PLOT: The movie opens with a prostitute killed in a hotel room. The action then moves to an experimental poultry farm, largely automated but overseen by Marco, his wife Anna, and their beautiful live-in secretary Gabri. The plot slowly reveals a love triangle, with multiple betrayals, with Marco’s growing disgust at the poultry business brought to a boil when he finds a scientist has bred a species of headless mutant chickens for sale to the public.
The title was almost certainly inspired by a line from Surrealist icon Federico Garcia Lorca‘s “Lament for Ignacio Sanchez Mejias“: “Death laid eggs in the wound/at five in the afternoon.” Late in the movie Marco will mutter to himself “At 5 o’clock… the machine… the egg… the work…” and several shots focus on a clock approaching the 5 PM mark.
The second of an unofficial trilogy of surrealist movies director Giulio Questi made in “disreputable” genres. For more on Questi’s odd career, see the last paragraph of the Django Kill… If You Live, Shoot!review.
Death Laid an Egg was restored in 2016 by Nucleus Films from a newly discovered negative that contained a couple minutes of footage not seen in previous releases. The film was available on VHS in a dubbed version, but outside of suspect bargain versions from overseas, it was unavailable on DVD or Blu-ray until 2017.
Bruno Maderna, who wrote the atonal score, was an accomplished classical composer and conductor who died of cancer at the relatively young age of 53, a mere five years after Death Laid an Egg was completed.
INDELIBLE IMAGE: The exotic Lollabrigida and the nubile Aulin are a tempting pair of birds, but they’re upstaged by the actual poultry in this one. The oddest sight of all is hens stuffed into file folders for alphabetization (?) in a chicken functionary’s office.
THREE WEIRD THINGS: Playboy chickens; filed chickens; all-breast chickens
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: A juicy slice of Mario Bava breaded with a coating of Luis Buñuel and seasoned with a sprinkling of Jean-Luc Godard, Death Laid an Egg was the world’s first (and so far, only) deep-fried, chicken-centric Surrealist giallo.
“That [If You Live, Shoot!] should be part of the small group of films that become a part of film history, embedded in the viewer’s imagination, obviously pleases me greatly… But I have to quickly add that it is a cult phenomenon for a few young likable nutcases. Every generation has a few of those.”–Giulio Questi
FEATURING: Tomas Milian, Roberto Camardiel, Francisco Sanz, Piero Lulli, Ray Lovelock
PLOT: Two wandering Indians find a half-dead Stranger climbing out of a makeshift desert grave. They also find a bag of gold on his body, which they melt down and fashion into bullets for him. They then take him to the nearest town, which the Indians call “the Unhappy Place,” where the Stranger goes after the man who betrayed him, stole his share of the gold, and left him for dead.
Franco Arcalli served as editor and collaborated on the screenplay. Arcalli later became a big name in the Italian film industry, going on to collaborate with Michelangelo Antonioni (on Zabriske Point), Bernardo Bertolucci (on The Conformist and Last Tango in Paris) while also collaborating on screenplays for Last Tango and Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America, among others. As his fame grew, he continued to work on Questi’s movies, as well.
Questi drew on his experiences as a paramilitary resistance fighter during WWII for the action sequences.
Italian audiences complained to censors about gruesome scenes where a man’s torso is torn apart to get at the golden bullets inside and another where a man is scalped. These scenes were immediately re-edited—in different countries, between twenty and thirty minutes of violence were cut out. Since they weren’t included in prints sent to the U.S., these scenes were never dubbed into English; therefore, when watching the restored version on Blu-ray, these scenes suddenly appear subtitled when the rest of movie is dubbed.
Originally titled If You Live, Shoot!, distributors later added Django Kill to the title (against Questi’s wishes) in a shameless attempt to cash in on the popularity of Franco Nero’s Django series. Thomas Millian does not play Django, and If You Live, Shoot! has nothing to do with the series.
Repo Man director Alex Cox is one of this film’s champions; he provided a 1997 introduction for a BBC series called “Forbidden Films,” where he he called it “the creepiest film I’d ever seen.”
INDELIBLE IMAGE: Based on sheer grisly shock value, it’s the scene where the villagers rip into Oaks’s still-breathing body trying to dig out the golden bullets inside it. Due to skillful editing, you don’t actually see as much blood and torn flesh as you imagine you do, but that’s part of what makes the scene so masterful—you and the filmmakers collaborate on building it in your mind’s eye.
THREE WEIRD THINGS: Golden bullets; gay cowpokes of the Old West; alcoholic oracle parrot
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: With its ambiguously dead antihero who shoots golden bullets fights Mr. Sorrow and his gang of gay fascist cowboys, Django Kill‘s subversive, surreal subtext befuddled 1967 viewers expecting warmed-up Spaghetti Western leftovers. It still has the power to perturb the unsuspecting today. Go into it looking for weirdness, and you’ll be amply rewarded.
Django Killhas 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.
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 Herschell Gordon Lewis 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.