DO YOU EVEN DJANGO? – A Look At The Many Varied “Sequels” of a Spaghetti Western Classic
First, some context. In 1966, filmmaker Sergio Corbucci released a true Spaghetti Western called Django, a film I will survey below. Its success drove other filmmakers to ride the wave of Django by releasing an entire slew of films that bore the Django name but had absolutely nothing to do with the Corbucci’s original film. Over thirty of these unofficial “sequels” were released, none of which gained much fame of their own. Below, we look at the ones I could get my grubby hands on. They are ordered chronologically by year of release.
The Original: Django
Director: Sergio Corbucci
Runtime: 92 minutes
Plot: A mysterious man enters a town dragging a coffin behind him becomes embroiled in a feud between a local branch of the KKK and a gang of Mexican bandits.
It’s easy to see why so many filmmakers would want to ride the fame of this movie. Starring Franco Nero, Django follows a man who doesn’t seem to have anything to lose and plenty of time to lose it. He enters a small town dragging a coffin behind him, its contents unknown. After a face-to-face with the leader of the KKK, Django’s real intentions come into view.
Django has a style of its own. It is much more violent than its most obvious comparison A Fistful of Dollars and features a race war raging between the KKK and a gang of Mexicans. It also happens to be what many people consider to be the quintessential Spaghetti Western, using primarily Italian and Spanish actors to portray Mexicans. There’s also the amazing soundtrack to consider, composed by Luis Bacalov, who scored several Spaghetti Westerns during this time. He also co-wrote the theme song to the movie you’ll hear as the film opens.
Watch Django for the scene where the titular character reveals what’s in his coffin, and for an infamous ear cutting scene that Corbucci reportedly conveniently “forgot” to edit out at the censors’ request.
- currently ranked #1,163 of all-time
- ranked 7,927 times by 411 users
- wins 53% of matchups
- 17 users have it ranked in their personal Top 20
- 1 user has it ranked as his/her #1 movie of all-time
Django Kills Silently (Also called Django Kills Softly)
Director: Massimo Pupillo
Runtime: 85 minutes
Plot: Django gets wrapped up with Thompson, a man who hires him as an escort through dangerous territory, after which Django is double-crossed.
First of all, the Italian title of this film is Bill il Taciturno, which based on no research whatsoever translates to Bill the Quiet. So right there one can tell that this film is truly riding the coattails of our original.
The first thing that happens is a gang of Mexican bandits murdering a family – child included (except the dog, of course). Django, or Bill, or whatever his name is, played this time by George Eastman, happens across the scene and shoots the responsible parties. He then rescues a young woman on his way to Santa Anna, on a mission from his friend Sanders. Upon his arrival in Santa Anna, Django finds that his friend and his whole family is murdered, and then strikes a deal with Thompson to escort him and his gang through dangerous territory to meet a man named El Santo.
There is a pretty badass shootout early in the movie. A prevailing motif in this series of films is that a group of bad guys creep into Django’s room in the middle of the night to kill him while he sleeps. Yeah, that never works out for them. Django is never actually in bed. He’s either hiding somewhere else in the room or he’s stuffed a bunch of pillows under the covers to make his would-be assassins think they’ve done the deed. In this instance, the hero is hiding above his bed in the rafters and jumps down to the floor, shooting as he lands. He takes out two men, then jumps out the window onto the thoroughfare below. He lands, rolls, and stays laid down as the two other men burst out of the saloon, soon to be filled with more lead than they were before.
Another thing I enjoyed about this movie is the soundtrack. The composer Berto Pisano did a great job putting together a solid Spaghetti Western-style soundtrack. Also, a best acting award goes to Federico Boido as The Nervous One, whose sole acting choice was twitching nonstop throughout his entire performance.
Interesting actor note: George Eastman, who plays Django/Bill in this film, appeared in another Django entry from the same year, Django, Prepare a Coffin, but not as Django, but rather as a man named Lucas. Terence Hill would play the part there.
- currently ranked #23,941 of all-time
- ranked 28 times by 2 users
- wins 27% of matchups
Director: Demofilo Fidani, Diego Spataro (Both credited under the name Dick Spitfire, which is by far the coolest name I’ve ever come across)
Runtime: 82 minutes
Plot: Black Burt Keller kidnap the daughter of a well-to-do man and flee to Mexico. Django and Sartana work together to put a stop to the kidnapping.
