Django Kill has been promoted onto the List of the 366 Weirdest Movies ever made. Please read the official Certified Weird entry and make any comments there. Comments are closed on this post.

Se Sei Vivo Spara

DIRECTED BY: Giulio Questi

FEATURING: Tomas Milian

PLOT: A bandit is betrayed and left for dead by his comrades, then rides into a strange and corrupt town looking for vengeance and the stolen gold.

Still from Django Kill... If You Live, Shoot! (1967)

WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE LIST: An ambiguously dead antihero who shoots golden bullets fights Mr. Sorrow and his gang of gay fascist cowboys. How could we not at least consider it for a spot as one of the weirdest movies of all time?

COMMENTS: Django Kill (which has nothing to do with Django—American distributors tacked on the name of Franco Nero’s popular cowboy in hopes of selling more tickets) is one of the first movies to recognize the hallucinogenic properties of the overripe oater. Flirting with surrealism while laying on the stage blood in ludicrous quantities, Giulio Questi’s bizarre 1967 western must have set off light bulbs inside Alejandro Jodorowsky‘s skull. The plot, involving a protagonist who is rescued from death by Indian spirit guides, also appears to have at least subliminally inspired Jim Jarmusch’s 1995 Dead Man. Although most of the shocking content—a man being scalped, an (offscreen) homosexual gang rape, and quick-flash subliminal editing techniques designed to induce seizure in epileptics—seems dated or tame today, in 1967 Django Kill was a real sizzler. Italian authorities banned the movie until certain (now-restored) scenes, such as a gang of townspeople’s flesh-ripping treasure hunt for golden bullets suspected to be lodged inside a fresh corpse, were excised. Even though Kill‘s violence no longer carries the same visceral impact it did in the late 60s, it’s still a lot of bloody fun; at times, it’s like watching running loose on a Sergio Leone set. One of the surprising things about Django Kill is that, despite all of the bizarre touches Questi adds, it’s accessible enough to work as a satisfying exploitation western, albeit with a supernatural tinge to it. With his hazel eyes gleaming above his scrub-brush cheeks, Cuban-born Thomas Milian makes for an attractive, ethnically ambiguous antihero (he’s supposed to be a half-breed) who needs to do little more than act cool and aloof to make his presence felt onscreen. The admittedly meandering plot hits all the genre highlights: shootouts, stolen gold, cruel villains, hangings, saloon fistfights, God-forsaken desert landscapes, betrayal, revenge, and closeups of grizzled macho faces aplenty. The strangeness comes in small doses, giving the weirdophiles in the audience secret thrills without alienating the drive-in/grindhouse patrons. Other than the gold bullets, the first fifteen minutes are played almost totally straight. When a gang of desperadoes roll into a nameless town, things start to take on a strange tinge: naked children stand calmly watching their progress through the dusty main street, while other kids are being used as footstools. Figures are briefly glimpsed in windows and there seems to be something unspeakably depraved happening behind every door. As we progress through the movie these quirks multiply, from the villain improbably named “Mr. Sorrow” and his gang of black-clad “muchachos” to a mock-crucifixion scene featuring vampire bats to an alcoholic parrot. The subtext appears to be that Milian, known only as the Stranger, is dead and is wandering through a bandito’s vision of Hell; or, perhaps the Stranger is a Christ figure, redeeming the debauched town through his suffering. The answer is probably both, and neither, of the above; Questi keeps the existential implications of the tale as wide open as the dome over a Montana prairie. To modern eyes Django Kill isn’t the weirdest of the acid Westerns, but it was a pioneer among crazed cowboy pics, and its mixture of unabashed exploitation, arty surrealism and psychedelic editing makes it a cult item par excellence.

Giulio Questi had a short but extremely curious feature film between 1967 and 1972 before being exiled to TV movies. Starting with Django Kill, he made three films in three different b-movie genres—a Spaghetti Western, a giallo (Death Laid an Egg), and a horror film (Arcana)—each co-written with his editor, Franco Arcalli, and each informed by the aesthetics of surrealism. This is the most widely seen of the trio, but it’s far from the weirdest. Blue Underground put out a Django Kill Blu-ray in 2012, while Questi’s other films remain yet unreleased in Region 1.


