, it will be too late. In the meantime, I’m a vagabond. I keep traveling. Even when the earth sleeps, I keep traveling… chasing shadows.” – Keoma

Who doesn’t want to watch a movie where Franco Nero and his chiseled visage and dreamy eyes take on the appearance of Jesus of Nazareth as a badass gunslinger? Okay, he isn’t Jesus of Nazareth, he is Keoma, but damn, he looks like some sort of spaghetti western Messiah here to save us from mundane and derivative spaghetti schlock. I mean, it’s like Jesus and the original Django had a baby and gave him tight pants, a cool hat and some big guns. Never has a man looked so manly, so pretty and exuded some sort of mystical sexual fire by simply standing within the frame of scratchy and grainy celluloid.

I’ll admit, I have never seen Keoma, even though I am a big fan of Nero and spaghetti westerns. Now that I have, it is pretty high up on my list of Nero gunslinger pictures. Man, he is so damn good in this and his gaze is chilling when he needs to communicate that he’s coming for your ass. Franco Nero just has a presence and never has that presence been as strong as it is here, even if he isn’t spraying down dozens of evil soldiers with a giant Gatling gun yanked out of a casket.

The film is directed by Enzo G. Castellari, a guy not necessarily known for quality but known for having a real sense of style and accomplishing a lot with very little. The man made magic with the 1978 film The Inglorious Bastards, a film that inspired Quentin Tarantino to “borrow” its title. He also did the extremely low budget but impressive 1990: Bronx Warriors, a sort of Italian ripoff of Walter Hill’s classic The Warriors.

Keoma is damn good for what it is. It isn’t just a throwaway spaghetti western in a sea of similar films. It is ballsy and gritty and showcases the great Franco Nero in his best kind of role. It is also one of the best films Enzo G. Castellari ever directed.

Rating: 8/10

Film Review: Unofficial ‘Django’ Sequels, Part II (1966, 1969, 1971)

It has been too long since I did the first installment of this series of reviews for the unofficial Django sequels. So I figured that it was about time that I pick it up and do the second installment. I actually own enough Django films to do at least five of these.

Introduction:

The original Django was an enormous success in 1966. It opened a lot of doors for its star Franco Nero and its director Sergio Corbucci. The film also inspired unofficial sequels to be created by a multitude of studios because copyrights in Europe back then weren’t as strict as they are in the United States.

There are forty-six Django films listed on his character page on Wikipedia. Most of those are lost to time. A dozen and a half or so, are still out there on streaming services, DVD or VHS – if you can track them down. Some are free on YouTube. Anyway, I’m trying to see as many of them as I can.

Some actually feature the character of Django and some just use his name in the title due to its popularity, even though the character isn’t in the film.

As I watch these films, I will review a few at a time. They won’t necessarily be in chronological order, as that doesn’t matter anyway, as none of these films are really connected to each other apart from a word in their titles.

A Man Called Django! (1971):

Also known as: W Django!, Viva! Django
Release Date: September 29th, 1971 (Italy)
Directed by: Edoardo Mulargia
Written by: Nino Stresa
Music by: Piero Umiliani
Cast: Anthony Steffen

14 Luglio Cinematografica, 90 Minutes

Review:

Anthony Steffen has played a version of “Django” more times than the original Django, Franco Nero. Steffen’s movies are usually pretty good for knockoff spaghetti fare and he may be the most recognizable actor associated with the Django name, other than Nero… and now, Jamie Foxx.

A Man Called Django! a.k.a. W Django! a.k.a. Viva! Django is a better than decent spaghetti western on its own. It is one of a few examples of a Django picture that didn’t need to be connected to Django because it would have actually been better as its own standalone film. And in retrospect, it kind of upsets me for Anthony Steffen, who could have easily broke out as his own star and didn’t need to be the king of unofficial “Django”s.

This spaghetti extravaganza follows Django, as he sets out to exact revenge on the man who murdered his wife. He has help from a horse thief named Jeff and what we end up witnessing is a movie with more layers to it than what is first suspected. It starts out like a straight up revenge flick but evolves nicely due to some twists and turns.

The action is pretty good, the acting is solid from Steffen and fairly average from the others. The music really stands out but a lot of these Django films have pretty stellar scores that mimic the original’s style.

If you are going to delve deep into Django ripoffs and clones, as I have, I’d have to say that this is one of the few high points. Although, the editing is a bit sloppy in parts and in one scene Django literally punches a guy from a nighttime shot to a daytime shot.

