One al dente, one mush. Just in time to soak up some of that residual promo gravy from
former video clerk director Tarantino's latest juvenile, racist ripoff homage to something he watched on VHS over and over again, Timeless Media, a division of Shout! Factory, has released Django! Double Feature: Django Kills Silently and Django's Cut Price Corpses (original Italian titles: Bill il taciturno and Anche per Django le carogne hanno un prezzo), from 1968 and 1971 respectively. While Django Kills Silently is conventional-but-competent, Django's Cut Price Corpses is, well...unfortunate. Die-hard fans of the genre will be the best bet here, buoyed by Timeless/Shout!'s sweet anamorphic transfers and trailers/posters extras for these little-seen Italian oaters. Let's look very briefly (...because there ain't a lot to discuss here....) at each title.
DJANGO KILLS SILENTLY
On a dusty overlook, mysterious stranger Django ("George Eastman"/Luigi Montefiori) sees the aftermath of Mexican bandit El Santo's (Mimmo Maggio) henchman's handiwork: a family of settlers―including a little boy―shot full of holes. Arriving at an isolated hitchin' post/hotel, Django stops the same murdering bunch from raping Linda (Liana Orfei), who came to the hotel so its owner, Allan, could help her escape across the Mexican border. Allan, however, is also ventilated. Django learns that widow Linda is being held hostage by Dr. Thompson ("Edwin G. Ross"/Luciano Rossi), in the hopes of her falling in love with him. Heading into Santa Anna, Django runs afoul of Thompson's gang, particularly "Nervous" ("Rick Boyd"/Federico Boido), before Django learns that his friend and contact in town, Sanders, has been murdered by Thompson. Apparently, Sanders shipping goods across the desert ticked off ruthless business rival Thompson...and that's all she wrote for Sanders when Sanders refused to pay Thompson's buddy El Santo his "protection" money. Now, with the aid of grumpy McGill and mute Pedro (Antonio Toma), the vengeful Django is going to play Thompson and El Santo for suckers. And then he's going to kill them.
Reading that synopsis, it's not hard to figure out what 1964 international box office sensation starring Clint Eastwood and directed by Sergio Leone influenced Django Kills Silently's script. Written by "Leonide Preston" (Renato Polselli, of Psych-Out for Murder), with Lina Caterini and Paul Farjon, and directed by "Max Hunter" (Massimo Pupillo, of The Bloody Pit of Horror and Five Graves for a Medium fame), Django Kills Silently certainly makes no bones about incorporating most of the spaghetti Western conventions already firmly established just four or five years into the genre's worldwide preeminence. Bearing no official relationship to the iconic Sergio Corbucci classic, Django (just like the 25-30 other Django titles that were released), Django Kills Silently takes the two basic frameworks of the mysterious gunman playing two villains-in-an-uneasy-alliance off each other, and the mysterious stranger seeking vengeance after a friend is killed, to competently deliver up some western all'italiana fun. I don't know who designed the opening credits, but they look like Western Pop Art: perfectly composed comic book frames of hands waiting to draw pistols, as the post-production camera telecines back and forth with Eastman on his horse (at 6'9", stiff-as-a-board Eastman moves like Herman Munster, but who cares?). Director Pupillo shows a lot of style when he zooms that camera in and out as Eastman shoots his canteen ever-higher into the sky, and he knows how to choreograph a clean, exciting fistfight (good lighting effects, too, during that first one). Best of all, that "pistol porn" montage of close-ups of guns that precedes the big gundown is terrific, until all hell breaks loose with one of the noisiest shootouts I've seen in awhile. And of course, the post-dub is just what I want: in-and-out of synch, over-emphatic, with that wonderfully nostalgic hollow sound (I can't be the only one who loves listening for all those exaggerated footsteps and horse clip-clops, and the jangles of spurs and guns in these spaghetti Westerns?). No great shakes in the scheme of things, Django Kills Silently delivers its goods competently...with a few dashes of style and verve to make you pay attention.
DJANGO'S CUT PRICE CORPSES
Django ("Jeff Cameron"/ Goffredo Scarciofolo) is south of the border looking for four men: the Cortez Brothers. They're wanted for murdering Yankee red hair Bonnie's (Dominique Badou) parents...who just happen to own a gold mine. Bonnie is kidnaped, and Django has his own personal reasons for wanting her back. Luckily, he's got some help. Bull moose Pickwick (John Desmont), searching for his beloved grandpappy's saddle, knows the Cortez Brothers have it. Silver City Bank agent Fulton (Gengher Gatti) is looking for the boys, too: they robbed the bank and the owners want the gold back. And saloon owner/sexy widow Donna Dolores (Angela Portaluri) has reason to help out Django, too...in the bedroom, and out on the range, where her lover, Pedro Ramirez ("Mark Devis"/Gianfranco Clerici) is hiding out, having killed a lecherous army officer.
The last line of Django's Cut Price Corpses is, "The worst is over, the best is just beginning." Aaaaaaaaa-men. A confusing, boring mishmash, the best thing going for Django's Cut Price Corpses is that sensational title...and that's about it (when I saw the wanted poster that Django hands to Fulton was xeroxed, I knew I was doomed). By 1971, the spaghetti Western as straight actioner was already passe and headed straight for extinction, and with tepid outings like Django's Cut Price Corpses, it's not hard to see why. Devoid of any real suspense (the storyline by scripter/director Luigi Batzella/Paolo Solvay, is often incomprehensible), and criminally short on action, Django's Cut Price Corpses doesn't rip-off spaghetti Western conventions as much as limply make a dazed pass at them and then giving up. Directed with a dispirited ennui by notorious hack Batzella, Django's Cut Price Corpses's flat framing, uninspiring vistas, and silly fights and shoot-outs scream "amateur hour" as Cameron goggles his eyes in a bizarre transposition of Eastwood, Desmont stumbles and roars like a very poor man's Bud Spencer, and Gatti tries his best to be cultured and deadly like Van Cleef in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly...but winds up more like The Effete, The Non-Threatening, and The Boring. According to a few of my reference books, between 600 and 700 spaghetti Westerns were produced during the heyday of the genre. I haven't even seen a tenth of that number...but Django's Cut Price Corpses ranks pretty low on that list.
Django Kills Silently has been side-matted on an anamorphic platform for a 1.66:1 widescreen transfer. Colors are fairly good (maybe just a tad washed out here and there), with a decent, sharp image and no compression issues. Expected level of screen anomalies. Django's Cut Price Corpses is anamorphically enhanced for a 1.81:1 widescreen transfer; it looks pretty good, with a sharp image and okay color (considering the rarity of these titles―both first time on DVD―they're a find).
The Dolby Digital English split mono audio tracks are okay on Django Kills Silently, but a little buzzy on Django's Cut Price Corpses. No subtitles or closed-captions available.
Original trailers are included, along with poster images, too. Nice.
If you went to see Django! Double Feature: Django Kills Silently and Django's Cut Price Corpses at a drive-in, you'd have a good time knocking back some long necks during the first show...and you'd either get busy in the back of your El Camino real fast or peel out for brighter prospects during the second. Nice transfers for such obscure titles. I'm recommending Django! Double Feature: Django Kills Silently and Django's Cut Price Corpses for spaghetti Western fans.
Paul Mavis is an internationally published film and television historian, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, and the author of The Espionage Filmography.