10.000 Dollars for a Massacre Review
From The Spaghetti Western Database
The opening scene of 10.000 Dollars for a Massacre (See Database page) is pure magic. Gianni Garko is lying at the seashore, talking to a man lying beside him. The camera pans a little to the right and Garko ironically remarks that the man doesn't care much for the sea, only for heaven. Only then we realize that Garko is talking to a dead man, and when he loads the corpse on his horse, we also understand that he’s a bounty hunter. This tongue-in-cheek scene, both grim and funny, sets the tone for one of the best unofficial Django sequels. With its homosexual overtones, outrageous Christian symbolism and exuberant use of mascara it's also one of the weirdest.
Manuel Vasquez, a Mexican bandit, takes revenge on a rich landowner whose evidence sent him to jail, by killing all his men and kidnapping his daughter. Django is asked to bring the poor girl home, but he doesn’t want to work for a rich landowner and therefore asks a price the avaricious man is unwilling to pay - the $ 10.000 from the title. When he is ambushed and nearly killed himself, he is nursed back to health by the saloon lady, Mijanou, who has fallen in love with him. She asks him to give up his dangerous life and follow her to San Francisco. He agrees, but wants to make some easy money first, and therefore joins forces with Manuel. The bandit promises him that no innocent blood will be shed, but his next hold-up turns into a bloodbath, and one of the victims is Mijanou …
By elaborating Django's relationship with Mijanou, director Guerrieri and his screenwriters try to add a psychological dimension to the Django character. His tragic love affair is mirrored by the relationship between Manuel and the girl he has kidnapped and subsequently deflowered. In a clear reference to popular (and unofficial) catholic mythology, she represents the virgin who becomes a harlot and eventually the most devoted follower of her master, who will mourn over his death. When she is saved, by Django’s friend Fidelio, she flies back to Vasquez, because she has fallen in love with him. The virgin/harlot motto is often used in popular Italian art, but apparently the Vatican wasn't pleased with it, nor with some other religious symbolism used in the movie. At one point Garko ends up on the ground, lying on his back, his arm spread wide. Most probably, this is a visual reference to Caravaggio's famous painting of St. Paul, falling from his horse on the way to Damascus. To make things worse, the scene results in a sort of wrestling contest between Garko and Camaso that is so clearly homosexually orientated that one must be blind to miss the point
10.000 Dollars for a Massacre is the twin movie of Vengeance is mine (Per 100,000 dollari ti ammazzo). Instead of the ‘dirty’ look most viewers had learned to identify with the genre, producers Mino Loy and Luciano Martino wanted to give these movies a more romantic, decadent look. Gianni Garko came up with the idea of the silk shawl, while executive producer Sergio Martino (who would direct, a decade later, the twilight spaghetti Mannaja), developed the famous opening scene on the beach (1). It was also the first movie in which the ‘hero’ was allowed to cry over the loss of a loved-one; in a protracted, and – for the genre – very daring scene, Django breaks down when he looks into the dead eyes of Mijanou. None of the central characters is really one-dimensional, and even the sadistic Manuel is capable of showing affection and grief, when he kneels down by the side of his dead father.
10.000 Dollars for a Massacre is an interesting, but also rather confusing spaghetti western. Most people prefer it to the twin movie Vengeance is Mine. The relationships between the various characters, give the film an emotional depth that most other spaghetti westerns lack. At the same time some scenes have a more comical, or even parodist edge. When Django literally blows up one of his victims, the predictable joke is made about ashes to ashes and dust to dust. Django has a horse that is as obedient as a dog and characters have bizarre names such as Fidelio (loyalty), Dolores (pain), Scarface or Stardust. Garko and Camaso show a tendency to overplay their roles, but I had the impression they were asked to do so, and overall their interplay works well. Nevertheless Fernando Sancho easily steals the film as Camaso’s father. Nora Orlandi’s score is a fine, melancholic piece of work which perfectly suits the mood of the movie. $ 10.000 Dollars for a Massacre is violent, different, often grotesque, and beautifully made. The magnificent opening scene (considered by some as a homage to Bergman's Seventh Seal) and the cleverly staged shoot-out in the ghost town, in the midst of a sandstorm, give the film a grandiose, near surrealist look.