Rating: 6/10

Django the Runner (1966):

Also known as: Le colt cantarono la morte e fu… tempo di massacro, lit. The Colt sang death and it was… Massacre Time (Italy), The Brute and the Beast (US), Colt Concert (UK), Massacre Time
Release Date: August 10th, 1966 (Italy)
Directed by: Lucio Fulci
Written by: Fernando Di Leo
Music by: Lallo Gori
Cast: Franco Nero, George Hilton, Nino Castelnuovo

Mega Film Colt, I.F. Produzioni Cinematografiche, Panta Cinematografica, American International Pictures, 89 Minutes

Review:

Lucio Fulci, most famous for directing several classic Italian horror films – most notably Zombi 2, also directed a handful of spaghetti westerns.

In Massacre Time, he directs Franco Nero, who was just coming off of his biggest hit Django. This movie was actually repackaged as a Django film in some international markets, making it one of several dozen unofficial Django pictures. Although, this has nothing to do with the character of Django. Nero plays someone else entirely.

Massacre Time sees Franco Nero return home to find everyone that he knows and loves to be under the rule of evil land barons. He quickly develops a rivalry with the son of the evil patriarch. This leads to a brutal bullwhip fight and other confrontations between the two. The bullwhip fight is the highlight of the film for me, as it was actually quite intense and nasty.

Nero teams up with his brother in a war against the land barons. There is a lot of action and typical spaghetti western violence. The style of the film isn’t all that refined but it certainly feels like the tone of a Fulci picture.

It isn’t a great movie but it gets a lot of praise from spaghetti western aficionados. I found it to be pretty dull for the most part, except for the bullwhip battle. The final battle is a bit clunky and has no real suspense. The film just sort of ends with a resolution that felt half-assed on execution. But it was also an early film in Lucio Fulci’s catalog and probably a big learning experience for him.

Rating: 5/10

 

Hanging For Django (1969):

Also known as: Una lunga fila di croci (Italy), A Noose For Django, No Room to Die
Release Date: April 18th, 1969 (Italy)
Directed by: Sergio Garrone
Written by: Sergio Garrone
Music by: Vasco Vassilli
Cast: Anthony Steffen, William Berger

Junior Film, 97 Minutes

Review:

Anthony Steffen is back!… Again! Apparently he wasn’t sick of playing various incarnations of Django. In fact, maybe his movies are actually sci-fi pictures, as we are peeking in on different Djangos from different dimensions and timelines. Actually, he isn’t even named Django in this one, he is referred to as “Johnny Brandon”.

This movie teams up Steffen with another spaghetti western great, William Berger. Both men form an alliance, as bounty hunters, to stop a rich guy that is smuggling in immigrants and doing other criminal things. It sort of starts like the relationship between Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef in For A Few Dollars More but then there are double crosses and lots of fun twists to the plot.

For another film ripping off the Django name, this one could have survived on its own merits. It was a good spaghetti picture and the chemistry between Steffen and Berger was pretty awesome. Steffen is such a good hero and Berger always does a magnificent job with these sinister weasel roles. Just look at how he almost steals the show away from Lee Van Cleef in the original Sabata.

Hanging For Django is actually my favorite of the three pictures from this set. Strangely, the one actually starring Nero (the original Django) was the one I liked least. However, all three are pretty close to the same level. This one just gets a slight edge because I really liked the Steffen-Berger match up. This one was also better shot and edited than the two other pictures here.

There’s also a seven barrel shotgun in this movie… seven!

Rating: 7/10

Film Review: Django Strikes Again (1987)

Also known as: Django 2 – Il grande ritorno, lit. Django 2 – The Great Return (Italy)
Release Date: December 3rd, 1987 (Italy)
Directed by: Ted Archer (Nello Rossati)
Written by: Franco Reggiani, Nello Rossati, Anna Miserocchi
Based on: Django by Sergio Corbucci
Music by: Gianfranco Plenizio
Cast: Franco Nero, Christopher Connelly, Licia Lee Lyon, William Berger, Donald Pleasence

National Cinematografica, Dania Film, Filmes International Reteitalia, DMV Distribuzione, Surf Film, 88 Minutes

django_2Review:

This, right here, is the only official sequel to the original Django, despite three or four dozen other films wanting you to believe something different.

It is also the only film to star Franco Nero as Django since the original. The film was also going to be written and directed by the original director, Sergio Corbucci. However, western films were in decline in the 1980s and Corbucci pulled out after another spaghetti western was a bomb at the box office. He did work on the film in more of a consultant type of role.

The film stays pretty true to its spaghetti western roots, but it was certainly tapping into the successes of the American films starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. Also, it was filmed in Columbia, as opposed to Spain or Italy, like most other spaghetti westerns.