I had a hard time making sure I even had the right film, based simply on the number of names it goes by. It’s also called Django and Sartana’s Showdown in the West, Final Conflict…Django Against Sartana, and Sartana If Your Left Arm Offends, Cut it Off, among other things.
Starring Franco Borelli (credited as Chet Davis) as Django and Jack Betts (credited as Hunt Powers) as Sartana, this film also features Gordon Mitchell as the scene-chewing Black Burt Keller. Watch him go for broke as he plays poker against a mirror reflection of himself, trash talk and all, and eventually yells at his reflection.
Black Burt captures a young woman for reasons unknown. Through various channels, Sartana and Django both become apprised of the situation and set their sights on rescuing the young woman and bringing down Black Burt.
While I’ve already outlined Django’s notoriety as a character, less popular is Sartana. He is similar to Django in that he also has a series of films devoted to him, starting with 1968’s If You Meet Sartana Pray for Death. However, Sartana’s motives are more money-related, as opposed to Django’s need for vengeance. Furthermore, according to Sartana’s original film, he was also inspired by James Bond and utilizes trick weapons.
I must admit to being a little confused by certain details of the movie. Namely, the actor listed as playing Sartana, Jack Betts, is called Django by everyone in the movie. Meanwhile, the actor listed as playing Django is not referred to by name by anyone at all. At a certain point I stopped caring.
Artistically, there isn’t very much going for this film. It’s overly bland and even at less than 90 minutes, it seems too long. Usually, I suggest you watch this movie for particular scenes that stick out as being interesting or just insane, but I can’t think of anything for this one. Maybe watch this if you’re looking for a bad guy who gives absolutely no reason for his misdeeds and a plot that switches the names of its characters. Or skip it. You know what, just forget I mentioned it. I was just hoping the movie would even remotely live up to the director’s names (I mean, Dick Spitfire – come on, that’s great).
Actually, the final shootout in a canyon is pretty ridiculous. Bad guys seem to spawn from nowhere, and our heroes appear to teleport from place to place, shooting the bad guys at the right moment, catapulting them midair like they just graduated from stuntman school.
- currently ranked #24,431 of all-time
- ranked 2 times by 1 user
- wins 50% of matchups
A Man Called Django! (also called Viva! Django)
Director: Edoardo Mulargia (as Edward G. Muller)
Runtime: 90 minutes
Plot: A mysterious man enters a town carrying a saddle and on the hunt for the bandits who murdered his wife. Django also manages to save a horse thief from a hanging who coincidentally knows the man that murdered his wife.
This one stars Anthony Steffen as the titular character, who resembles Clint Eastwood more than Franco Nero. I mean, really, the man could have been used as Eastwood’s stand-in during wide shots of The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.
In A Man Called Django!, Django teams up with a horse thief named Carranza (played by Stelio Candelli, doing his best impression of Eli Wallach‘s Tuco). Carranza seems to be the only one who can identify the members of the gang who committed the deed for which Django is seeking revenge, so the two embark on a journey together to hunt down the men.
There are a few comparisons to be drawn between the original and this entry. For one, of course, the mysterious man carrying a thing into a nearly empty town. In addition to that, Django is hunting down a man who caused the death of his wife, just as in the original. However, where this one separates itself is in the overall tone of the film. Where the original is serious, dark and bloody, this one is played for humor, with nary a drop of blood to be seen. Take, for example, the sequence where Django ties an enemy’s bed to a horse-drawn cart to be dragged around town while the soundtrack goes into a hoedown. There’s also a scene early on where three idiots stand side by side trying to figure out what the burning smell is as the middle idiot holds a lighted stick of dynamite basically in front of his face.
- currently ranked #21,845 of all-time
- ranked 44 times by 13 users
- wins 49% of matchups
Django’s Cut Price Corpses (Also called A Pistol for Django)
Director: Luigi Batzella
Runtime: 83 minutes
Plot: Django’s fiancee is kidnapped by the treacherous Cortez brothers, who are on the run after robbing a bank.
Other note: Boob alert! There’s a small amount of nudity towards the end of the movie, if you’re sensitive about that sort of thing.
