As far as Spaghetti Westerns go, the Django movies, for which there are plenty, have to be some of the most scattershot around. Most of them, as anyone with an ear to the genre knows, have little to nothing to do with each other content and quality wise. The series is a long string of films with Django slapped on the title in hope of swindling movie goers into thinking they were going to get the same gritty over-the-top thrills Corbucci’s original dished out in spades. Django Shoots First is no exception. Made a Django movie obviously after the fact, Django Shoots First is a fairly well-tread affair that is held together by a light, easygoing demeanor. While the actors are for the most part wooden, they play their parts well enough to keep the hardened Spaghetti Western fan interested through the run time. Let’s admit it genre junkies, it doesn’t keep much for us to hold on and slug through even the worst Spaghetti Westerns and Django Shoots First is far from the worst. It just isn’t anything you’ll be screaming to the heavens about.
Glenn Saxson plays Glenn Garvin, or as everyone calls him almost immediately, Django (we’ll call him Glango), a rouge gunslinger who comes across a bounty hunter one day carrying the body of his father with him. After dispatching the man, he decides to take dad and collect the bounty for himself. Upon arriving in town, he comes to discover that his father, whom he hasn’t seen since he was a child, owned half of everything from the bank to the saloon. Ken Kluster (Nando Gazzolo) was partners with Glen’s father and makes it more than obvious by sending his bumbling punching bags after Glango that he doesn’t intend to share the wealth with this newly discovered heir. With the help of a local bum and your stock educated mystery man in black, Glango aims to claim what is his, THE WHOLE DAMN TOWN!!!
If it weren’t for the fact that a few of the characters are pretty entertaining, this film really doesn’t have much going for it. The cinematography is as plain as it gets. Most shots are fairly standard with little to no flair and all nighttime shots are borderline hysterical from a lighting standpoint in their inconsistency. With a color scheme that reminded me of Blood and Black Lace at times, back drops are blue and purple for no reason at all. What makes it so striking is that the rest of the film is so plainly shot that the color doesn’t look like moonlight at all and sticks out like a sore thumb. The twists and turns present in the plot are not entirely surprising; it’s just the lapse in logic the audience is supposed to accept that are forehead-slappingly huge. The story goes from pretty stock to idiotic toward the final act when the whole movie attempts to lazily wrap itself up. The way the trio of heroes gets away with their plan is just plain retarded. They start a bar room brawl, slip out through an escape hatch behind the bar, go do a bunch of stuff with the urgency of an old lady crossing the street with her walker, and come back later to the bar where the fight is still going on strong and no one is the wiser. Don’t even start me on the hand-to-hand fight choreography. They didn’t even try. Glango punches his way through his fair share of stock dumbbells and every scene is gut bustlingly awful.
What is there to recommend? Brainless Italian gunslinging. It doesn’t showcase the blood and grime of its namesake, but there are enough shootouts to keep things rolling nicely. There is something to be said about the appeal that Spaghetti Westerns have toward their targeted demographic. Even with all the faults I listed above, I still enjoyed the film. Maybe it was because of said faults that I found it more fun than it probably was. It starts out fairly straightforward and eventually turns into a laugh-fest by the end. Glenn Saxon turns out a serviceable Glango. He and his accomplices are the only entertaining characters in the film. That’s not to say that they, along with everyone else, aren’t as stock as they come, they just have more charisma, which makes Django Shoots First a much easier watch.
Most people won’t find much here to bite into, and it definitely isn’t a film for the newbie to use as their starting block, but those versed in the genre will most definitely be able to endure Django Shoots First for what it is. A fun little timewaster that caters to its audience with little concerns for logic and interested only in entertaining, plain and simple.
Dorado Films presents Django Shoots First in a very good-looking 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer. The quality of the print is very good, arguably their best yet, with very little damage of note and well-balanced colors. It is interlaced however, which holds it back somewhat. Audio is available in English, Italian, and French Dolby Digital mono, but no English subtitles have been included for the foreign language tracks. It’s not much of a bother though, as the English track is in very good shape and the quality isn’t too shabby. The only on-disc extras are a few trailers for various genre films. The keepcase is clear with chapter stops and some poster artwork visible. - KamuiX
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