VIVA DJANGO is a 1968 western starring Terence Hill(born Mario Girotti) in the role of Django. In a bit of irony, Franco Nero was originally cast in the role. it was the third of a three picture deal after DJANGO and TEXAS, ADDIO. He dropped out to go to Hollywood to play Camelot and Hill was hastily cast for the part, bearing a resemblance to a young Nero. A couple of years later, the Trinity pictures made Hill an international star and Nero ended up starring in a string of comedy westerns as a Hill look-alike.
The plot is a revenge driven story. Django is a guard for gold shipments. On one delivery, his wife is along when they are attacked by a gang, everyone left for dead. Not Django.
The gang is led by a man named Chris(George Eastman), though he’s only a henchman for David Barry(Horst Frank), an old friend of Django’s, who has political ambitions that he fuels by spreading around stolen gold.
Five years later, Django is a hangman. Not the usual sort though. He carries a harness in a bag that allows him to fake a hanging, putting it on under the clothes of his innocent prisoners(how he determines that they are innocent is never explained). A hook at the back, hidden under a black hood, allows him to slip the noose over it, instructing them to play dead until he cuts them down and bury them(the Italian title translates as Prepare A Coffin). He then sends them to a village, giving them his fee for hanging.
He’s assembling an army to help him get his revenge. The plan becomes to terrorize those that lied to convict them, putting pressure on the main man, Barry, by seeing dead men returning. No killings though, so they can eventually be cleared and return to their family.
The members of this army are all prominent players in the spaghetti westerns of the era. A lot of those familiar “faces.” I recognized a few of them. One of them had a bigger role, Jose Torres as Garcia. Other films he appeared in were THE BIG GUNDOWN(with Lee Van Cleef), DEATH RIDES A HORSE(again Van Cleef), RUN, MAN, RUN(with another big star of the genre, Tomas Milan), and THE FIVE MAN ARMY(with Peter Graves).
When Django gets wind of another shipment being heisted by Chris and his gang, he sends his army to stop them.
His plans start to unravel when he’s double-crossed by Garcia, who convinces most of them to actually steal the gold before the outlaw gang does. He’s tired of being poor and hungry. When two refuse to go along, Garcia shoots them. One survives though and manages to get into town, revealing Django’s plans when Chris grabs him. Strange that, because while that’s happening, Django is off to save another innocent, Garcia’s wife, convicted as a cohort.
I think this was meant to be a prequel to DJANGO as evidenced by these last posters. The finale ends in a cemetery like the first film, Django digging up a grave while surrounded by his former friend, Barry and his own army. He uncovers a coffin, where the gold is supposedly hidden. But when he opens it, a Gatling gun is revealed and you can guess what follows.
The script was by Franco Rossetti and director Ferdinando Baldi. Enzo Barboni was director of photography. Here’s another bit of irony. Baldi was offered the directorial job for a comedy western and refused it. Barboni took the job and became well known as the director of the Trinity pictures. The music was by the Riverbari brothers, Gianfranco writing it, Giampero directed and recording it. Some forty years later, recording artist Gnarls Barkley used parts in his smash hit CRAZY.
Not a bad film, not a great one(certainly unlikely to make any best of list of spaghetti westerns). Nevertheless I enjoyed it. If anyone is interested, here is a link to the film on Youtube and it’s complete, not broken into ten minute lengths like a lot of movies.