What better way to start Frontierado Week than with a look at some of the most obscure but laughably weird Italian westerns? And what better way to start that list than with one of the countless Spaghetti Westerns with phony Django titles?
The upcoming release of Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained will reboot the Django saga by making him an African American and pitting him against racist villains out west. This will nicely blend Django’s bounty hunter tale with the 70s blaxploitation westerns starring Fred Williamson and others as former slaves blowing away Neo-Confederates in the Wild West.
Franco Nero starred as the original Django but sadly has just a cameo in the reboot. The original movie was a monumental success everywhere in the world except the U.S. back in 1966. There was only one other “official” Django movie (also starring Nero) but there were literally nearly a hundred false Django movies featuring different actors in the lead role (my favorite being Terence Hill) or that just plain retitled and redubbed other Italian westerns to make them seem like Django movies.
1. DJANGO KILL (1967) – Originally titled If You Live, Shoot!, this was one of the many Eurowesterns to be re-released to theaters years later as a phony Django movie just so it could clean up on the guaranteed cash cow of the Django name. In this one our pseudo-Django finds himself involved with a kidnapped teen boy, the gay outlaws who have kidnapped him (seriously), and their Wild West castle (?) where they torture their victims medieval-style, including roasting them on spits. Pseudo-Django shoots gold bullets in this flick and greedy townspeople rip open the corpses of the gunmen who fall to him just to get at the precious metal.
2. THE PRICE OF POWER (1969) – The John F Kennedy assassination gets restaged in the Old West in this movie that also plays hob with the facts of the James Garfield assassination. Neo-Confederates in Texas 1n 1890 kill President Garfield when he visits Dallas. In real life Garfield was assassinated by a disgruntled office seeker in Washington, DC in 1881. Maybe Michael Moore had a secret hand in this flick. It’s as loaded with inaccuracies as anything he has ever made. Anyway, there’s also a patsy for the assassination who – you guessed it – gets killed during a prison transfer. The hero is a gunslinger who stops the Neo-Confederates from engineering a second Civil War in the wake of Garfield’s death. My Bad Movie page features a full-length review of this movie if you’re interested.
3. BAD KIDS OF THE WEST (1967) – Two wanted desperadoes take refuge in a town populated exclusively by children who all act like adults. The little boys all behave like squinty-eyed gunmen and the little girls all act like saloon dancers and prostitutes. Hey, let’s just be glad this didn’t get re-released under the phony title Young Django or something. It’s not quite a comedy but also not quite an outright horror film like the killer-children movie Who Could Kill A Child? The scene everyone talks about is the part where the kids urinate in glasses and serve it to the fugitives as “warm beer”. Based on a story by A.A. Milne. I’m kidding!
4. JESSE JAMES’ KID (1966) – Incredibly bizarre dubbing accentuates the bad movie appeal of this already strange movie. This flick distorts the facts every bit as laughably as The Price of Power did, but without the pretentious subtext of that movie. Jesse James’ Kid proceeds from the premise that Jesse James’ son was THE Billy the Kid. Not only that but in this movie the man who shoots Jesse from behind is not Robert Ford but … Bat Masterson! Billy grows up and wants revenge on his father’s killer, which, to the surprise of nobody, he eventually gets, in a climactic scene where he shoots Bat to death with a six-gun that fires fourteen bullets in a row … I’m serious. One of the many bizarrely dubbed versions out there features supporting characters being addressed as Pat Garrett, Doc Holliday and Judge Roy Bean.
5. JOHN THE BASTARD (1967) – Don’t believe websites or reviews that call this a western adaptation of the story of Casanova. Instead, it is clearly a western adaptation of Don Juan, right down to a death by statue finale.
Our hero John Donald (Don Juan, John Donald … get it?) is a slick-talking gunslinger who seduces the ladies and outshoots their men as he roams the west with his manservant (not an African American) who often abets his boss’s trysts like Don Juan’s servant in the classic tale. Think of the scurvy adventures of the British antihero Harry Flashman and you’ll know what to expect from this movie.
John escapes a shotgun wedding with the help of the smitten sister of the woman he knocked up, then seduces and abandons that sister, too. He beds down with his brother’s wife, then protects a caravan of Mormon wives headed for Utah from the army of Ku Klux Klansmen trying to kill them enroute. Naturally, his pay for wiping out the Klan army is getting a steady diet of threesomes with some of the brides to help pass the time on the long journey.
Finally, in order to steal the family fortune he shoots down his brother, beds down with his wife again, and is crushed to death by a statue of his slain brother, a death engineered by a gunslinging Mormon Danite sent to kill John for “disgracing” the caravan of brides he was trusted to protect.
HONORABLE MENTION GOES TO:
DYNAMITE JOE (1966) – The title hero is a Jim West- style government agent who dresses well, gambles even better and is a deadly hand with … dynamite. This oddity features Dynamite Joe on the trail of stagecoach robbers who have stolen a fortune in gold. Naturally he beats all the bad guys without once drawing (or carrying) a gun but by hurling sticks of dynamite with giddy abandon, regardless of the collateral damage. This is NOT a comedy, which makes it much funnier. The theme song tells us Dynamite Joe is “dyna-mighty”. I’m serious.
BLINDMAN (1971) – A blind gunslinger, wearing a sign around his neck that says “Blindman”, is a deadly shot based on his extraordinary smell and hearing. This was one of the many Spaghetti Westerns adapted from Japanese movies, in this case the series about the blind, sword-wielding hero Zatoichi. There are blatant comedic elements in this movie, which costars Ringo Starr, or else it would have made the main list. A knowing sense of humor dulls the Bad Movie Appeal. See also Deaf Smith and Johnny Ears (1972).
KUNG FU BROTHERS IN THE WILD WEST (1973) – Two brothers from China are separated in Hong Kong, but encounter each other in the American west. They heroically protect their new hometown from the scourge of the evil warlord who has followed them across the ocean. Not nearly as much fun as that description makes it sound. This movie is so bad it’s barely watchable.
JOHNNY HAMLET (1968) – Hey, if we’ve had Don Juan in the west, why not Hamlet? Johnny Hamlet comes back from the Civil War to learn that his father is dead and his sinister Uncle Claude has married his mother. Uncle Claude has also taken over the family estate, a sprawling Ponderosa-sized ranch with the hilariously strange name “Rancho El Senor”. Elsinore … “El Senor” … Get it?
WHITE COMANCHE (1967) – Shatner times two! This is a Shatnerific bad movie starring the one and only Captain Kirk as half-breed brothers Johnny Moon and Garvin Moon. The brothers are feuding as part of a romantic rectangle which also includes a white townswoman and a Comanche squaw. Joseph Cotten plays the Rio Hondo town boss who embroils the town in a war with the local Comanches, bringing the situation to a full boil.
LIKE THIS LIST? FOR A LOOK AT THE REAL-LIFE GUNFIGHTERS BEAR RIVER TOM, POKER ALICE, KID CURRY AND RATTLESNAKE DICK CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/2012/07/15/four-forgotten-gunslingers-with-cool-nicknames-2/