The film’s plot is very similar to Schwarzenegger’s Commando but the tone is more in line with Rambo: First Blood Part II.

Years later, Django is a retired gunfighter now living in peace as a monk. A woman informs him that he has a daughter and she has been kidnapped by the villains of the story. Django sets out to get her back and initially attempts it peacefully and with reason. He is captured, tortured, forced into slavery and witnesses the atrocities that the evil men do to the young girls they abduct. He eventually escapes and goes to a grave site marked “Django” where he unearths his infamous machine gun. Then, all hell breaks loose.

Nero is stunning in this picture. He is also accompanied, at parts, by the always awesome Donald Pleasence (known most famously as Dr. Loomis from the original Halloween films).

It is a pretty big and lush expansion on the original Django mythos. The world is much larger in this picture and the villains, even more sinister. The big black steamboat they drive up and down the river is menacing and pretty cool.

This isn’t nearly as beloved as the original and the IMDb score is 5.5 but it is worth watching if you are a fan of the original and want to see what became of the official Django character. It is also worth your time if you like Franco Nero, spaghetti westerns or high octane 80s action movies. Frankly, I like all of those things, so I really like this film.

Rating: 6/10

Film Review: Unofficial ‘Django’ Sequels, Part I (1966, 1967, 1968)

The original Django was an enormous success in 1966. It opened a lot of doors for its star Franco Nero and its director Sergio Corbucci. The film also inspired unofficial sequels to be created by a multitude of studios because copyrights in Europe back then weren’t as strict as they are in the United States.

There are forty-six Django films listed on his character page on Wikipedia. Most of those are lost to time. A dozen and a half or so, are still out there on streaming services, DVD or VHS – if you can track them down. Some are free on YouTube. Anyway, I’m trying to see as many of them as I can.

Some actually feature the character of Django and some just use his name in the title due to its popularity, even though the character isn’t in the film.

As I watch these films, I will review a few at a time. They won’t necessarily be in chronological order, as that doesn’t matter anyway, as none of these films are really connected to each other apart from a word in their titles.

A Few Dollars For Django (1966):

Also known as: Pochi dollari per Django (Italy)
Release Date: September 9th, 1966 (Italy)
Directed by: Leon Klimovsky, Enzo G. Castellari
Written by: Manuel Sebares, Tito Capri
Music by: Carlo Savina
Cast: Anthony Steffen, Gloria Osuna, Thomas Moore, Frank Wolff

Marco Film, R.C. Pictures, R.M. Films, Italcid, 85 Minutes

few_dollars_for_djangoReview:

This was the first unofficial sequel to Django. It actually came out the same year, as did a half dozen other Django films. All of them were most likely made before the release of the original film and then altered their titles to jump on the success bandwagon.

The main character in this film isn’t even Django, it is a character named Regan. He has a Django-esque quality to his character though. The opening sequence is pretty cool and you do see similarities between Regan and the Django character in their style.

Anthony Steffen plays Regan and he would go on to be in other Django ripoffs.

For the most part though, this film is really mediocre. It is pretty average in its story, in its acting and in its style. It is more green than the real Django film, as it doesn’t take place in a desolate location. The setting within the film is supposed to be Montana.

It is happier in tone overall and the action is better than average but there just isn’t a lot to make it anywhere as worthwhile as the original film it steals its name from.

It is still a decent enough spaghetti western to enjoy for an hour and a half on a rainy day.

Rating: 6/10

Django Kill… If You Live, Shoot! (1967):

Also known as: Se sei vivo spara, lit. If You Live Shoot (Italy), Oro Hondo, Django Kill!
Release Date: May 3rd, 1967 (Italy)
Directed by: Giulio Questi
Written by: Franco Arcalli, Giulio Questi, Benedetto Benedetti, Maria del Carmen, Martinez Roman
Music by: Ivan Vandor
Cast: Tomas Milian, Marilu Tolo, Roberto Camardiel, Piero Lulli, Milo Quesada, Paco Sanz, Raymond Lovelock, Patrizia Valturri

GIA Societa Cinematografica, Hispamer Films, Trose Trading Film, Titanus Distribuzione, 117 Minutes

django_kill_if_you_live_shootReview:

This film is pretty damned good, even though Django is missing and the main character looks nothing like him. It is one of a few of these unofficial sequels to feature a main character called The Stranger – played by the awesome Tomas Milian in this one.

The film is full of awesome spaghetti western ultraviolence and trippy editing. It is fast paced, out of control and amazing.

