In $10,000 Blood Money, Gianni Garko swaps the Spaghetti West’s second most popular and ripped-off character – angel of death and part-time pallbearer Sartana – for its first, the coffin-dragging subscriber to exceptionally heavy firepower, Django. In doing so, he makes the wise move of appearing in one of only two unofficial Django “sequels” that almost lives up to the hallowed name of the original. Django, Get a Coffin Ready, starring Terrence Hill, being the other.
$10,000 Blood Money begins with Django lying on a beach waxing lyrical about the ocean that lies beyond. This is no brief stop off to top up his tan, for he’s actually talking to the man laid out alongside him.
Now before any ideas enter your head that this is perhaps Django coming to terms with his violent past and putting it down to fact that he has, for all these years, been trapped in a closet of denial, it is quickly revealed that his companion is actually dead, shot by Django and en route to being cashed in. This time around, Django is a bounty killer and – as is customary for a Spaghetti anti-hero – one of the best.
What follows is a grim plot involving bandit Manuel Cortes (Claudio Camaso), a thoroughly malevolent piece of work, much like the character of Indio, played by Camaso’s real life brother, Gian Maria Volante, in For A Few Dollars More. Cortes kidnaps the daughter of wealthy landowner Mendoza, who he blames for the stint in jail he’s just endured. A price is placed on his head, which Mendoza offers to increase if Django takes the job and returns his daughter safely.
Django, meanwhile, has woman trouble of his own in the shapely form of bar owner Loredana Nusciak. Aficionados will recognise her as the ill-fated “love” interest in the original Django. He has agreed to leave his bloody business behind and start a new life with her as far from the killing fields of the Mexican border as it’s possible to get. The decision to backtrack on this and go after Cortes is fuelled by the desire to provide them both with the necessary amount of poke to start afresh. This would be possible once the bounty has reached the titular mark of $10,000.
To cut short the various twists and permutations that the film provides, a wagon of Union gold is stolen; Django gets double-crossed; his good lady winds up dead at Cortes’s hands; veteran bandido Fernando Sanchez makes an appearance; and Django slaughters Cortes and his gang against the backdrop of a moodily-lit, dust-blown ghost town, providing a thrilling climax in the style of Death Rides a Horse and to a lesser extent, Cjamango.
Johnny Yuma director, Romolo Guerrieri, provided this superior 1967 entry into the Django canon. It is one of the first of numerous “sequels”, “prequels” and cash-ins to use the name of the perennial gunslinger. Gianni Garko, as ever, proves to be a reliable protagonist, his feet amply filling the well-worn boots of Franco Nero, though such is his almost symbiotic connection with the character of Sartana, it is sometimes hard to disassociate him from that particularly rum cove.
$10,000 Blood Money also provides, in Manuel Cortes, a villain who appears to wander the badlands of the Spaghetti West sporting dark eyeliner. He also holsters his pistol in a somewhat unorthodox over-the-shoulder arrangement, which surely can’t be the most convenient position for a quick draw. Nevertheless, it is Django, obviously, who proves to be the only man capable of putting him down.
And so it should be. That is, after all, what we’ve paid our money for.
Guerrieri succeeds in turning what begins as a straightforward killer for hire story into a full-on revenge drama. Django is once again wronged and though this time around he may not have his trusty Gatling gun to rely on, he delivers vengeance in the bloody, atmospheric way that only the best Spaghetti Westerns can.
Review by Nick James