Friday, October 30, 2009

Django 2: il grande ritorno / Django Strikes Again (Italy, 1987)

Twenty-odd years after the original film and following an untold number of "sequels" Franco Nero finally returned to star in this "official" sequel to Sergio Corbucci's classic Spaghetti Western, Django (1966 / trailer). And what a misbegotten piece of shit it is. Lacking any and all the style, wit and craftsmanship of the original – or, for that matter, many of the unofficial sequels – Nello Rossati's film not only bores, it is often painful to watch.
Cobucci's Django was a violent film, but for all its excesses it never felt filthy, and featured an excellent sense of style and action, a grasp of both black and low humor and a decent script. Likewise, Nero's original characterization of the title character was richly in nuances, which definitely helped make the anti-hero keep both one's interest and sympathy. In Django 2, Nero has dumped all the depth and humor that he gave in his original characterization and made the man into a cardboard figure, a glaring and uninteresting bore bent on a mission of revenge who should gain our sympathy because he's supposedly the hero, but never does. In short, he’s all the Spaghetti Rambo as personified in some of the movie posters.

Directing the film as "Ted Archer", director Nello Rossati — whose only other film of note, L'Infemiera / The Sensuous Nurse (1976) is remembered only for the scenes of Ursula Andress hot-looking naked flesh — definitely lacks the ability to make an involving, multifaceted movie. Despite its obvious budget, this waste of celluloid is as exciting and interesting as a dull television movie, and features about as much logic and continuity. Even Gianfranco Plenzio's music is so inconsistent as to become annoying. For much of the film, he seems to be parodying Morricono, the rest of the time his crass use of a synthesizer is better suited for a cheap horror movie. Instead of in any way underscoring emotions or emphasizing mood, the music serves only to emphasize how crappy the entire film is. The script is likewise disappointing. Flat, uninteresting and predictable, characterization is minimal and development nonexistent, the action about the level one would expect from a western starring Lorenzo Lamas, if he were ever to make one. Hell, the average Andrew Stevens film is more gripping and involving than what Rossati's vomited on the screen. As to be expected in a film this bad, Donald Pleasence makes a small, pointless appearance as Gunn, a fellow prisoner at the silver mine cum concentration camp who exists only to supply some unfunny and misplaced humor but, for that, he still turns out to be one of the few highlights of the film.
The best part of the whole flick is the pre-credit opening scene, which seems to be cut from many English language versions of the movie. In it, two old timers meet up for a shoot out, each missing the other on purpose in the hope that the other will kill him, thus allowing him to die "with his boots on." Afterwards, over a bottle of whiskey, they talk about how all the great gunfighters are dead and gone, unable to even remember the name of the guy with the machine gun. Then, when hit by a cannon shot from El Diablo's steamboat, with his last breath one of them gasps out "Django! His name was Django!" before dying. Hey! Really intelligent humor, or? Still, as flat as the joke is, it is the best one in the whole movie.

Filmed in Columbia, Rossati trades the mud and grime of the original Django for a dried out landscape of baked dirt and shrubs. Il grande riturno begins with Django in a monastery, now a monk and retired from his evil ways. Visited by a seemingly tubercular Maria, she informs him that they have a daughter and requests that he should take care of the child when she dies. Visiting Maria's town he arrives after it has been raided, Maria is dead and the daughter kidnapped by "El Diablo" Orlowsky (trash actor Christopher Connelly, in his last film). "El Diablo" is a mad Hungarian who goes up and down the river in his steamboat collecting butterflies, slaughtering people indiscriminately, kidnapping the girls to sell to whorehouses or banditos, and kidnapping the men as slaves for his silver mine. In no time flat Django is also digging in the mine. Realizing that he can no longer deny the use of violence, he escapes, goes to a graveyard and digs his old Gatling gun out of a grave marked "Django". Teaming up with a young boy out to both revenge his father's death and retrieve his bleached skull from the fore of the steamboat, the rest of the movie has the two riding around in a hearse, machine gunning bad people down.
The movie drags along until the big showdown at the silver mine, where Django shoots or blows everything and everyone up, saving thousands of men at the same time. He is obviously still a great shot, for when he indiscriminately shoots into the masses with his machine gun, only the bad guys get hit and all the innocent people can run away unscathed. Ditto when it comes to the dynamite. "El Diablo" bites the dust when he falls into the once enslaved masses and is killed by the mob, the young boy buries his dad's skull in a shallow hole under a tree decorated with what looks like golden bottle caps, the daughter is saved and Django returns to the monastery "to think".
"Il grande riturno" my ass—more like "Il grande fuck-up".

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