It is an insanely gritty film that captures the best elements of the spaghetti western genre. It probably would have benefited more in not taking the Django name and instead, stood on its own two feet. It is a cult classic in its own right but it could’ve eclipsed cult status if it hadn’t sold itself as a generic rehash of things we’ve already seen.

This film is beautiful in its execution of violence. It may be the most violent spaghetti western I have seen. It isn’t offensive however, it is an artistic symphony of bullets and testosterone.

I absolutely love this movie.

Rating: 9/10

Django, Prepare a Coffin (1968):

Also known as: Preparati la bara!, lit. Prepare the Coffin! (Italy), Viva Django
Release Date: January 27th, 1968 (Italy)
Directed by: Ferdinando Baldi
Written by: Franco Rossetti, Ferdinando Baldi
Music by: Gianfranco Reverberi, Giampiero Rverberi
Cast: Terence Hill, Horst Frank, George Eastman, Pinuccio Ardia, Lee Burton, Jose Torres

B.R.C. Produzione S.r.l., Titanus Distribuzione, 92 Minutes

django_prepare_a_coffinReview:

This is also commonly called Viva Django! but there is also another film called that as well.

This 1968 unofficial sequel at least attempts to be a sequel. Terence Hill plays Django and he looks eerily similar to Franco Nero. He has the stunning eyes, the chiseled jawline, the stubble and the same costume and big gun. It is also a fantastic film all on its own. While it is an unofficial sequel, this could have been official and no one would have batted an eye. Hill is just perfect in this picture.

This film has some good plot twists and wonderful action. It also features the return of Django’s big gun from the coffin in one of the best spaghetti western action climaxes I have ever seen. It is on par with the final graveyard battle of the original Django with the ante upped to a ridiculous level.

The film also has an amazing theme song on par with the classic tune that was featured in the original film.

Like the film I discussed before this one, I absolutely love this movie.

Rating: 9/10

Film Review: Django (1966)

Release Date: April 6th, 1966 (Italy)
Directed by: Sergio Corbucci
Written by: Sergio Corbucci, Bruno Corbucci
Based on: Yojimbo by Akira Kurosawa, Ryuzo Kikushima
Music by: Luis Enriquez Bacalov
Cast: Franco Nero, Loredana Nusciak, José Bodalo, Angel Alvarez, Eduardo Fajardo

B.R.C. Produzione S.r.l., Tecisa, Euro International Film, 92 Minutes

django-1966-posterReview:

For those who don’t know, there was a Django before Jamie Foxx took up that moniker. Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained was its own film and not a remake of the 1966 Italian spaghetti western Django. It was, however, a bit of an homage to the original and other films like it and even featured a cameo by Franco Nero, the original Django.

This review is about that original film.

This is one of the most “balls to the wall” films ever made. It features an immense amount of violence, which kind of became a trend amongst Italian spaghetti westerns of the 60s and 70s. The film’s style also spawned a sequel, dozens of unofficial sequels and copycats.

None are as good as the original film starring Franco Nero. Although he did play the character again, this was the best outing.

The film feels a lot more low budget than the Sergio Leone films of the time but it is a lot more colorful visually and tonally. The color palette used in this film is vibrant and full of life. Django’s intense dark blue duds and the dresses of the prostitutes, in the brothel where he spends most of his time, are in stark contrast to the drab and dirty town they inhabit and the very plain uniforms of the militia they oppose.

Django incorporates a level of violence that is over the top but not blatantly offensive. This film had to have had the highest kill count of any western I’ve ever seen. One scene alone pits Django against an army of 48 soldiers. All of them are mowed down by his heavy firepower.

The climactic final battle sees Django have to battle six gunmen in a graveyard while his hands are smashed to bits, making the task of holding a pistol damn near impossible. Of course the hero overcomes, that shouldn’t be a spoiler considering all the sequels (official and unofficial) that were pumped out for decades after this.

Django is one of the greatest spaghetti westerns ever made. It is definitely a film for the man’s man. I mean, what is cooler than a film starting with a lone gunman walking into a dangerous town dragging a coffin behind him? What’s in the coffin? What’s this mysterious stranger’s business in town?

This movie set a trend in creating ultraviolent westerns. It would be nice to see more westerns go back to this “no holds bar” style. Tarantino went all out with his Django Unchained and his Hateful Eight walked the same territory but we need more westerns with gigantic gunfights and ultraviolence than long drawn out narratives. Those films are great to a point but sometimes you want the unrelenting intensity of Mad Max: Fury Road, as opposed to action-less Driving Miss Daisy.

It also has one of the best movie themes of all-time. Seriously, just watch the trailer.

Rating: 10/10