“…determinedly weird… [a] savage and surreal smorgasbord for cult-film aficionados.”–Bud Wilkins, Slant Magazine (Blu-ray)

(This movie was nominated for review by The Awful Dr. Orloff, who called it “the most insanely violent spaghetti western of them all.” Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)


  1. How nice that you’re considering my suggestion! Though this piece barely scratches the surface of how weird this film is. Incidentally, it had the same screenwriter as “Once Upon a Time in America” and “Last Tango in Paris”, neither of which is altogether normal.

    For me, the signature moment is a scene in which the nameless “hero” (as you’ve already pointed out, this film, like many spaghetti westerns, was re-titled to make it seem like part of a successful but unrelated franchise – it was originally called “If You Live, Shoot!”) is seen lying on his bed staring intently at the ceiling while intense mood-setting music plays on the soundtrack. He suddenly gets up and walks out of the inn with grim determination – clearly a showdown is about to take place. But when he walks out into the street, there’s absolutely nobody else there, and nothing for him to usefully do. So he picks up a dirty old rag that’s blowing down the street and examines it intently as if that’s what he meant to do all along. And then he just goes back inside again.

    The whole film’s a bit like that – “Django” doesn’t really accomplish very much, and mainly just wanders around while the obviously psychotic population of the nameless town self-destruct around him. Absolutely nobody in the film is even remotely sane, and almost all the male characters appear to be closet homosexuals who aren’t terribly comfortable with it (though at least Questi was talked out of going through with his initial idea of having the character who commits suicide as the result of an offscreen rape by numerous men not only get raped onscreen, but die as a direct result of the brutal sodomy!). And what’s with the hedgehogs?

    Perhaps the weirdest thing about this movie is that 30 or 40 years ago it was so hard to see in any print, let alone a complete one, that professional movie critics used to routinely make up reviews including mentions of scenes the reader couldn’t have seen because they weren’t actually in any version of the film, safe in the knowledge that you couldn’t prove them wrong unless you were Giulio Questi. The Aurum Film Encyclopedia, for example, claimed that there was a battle involving elaborate steampunk machine-guns, and somebody was roasted alive on a spit.

    The odd thing is that what’s genuinely in the movie goes way beyond anything they could have made up. A greed-crazed mob very explicitly digging gold bullets out of a living man’s flesh with penknives (this scene was excised for so many years that the DVD I saw briefly switched from English to Italian during this bit). A blatant parody of the crucifixion with added fruit-bats. And of course death by having your head engulfed in molten gold. Absolutely nothing in the whole film is altogether normal – even a game of darts somehow comes across as a bit disturbing.

    Also, there are absolutely no truly sympathetic characters. “Django”, in addition to being strangely passive, is apparently motivated mainly by his doomed love for a teenage boy, if he has any rational motive at all. But mostly he just scowls a lot while the entire cast kill each other. The two characters he cares for, both of whom die, are, respectively, a boy who explicitly desires to kill his mother for being sexually attracted to a man who isn’t him, but contents himself with shredding her dress with a switchblade, and a woman who we are led to believe has been locked up by her pathologically jealous husband on the pretext that she’s mad, but then does in fact turn out to be dangerously insane.

    And your guess is as good as mine as to what’s going on with the two elderly Indians who worship our hero as a god who rose from the dead! Their instant reaction upon finding a small quantity of the stolen gold that’s been overlooked is to make it into golden bullets and give then to the hero. Why? Because if they don’t, that notorious scene with the penknives can’t occur. Indeed, throughout the film, the main villain is the gold itself, which, despite being an inanimate object, succeeds in directly killing several of the people who want it most. If you discount the very hasty and almost entirely offscreen climax in which our hero defeats the baddies by attaching dynamite to horses, the gold itself is a more effective avenger than he is – is this a rare example of a proactive McGuffin?

    It’s no masterpiece – I can see why Questi’s directorial career wasn’t very prolific – but it’s undoubtedly very weird indeed. In the hands of a better director, it could have been a cross between “A Fistful of Dollars” and “Eraserhead” (now that would be a sight to behold!). It isn’t that, but it’s still weird. And it has to be the only western ever made to feature a shot of a hedgehog.

    1. Thanks for the extensive comments, Orloff. The scene with the townfolk digging the bullets out of the corpse was cut by the Italian censors before the film was dubbed into English, which is why the film suddenly switches from dubbing to subtitling if you’re watching the English-language version. I wish Questi’s next film, Death Laid an Egg, were widely available in the U.S.; it makes If You Live, Shoot! look like conventional filmmaking. I haven’t seen Arcana… yet.

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