Written by: George Pacheco on December 20th, 2012
Theatrical Release Dates: Italy, 1971 (A Man Called Django), Italy, 1970 (Django and Sartana’s Showdown in the West)
Directors: Edoardo Mulargia (A Man Called Django), Demofilo Fidani (Django and Sartana’s Showdown in the West)
Writers: Nino Stressa, Demofilo Fidani
Cast: Anthony Steffen, Stelio Candelli, Franco Borelli, Jack Betts, Gordon Mitchell
DVD Release Date: December 11th, 2012
Approximate Running Times: 90 minutes (A Man Called Django), 83 minutes (Django and Sartana’s Showdown in the West)
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 widescreen(A Man Called Django), 1.85:1 widescreen (Django and Sartana’s Showdown in the West)
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono (Both Films)
DVD Release: Shout Factory / Timeless Media Group
Region Encoding: NTSC Region 1
Retail Price: $6.95
This ‘Django’ double feature from Shout Factory/Timeless Media Group features two movies which have seen prior DVD release—despite Shout’s claim to the contrary, Django and Sartana’s Showdown in the West was previously available within VideoAsia’s less-than-legitimate ‘Sartana’ collection from a few years back—yet here receive a comparatively definitive induction to home video.
The two movies included here were both released during the trail end of the Spaghetti Western cycle in the early Seventies; a period where the genre had already begun to morph into either comedic parody (see Little Rita of the West or the Trinity films with Terrence Hill and Bud Spencer) or dead-straight retreads of prior revenge tales or treasure hunts. Yet, A Man Called Django—as it’s billed here from the original title of W Django!—still manages to succeed on a number of levels, despite the film’s tried and true vengeance storyline.
The likable and engaging screen presence of Anthony Steffen as the mythical ‘Django’ character once again proves how De Teffe was one of the West’s most reliable impersonators of the iconic Franco Nero role, lending an air of legitimacy to the mysterious, black clad stranger. Indeed, there is a certain, unique manner to Steffen’s stone-faced, taciturn approach to Django which presents the character both as a vulnerable, flawed outlaw and otherworldly ghost of vengeance.
It’s Steffen’s mission here in A Man Called Django to track down and punish the thieves who murdered his wife, assisted here by Stelio Candelli as the condemned thief Carranza, the only witness to the attack a year prior. Candelli, to his credit, plays up the Tuco-inspired character of Carranza with sweaty, grinning glee, clearly ripping every page he can from the Eli Wallach sidekick playbook, yet Candelli’s interaction with Steffen is genuine and a joy to watch as it spills on screen with bullet-riddled glee.
Speaking of bullets, there is an obscene amount of gunplay here in A Man Called Django, with seemingly every actor in the cast gloriously playing up their death scenes with twitching aplomb, perhaps making up for the lack of squib work or gore. This massive body count is assisted greatly by inspired visual editing and cinematography of Cesare Bianchini and Marcello Masciocchi, while Piero Umiliani’s melodic score works in lively guitar work and traditional western themes to create a perfect musical backdrop to this enjoyably fast-paced, late period spaghetti western.
Django and Sartana’s Showdown in the West is also enjoyable, although for an entirely different set of reasons. The film’s director, Demofilo Fidani—here credited under his snickering pseudonym of ‘Dick Spitfire’—has become known as the ‘Ed Wood of Italian Cinema,’ due primarily to his apparent disregard for plot continuity and coherence amongst his catalog of ludicrous, made-on-the-cheap western knockoffs. This film—originally released in 1970 under the title Django and Sartana are Coming…It’s the End!—pits the Django (Franco Borelli) and Sartana (Jack Betts) characters against the maniacal, more-than-slightly insane gang leader Burt Kelley, played to WTF hilt by former American bodybuilder and all around Italian cinema icon Gordon Mitchell.
Mitchell’s character of Kelley talks to himself and plays cards against his mirror’s reflection, while his gang of brain cell deficient miscreants abducts young Jessica Brewster—played by the absolutely stunning Simonetta Vitelli—and absconds to Mexico. Of course, it’s up to Django and Sartana to team up a rescue her from the gang; a loose plot if there ever was one, which basically only serves for Fidani and company to set up a run of hilariously dubbed dialog and interchangeable action sequences until the film reaches its brisk, eighty minute climax.
Thankfully, the always excellent cinematography of frequent Fidani collaborator Aristide Massaccesi/Joe D’Amato ensures that all of these aforementioned sequences look fantastic (look for a cameo by the legendary sleaze director as a cheatin’ card player!) while Lallo Gori’s generic-yet-enjoyable musical accompaniment keeps Fidani’s western-by-numbers affair cracking along with a ‘don’t think too hard about it’ sort of glee…which is exactly the approach viewers should take with any of Demofilo Fidani’s bizarre, yet one-of-a-kind approach to the Spaghetti Western.
Shout Factory and Timeless Media Group present both of these ‘Django’ knockoffs in widescreen format, which preserve the films’ original aspect ratio. A Man Called Django particularly improves upon Dagored Film’s prior DVD release as W Django!, with a crisp picture, colors and sound. The night scenes could look a smidge better, but overall this is the best A Man Called Django is likely to ever look, barring a (highly unlikely) Blu-Ray release. While the film’s last, climactic frame appears as if it might have been taken from a different source, it’s blended in well, with very few viewers likely to take notice.
Fidani’s films have always benefitted from a unique visual style, and Shout’s version of Django and Sartana’s Showdown in the West displays this in spades, rivaling Koch Media’s German release of Demofilo’s A Coffin Full of Dollars in terms of quality. It beats out VideoAsia’s print by leaps and bounds in every category—which isn’t surprising, given the company’s grey market approach to quality—serving as a recommended edition for all Fidani-philes out there in the Spaghetti West.
Extras here are limited only to poster shots and trailers, but his makes little difference, really, when considering the staggeringly low and afford MSR of these double features. At less than ten U.S. dollars a pop, one really can’t go wrong investing some time and money here with these value budget double features.