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No Room to Die (1969)

No Room to Die [Una lunga fila di croci] (1969)
AKA “A Hanging for Django” & “A Noose for Django” & “Django und Sartana – die tödlichen zwei”

Starring Anthony Steffen, William Berger, Nicholetta Machavelli, Riccardo Garrone, Mario Brega, Gilberto Galimberti, Emilio Messina, Giancarlo Sisti, Maria Angela Giordano, Franco Ukmar, Giovanni Ukmar, Angelo Susani, Renzo Peverelli, Alejandro Barrera Dakar

Directed by Sergio Garrone

Expectations: Moderate. I really enjoyed Django the Bastard, the Sergio Garrone/Anthony Steffan movie I saw last summer.

No Room to Die may well be the most gun-filled spaghetti western I’ve ever seen. I’m not exaggerating when I say that there’s gunplay nearly every five minutes. There are literally over twenty separate scenes of dudes shooting lead at one another, and boy is it fun! The plot is definitely not No Room to Die‘s strong suit, with weak storytelling painting a vague picture to string together all of these gunfights. I wavered in and out of comprehension before nearly giving up completely because it was getting in the way of my enjoyment of the gunfighting. To be fair, I’m sure if I was paying close attention it would have made more sense, but I find it hard to take dubbed voices seriously sometimes. Anyway, for ease of description I’ll be calling the main characters by their clone names instead of the scripted ones because it makes it a lot easier. Hey, if the Italians can dishonestly market dozens of films under the Django banner, I can use their names in a review.

Django and Sartana are bounty hunters fending for themselves in a small Western town by hunting the bandits hiding out in the hills. Meanwhile, an evil landowner named Fargo is smuggling illegal immigrants from Mexico to work for him. The men that carry out these smuggling deals for Fargo are hardened criminals with mighty fine prices on their heads, so it only makes sense that Django and Sartana will come a-callin’ before long.

No Room to Die is the third film from director Sergio Garrone and the one he made directly prior to his most famous work, Django the Bastard. Both films even came out in the same year! Garrone’s clearly got a great eye for shot framing and editing, as the film looks like a million bucks. The ninja-like shadow walking of Django the Bastard is nowhere to be seen here, instead No Room to Die has a much more traditional spaghetti western vibe. Garrone incorporates all the staples of the genre: snap zooms, whip pans, freaky angles, you name it and this film has it. There’s also a few very inventive shots that seem original to me but are probably referencing films I haven’t seen. Fargo’s black and white flashbacks feature one of these moments of inventiveness and some of the best camerawork in the entire film. There’s also a ton of dudes punching directly into the camera lens for effect, something I will never, ever tire of.

The acting from all involved is good, with Anthony Steffen keeping that trademark wood face wooden throughout. He’s a likeable enough hero and for my money, I rather have him in the lead role than many other Eastwood-style dudes. William Berger is fun as Sartana, reading the bible in his off time from bounty hunting with an amazing seven-barreled shotgun. Sergio Garrone’s brother Riccardo Garrone does well in his role as the evil Fargo, but he fails to create any sort of memorable villain. Of course everyone’s voice is dubbed as is standard for Italian westerns of the day, with most of the voicework matching the characters pretty well. What doesn’t match the film very well is the music. It’s a little too jovial, very repetitive and just not all that good, so instead of rejoicing when the music came in as I usually do in spaghettis, I cringed.

One of my favorite moments in the film comes late, when Django has been forced to dig a grave. He is assaulted by three men and at the culmination of a tense action scene, Django throws the shovel at the leader. The business end lodges deep in the man’s stomach, delighting both the western and the horror fan in me. I can complain till I’m blue in the face about the film’s plot deficiencies, but at the end of the day, a scene as good as this can wash away almost all the bad will a film has built up.

This is really the strength of No Room to Die, as it features so many kick-ass scenes of gun violence (and one of shovel violence) that anyone looking for entertainment will quickly shut their brain down to the level necessary to enjoy it. Not every moment is riveting, but it looks fantastic and it’s one of the most entertaining spaghetti westerns I’ve seen. Don’t expect Leone, but any comparisons are unfair as it’s clear that Leone level of epic grandeur was never the intention here. It’s fun and it’s full of bullets & punches to the face, what more do you want?

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