Jeff Cameron plays our bounty hunter Django here. The film opens on a chaotic ambush, where a small gang of ne’er-do-wells are executed by another gang of ne’er-do-wells. During this shoot-out, a woman is kidnapped for reasons that are unclear. The next scene features an over-sized man pretty much sweeping the floor of a bar with a smaller man, seemingly for the fun of it. Enter Django, who quickly befriends the bully. Apparently the big guy lost his saddle in a game of cards and was sore about it. Some other stuff happens, and Django wins.
Some of the creative choices here are suspect. For example, a couple of scenes drag on too long, which is saying something for so short a movie. The scene where the lumbering bully roughs up a couple dudes goes on way too long, to the point where it just seems cruel. In another scene, our hero watches a woman ride away on the horse, and the camera follows her leave until she basically leaves the frame. Another fun detail is near the beginning, where Django shows around the wanted poster of the baddies he’s chasing. It’s a straight-up Xerox of their photographs. My favorite choice was to have the Cortez brothers (I’m assuming it’s them) all dressed up like mariachi. Like, Chi-Chi’s style mariachi. At least it helps me figure out who the bad guys are.
To this film’s credit, I will say that the plot’s developments are interesting. While Django is searching for the Cortez brothers because they kidnapped his wife, there’s also a banker on the trail, representing the bank the family robbed. He turns out to be in cahoots with the bad guys. I also enjoyed Jeff Cameron’s turn in the Django role. He has a fair amount of charm and playfulness in addition to his deadeye shooting.
- currently ranked #25,881 of all-time
- ranked 5 times by 3 users
- wins 11% of matchups
Director: Takashi Miike
Runtime: 98 minutes
Plot: A stranger enters comes into contact with opposite sides in a battle to find a long lost treasure in a western town. The unnamed gunman offers his services to the highest bidder.
In watching Sukiyaki Western Django, I was thinking about the thin line between copycat and homage. Clearly, the earlier films I surveyed were copycats, but this one bridges into homage-ville. To me, there are two major details that identify it as homage. 1) the fact that no one in the film is actually named Django, a nod to earlier copycat films that added the name Django onto the title in foreign markets, and 2) Quentin Tarantino‘s involvement in the movie.
Quentin Tarantino makes a cameo as a character named Piringo, who sets up the story to follow. Evidently, Tarantino’s appearance was a return for to director Miike, who himself gave a cameo in Eli Roth‘s Hostel, on which Tarantino served as an executive producer.
Hideaki Ito plays the hero in this film, and though he is only referred to throughout as The Gunman, it’s clear that he would be called Django, if in fact the film ever intended on calling anyone Django. And much like the original film, the plot revolves around two warring factions scrambling to get the one-up on each other in the search for a treasure. In this one, too, The Gunman bounces between both factions trying to get out ahead for himself. Another nice touch here is the inclusion of a coffin that hides a deadly weapon inside – just like the original.
Takashi Miike is one eclectic dude. The types of films he directs range so wide in variety from tense thriller (Audition) to epic samurai tales (13 Assassins) to bizarre gangster flick that borders on Buddhist allusion (Gozu – there’s nothing quite like watching a woman give birth to a grown man). It doesn’t always go well for him (Izo was tough to get through), but he still makes some incredibly interesting movies to watch. Here, Miike goes for over-the-top action adventure with quirky, and it mostly works. In recent years, there have been a few so-called Sushi Westerns pop up here and there, and for my money, Jee-woon Kim‘s The Good, The Bad, The Weird, released a year later in 2008, is the better film, but regardless, Sukiyaki is a strong entry into this little genre.
- currently ranked #6,622 of all-time
- ranked 5,594 times by 380 users
- wins 45% of matchups
- 7 users have it ranked in their personal Top 20
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Runtime: 165 minutes
Plot: Django, a freed slave, is taken under the wing of a bounty hunter looking for a few men only Django can recognize. Things escalate from there.
All roads lead to Tarantino. When I began piecing together this list, I knew it would end with this film. Either way you slice it, either chronological order or from worst to best, this one would be the last. Knowing that it would end here, I got the distinct feeling while watching the others that Tarantino must’ve made a similar journey leading up to him creating Django Unchained. Not that I’m comparing myself to him at all – I wouldn’t presume to put myself anywhere near the man’s level.
