Considered by some the most violent and surreal western, 'Django Kill' isn't nearly as bad or as shocking as the many movies which followed it in the next two decades, but for the period in which it was filmed, and the low-budget exploitation genre in which it participates, this Italian production is quite bloody and sometimes bat-shit weird. Not in the confused, what-the-hell-just-happened sort of way, but in the dumbfounded style that's usually accompanied by a few chuckles. It's one of those movies where you had to be there and grow up in the period to fully appreciate what all the fuss was about.
The Spaghetti western caused enough of a controversy that Italian and British governments intervened, censoring a large portion of the film. Was it the fruit bats and the iguanas during a bloodless torture sequence? Or was it the shooting of the talking Macaw and the horse that exploded from two bags of dynamite, lit by the story's supposed hero? I'm only kidding about those scenes, of course, though they are funny. We can look back at all the hoopla it caused jokingly from today's standpoint, but in all seriousness, it was only until recently with the popularity of DVD that fans could enjoy the film uncut and uncensored.
Admittedly, graphic scenes of gold bullets pulled from a man's body with bare fingers while he's still alive and a small band of deranged villagers scalping another man are disgustingly shocking, especially when keeping in mind that this is a production from 1967. And for the genre, such violence is usually committed off-screen and with much less blood splattered everywhere. So, it's actually easy to imagine where audiences would likely take issue with 'Django Kill.' Added to that, we also have a strange sequence of drunken revelry which hints at a homosexual orgy involving a gang of desperados dressed in black and a young man held for ransom. It's topped off with another scene of a man drenched in scorching-hot liquid gold, putting a literal spin on the phrase "golden shower."
Okay, come to think it about, maybe the movie is a little more violent than typically expected for a western of this vintage. But clearly, the filmmakers were aiming for something slightly unexpected and feeling a bit experimental in this tale of an unnamed gunslinger (Tomas Milian) searching for his bags of gold dust. Director Giulio Questi, who is also known for another strange movie about over-sexed chicken farmers but starring the gorgeous Gina Lollobrigida and the adorable Ewa Aulin, occupies the screen with a variety of abnormal behavior, starting with a power-hungry barkeep (Milo Quesada) and his live-in girlfriend (Marilù Tolo). With the discovery of the stolen gold, the plot develops into a wild battle between a greedy preacher (Francisco Sanz), his purportedly crazy wife (Patrizia Valturri), and a wealthy landholder with the unintentionally ironic name of Mr. Sorrow (Roberto Camardiel).
What ultimately pushes the film's weirdness is the title itself. In spite of what we call it, the story actually has nothing to do with the Django universe of Italian westerns except by name only. Milian's character remains nameless throughout the movie's nearly two-hour runtime, relating him more closely to Clint Eastwood's famous blue-eyed gunfighter. The narrative as a whole shares many similarities to the Django mythology, a character whose exploits have been told in over thirty different westerns — a deadly gunslinger seeks vengeance against those who wronged him and leaves a trail of savage violence behind him. But aside from that, 'Django Kill' makes a strange brew of bizarre, bloody imagery that still ranks as one of the most surprisingly graphic and violent westerns ever made, even if we can laugh at much of it today.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Blue Underground brings 'Django Kill' to Blu-ray on a Region Free, BD50 disc, housed inside a blue eco-lite keepcase. At startup, viewers are taken straight to a main menu with full-motion clips and music in the background.
If you're familiar with past restoration efforts from Blue Underground, then you know what to expect from this 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode. And if you're familiar with 'Django Kill,' then you also know this Blu-ray release is a significant upgrade and the very best the film has ever looked.
Struck from the original Italian negative, according to the back of the box, the 2.35:1 frame boasts spot-on contrast with several beautiful shots showing crisp, sharp visibility into the far distance. Black levels are also accurate with an often luxurious sheen throughout the presentation, from the outfits worn by Sorrow's henchmen to the many dark shadows. Colors are bold and energetic with reds and browns looking particularly vibrant. The transfer comes with a thin veil of grain, but the picture doesn't feel very film-like because it sometimes appears heavily scrubbed and a bit too digitized. It doesn't take away from the overall definition as fine objects and textures are still quite distinct. Close-ups reveal pores and minor blemishes on the faces of actors while the architecture and interior design of the buildings are nicely detailed.
For the audio, Blue Underground offers fans two DTS-HD Master Audio mono soundtracks from which to choose: Italian or English. Surprisingly, there are some minor differences between the two, but they each required a five decibel boost in volume from my normal listening levels.
The Italian track seems to offer a tad more in the upper frequencies, but they also tend to come with some very minor noise and slight clipping. In English, the soundstage appears a bit broader, giving it a fuller sense of presence, but it also feels somewhat hollow and limited. In either case, and whichever you choose to listen, both lossless mixes are a definite step up and have been cleaned up extensively. Vocals are precise and well-prioritized in the center, and it's worth noting that the English track sometimes switches to Italian with subtitles, presumably because those sections of the audio no longer exist. And finally, there is a good deal of perceptible bass during the musical score, but gunshots sound exactly as you'd expect for a movie of its genre and age — like firecrackers.
Supplements are ported over from the previous DVD release.
'Django Kill' is the unusual and sometimes more graphic than expected Italian western with a kooky vengeance where no one wins in the end, except maybe that one dude in the "golden shower" scene. The film still manages to surprise 45 years later, and even though it has little relation to the Django mythology, the story about a nameless stranger and his bags of gold dust caught in the middle of a town inhabited by weirdoes remains thoroughly entertaining. The Blu-ray from Blue Underground arrives with significantly improved audio and video, but bonus material is a sad disappointment. Still, fans should be happy with their purchase.