Like most European genre films of its era Giulio Questi’s 1967 spaghetti western Django Kill... If You Live, Shoot! was released under a variety of titles, including Oro Hondo. The title favoured by the director was If You Live, Shoot! (Se sei vivo spara). The movie certainly has no connection with the classic Django.
Being a spaghetti western, there is of course a Mysterious Stranger (played by Tomas Milian). And of course he’s sullen, broody and violent. And of course there’s greed and revenge. Whatever the director’s intentions the result is a pretty standard formula spaghetti western.
A big gold robbery nets a Mexican-American gang a huge fortune. The Americans, led by the brutal Oaks, then slaughter the Mexicans to avoid having to share the loot with them. They also think they’ve slaughtered a rather broody half-breed but as well will see that is not the case. The gang then arrives at a small western town, a town that turns out to be a very unfriendly and very unhappy place. However violent the gang may be they find they’re no match for these townsfolk.
By the time The Stranger arrives in town (having been nursed back to health by two Indians) it seems like the movie is all over and there’s no-one left for him to take revenge on. In fact the movie has just started and there’s lots of action, and lots of violence, still to come.
The action now centres on finding the gold. Two of the town’s notable citizens, Templer and Hagerman, both corrupt and selfish men, want to find the gold. Also after the gold is the obligatory rich corrupt landowner who runs the town, a man named Mr Sorrow. Mr Sorrow runs the town with the aid of his black-shirted henchmen (one of the many examples of clumsy political symbolism in this movie).
The Stranger’s motives are of course mysterious. He doesn’t seem all that interested in getting his hands on the stolen bullion. He does befriend a strange young boy named Evan (Ray Lovelock), and he does fall in love with the wife of Hagermann. Hagermann claims she is mad and keeps her locked up. We never really find out why - one of the many things that the rather unsatisfactory script fails to clear up.
There’s much intrigue over the location of the gold, with Mr Sorrow’s henchmen kidnapping Templer’s teenage son Evan in order to force Templer to reveal the location of the loot. The Stranger also gets kidnapped and tortured, for the same reasons. Lots of people get killed, usually very brutally.
The violence is graphic and frequent. As is usual with spaghetti westerns there aren’t too many charactera left alive by the end.
Director and co-writer Giulio Questi clearly has a political axe to grind. As Tomas Milian states in the accompanying interview, Questi was a communist and if he could spit on anything he would. It’s a tiresome attitude and makes for a tiresome movie. The movie is just too fashionably cynical for its own good and its political stance is much too heavy-handed. Every American character in the movie is evil. The Indian characters are good. The Mexican characters are mostly good. Tomas Milian remarks on Questi’s extreme political correctness, and it’s an element that detracts considerably from any enjoyment the movie might have to offer.
Questi claims (in common with every leftwing intellectual in Europe) to have fought for the Resistance during the Second World War and he clearly intends this movie to be some kind of anti-fascist allegory. Oddly enough Sorrow’s blackshirts are all homosexuals. This seems to be have been intended by Questi as a means of expressing his contempt for the western genre and everything it stands for, and for America and everything it stands for. There’s also a preacher in the movie, and of course he’s evil.
Blue Underground have presented this movie in a very good anamorphic transfer and with a brief documentary about the film.
This is really just another spaghetti western that tries too hard to be dark and edgy, and takes itself too seriously. I find that the more classic Hollywood westerns I see the less impressed I am by spaghetti westerns, especially by those that take themselves very seriously. I can’t personally recommend this movie unless you’re a spaghetti western completist.