It has so much going for it. Jamie Foxx kills it as the titular hero, and of course Christoph Waltz won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Dr. King Schultz, the former dentist-turned bounty hunter. I will also say that Leonardo DiCaprio‘s performance as Calvin Candie is what completely won me over on him. I also love Franco Nero’s cameo as the man who questions Django on the spelling of his name.
The story centers around Django, who is freed from his shackles at the beginning of the movie by Dr. King Schultz, in exchange for his knowledge on a few targets the good doctor is seeking. Dr. Schultz then agrees to take Django under his wing as a bounty hunter. Once Dr. Schultz learns that Django’s wife is named Broomhilda, after an old German fairy tale, the doctor agrees to help Django free her.
It’s also worth mentioning that, of all the films released in 2012, Django Unchained is ranked on Flickchart at #1. That’s right. Ahead of The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, Moonrise Kingdom and Skyfall, in that order. And it’s easy to see why. In a year filled with sequels and tentpole franchises (except for Moonrise), Django is by and large a completely original work. Despite the fact that it’s a clear homage to Corbucci’s original, the story itself is wholly unique and new. Not only is this an excellent addition to the list of unofficial Django sequels, it’s also just an excellent movie to watch. You don’t need to know the history of Django to enjoy it on its own, but it adds an extra geeky thrill to understand the reference.
- currently ranked #188 of all-time
- ranked 104,998 times by 6,028 users
- wins 68% of matchups
- 966 users have it ranked in their personal Top 20
- 75 users have ranked it as their #1 film of all time
Bonus Post Script!
In my research for this piece, I uncovered a different sort of film that was far too much for me to handle on my own. For that reason, I was forced to call in reinforcements, a man whose experience in this area of film surpasses my own by miles. I present to you a special bonus Django sequel reviewed by guest contributor and guest brother-of-mine Nick Lombardi.
Nude Django (also called Brand of Shame)
Director: Byron Mabe
Runtime: 73 minutes
Plot: It doesn’t matter.
Nude Django is a lackluster western-softcore-porno. The editing is terrible, the camera work is terrible, the dialog is terrible, and the music is completely out of place. The 2:00-ish minutes of opening credits are filled with quick cuts between a racing stagecoach, horse-riding bandits, and cast/crew credits painted on the stagecoach—all while being scored with jazzy lounge-lizard horns. There’s even a long take of the two main leads (later in the film) riding horses, dismounting, standing around, drinking water, and just walking about.
Okay, so the plot is simple: Ms. Clark, a school teacher, arrives in town with her father’s map to a gold mine in the foothills, and Steve, a lawyer-cowboy, offers to help. Bart and his bad-boy gang do everything they can (including conspiring with the local pimp /”hotel” owner/lesbian to seduce and ruin Ms. Clark, kidnapping and whipping Ms. Clark, and stealing Ms. Clark and Steve’s horses) to get that gold first.
Now, this movie is lousy with naked women, but there is absolutely nothing sexy about any of their scenes: a scheming lesbian seduces one of her female employees, a woman makes her man “feel better” after he loses a fistfight, and the heroine is tied to a tree and whipped. Ugh… It’s hard not to view these types of films without some sort of presentism (whether dealing with film craft or social mores), but this movie is just all sorts of bad.
Luckily, the streaming version I found online was incomplete, and after an hour, the movie just started over with the opening credits. If you chose to watch this, be aware that there is a clean version. If you don’t see at least two sex scenes within 10 minutes, then you’re watching the wrong version. Also, the version I watched was an awful digital transfer. This actually made the whole experience a bit more entertaining, but the transfer quality was the least of this movie’s issues.
I’d enter this film’s rankings on Flickchart, but its addition to the database is pending. I’m guessing it would rank somewhere in the low 300,000s. I’m not even confident there are that many films on the site.
Thank you very much for checking out this list! In wrapping up, I know that there are many films that I missed. However, due to the obscurity of some of them, I was unable to find copies to watch. That being said, are there any I didn’t include on the list that I need to make an extra special effort to find? Let me know in the comments below, and as always, the D is silent!