Shango Review (Scherpschutter)
Director: Edoardo Mulargia - Cast:: Anthony Steffen, Eduardo Fajardo, Maurice Poli, Barbara Nelli, Giusva Fioravanti, Gabriella Giorgelli, Massimo Carocci, Spartaco Conversi, Liana Del Balzo, Andrea Scotti, Franco Pesce - Music:: Gianfranco Di Stefano
|A Confederate Major who doesn’t want his men to know that the Civil War is over, has joined forces with a Mexican bandit. Both gangs are terrorizing a border town while looking for gold. A Texas Ranger, who was captured by the Major, becomes a spoil-sport in this controversial movie. Like Django the Basterd, Shango was co-written by its star, Anthony Steffen. It’s an equally mysterious, but far less successful movie, both commercially and artistically. However, it still is a spaghetti western with some furious action and good atmosphere.
Shango (Shango, la pistola infallibile)
Like the much better known Django the Bastard, this movie was co-written by its star, Anthony Steffen. In an early, very bizarre scene, we see Steffen locked up in a sort of birdcage, hanging between two trees; this might suggest that we’re dealing (once again) with a horror influenced western, but that’s not the case. Steffen is a Texas Ranger called Shango, not a ghost called Django, and the film seems to tell a rather straightforward spaghetti western story of a stranger in town (in this case a Ranger in town) facing a renegade Confederate officer who refuses to accept that the war is over. But things are not what they seem. Over the years the film has confused critics and fans alike.
The situation is more or less as follows: The Confederates have joined forces with a gang of Mexicans and both gangs are terrorizing the population of a border town while looking for lost gold. The leader of the renegades, Major Droster, doesn’t want his men to know that the war is over and therefore kills the local telegrapher, the only one who can receive and spread the news. He puts the blame on a captured Texas Ranger called Shango (who nearly lost his mind in his cage) and plans to kill him afterwards, but Shango is saved by a young boy (1) and his father who hope he can put an end to their misery ...
In spite of some weird elements, this sounds like a pretty common premise for a spaghetti western, but there are many consecutive sequences that are only loosely connected and some of the actions - of both the hero and the villains - seem to make little sense. Some people have tried to watch the movie several times but never managed to finish it; Thomas Weisser calls it atmospheric but lacking in logic (2) and Marco Giusti says it’s full of contradictions and puzzling incidents that are never explained, not even in the finale (3). This finale is an ultra-weird, grotesque sequence, with Fajardo’s renegade Major completely losing his senses while having (so it seems) acid induced hallucinations. Is this pure madness or does the sequence - like some have suggested - reveal some hidden authorial ambitions?
Mulargia and Steffen were good friends and both contributed to the script, but it's my guess Steffen did the lion's share of the writing. Shango is - literally - more down to earth than Django the Bastard, but both movies share a flashback in which a regiment is ambushed; in both cases the 'hero’ is among the victims, but while Django is killed, Shango is only wounded; his life is saved by Major Droster, who wants to use him as a scapegoat for a murder plan. Shango was most probably supposed to be a companion piece to Django the Bastard, not a sequel, but a equally bizarre and unsettling movie experience, telling the story of the losing South once again, but this time from the point of view of a madman, a schizophrenic, not a person who loses his life, but one who loses his mind. Steffen is a suffering hero in this movie, subject to a series of humiliations, the real focus is on Fajardo’s character, the weirdness, including the psychedelic flashbacks, originate in his head.
Shango wasn’t very successful and unlike Django the Bastard it has never developed a cult following; it’s not a bad movie but it might be too conventional to work as an experiment, and too weird to work as a straightforward action western. Django the Bastard wasn’t perfect, but the contradictory elements had a synergetic effect, in Shango they don’t quite gel. That said, there’s still enough to enjoy; the action scenes are furious (if a bit stereotyped) and director Mulargia sure knows how to create that real spaghetti western atmosphere; the score cleverly mixes traditional elements with modern influences and the cinematography of the autumnal landscape is alluring. And last but not least there are lots of beautiful women, including Gabriella Giorgelli in a cameo as a local woman who’s asked to pass a communication to the men who are hiding the Ranger. Don’t shoot the messenger, please.
- (1) In a interview, added as an extra to the Koch disc, film critic Antonio Bruschini reveals that the child actor playing the boy, Valerio 'Giusva' Fioravanti, would join a right-wing militia in the next decade and was shot, like his character in the movie, while stealing guns for his comrades. Fioravanti was captured in 1981 and later convicted to '10 life terms plus 250 years'; however, he was released in 2009.
- (2) Thomas Weisser, Spaghetti Westerns, the Good, the Bad & the Violent
- (3) Marco Giusti, Dizionario del western all'italiana: "(...) la storia è piena di contraddizioni e di avvenimenti non chiariti, che non trovano neanche nei flashback finali un vero senso logico."