Thursday, August 4, 2016

In short: Durango Is Coming, Pay or Die (1971)

Original title: Arriva Durango… paga o muori

We’re back in the Italian West. Gunman Durango (Brad Harris, making for a fun western hero) – inevitably called Django in the dub of the version of the film I’ve seen – works as a roaming debt and money collector. Bandits have stolen your cows? Get them back for ten percent of their worth! A thug owes you money? Durango takes care of it for his ten percent! He’s rather popular too, for it is clear our hero prefers selling his services to the working poor and the down-trodden. In fact, when Durango wanders into a town dominated by evil banker, loan shark and all around crazy asshole Ferguson (Gino Lavagetto) he somewhat disgustedly declines to work for him.

Ironically, stumbling upon the aftermath of a coach robbery, making short process of the Mexican bandits responsible and arresting their eccentric leader El Tuerto (José Torres), Durango sort of does work for Ferguson. At least, he’s getting him a whole lot of money back. Ferguson isn’t happy with Durango insisting on his usual ten percent instead of the pennies he wants to give him, and only pays our protagonist under Duress. Later, some of his thugs ambush Durango on and take the money back.

Of course, Durango ambushes right back a night or so later but instead of just letting the gunman ride away with his now hard-earned bit of money, Ferguson decides to double down, frames Durango for a murder and starts making a list with the jury members he prefers to find Durango guilty. Obviously, Durango will escape and take vengeance on the banker.

Roberto Bianchi Montero’s Durango Is Coming turned out to be a pleasant surprise for this long-time spaghetti western fan, seeing as I’m pretty sure I’ve reached the bottom of the barrel of the genre by now when it comes to films in it I haven’t seen. And sure, Durango isn’t a particularly deep or complex example of the genre, but it is a sprightly and entertaining film that uses clichés and well-worn plot elements with excitement and charm. And who can resist a film whose main villain is as realistic as they come – a crazy, greedy banker? Lavagetto gets a handful of good scenes too, with his insane bout of laughter about the usefulness of dead men for financial transactions certainly the high point there.

Montero’s direction isn’t particularly stylish but it’s generally visually interesting enough to keep one interested, while the action is staged with competence. This is one of the friendlier films of the sub-genre, and while it has quite the body count, it does lack the nasty streak of a lot of its genre companions, clearly on purpose, for where many a film of the genre shoots for angry political subtexts of varying kind or a generally bitter or cynical view of the world, this one’s really escapist entertainment at its heart. Which isn’t a bad thing at all, obviously, at least as long as a film is good escapist entertainment. Durango Is Coming surely is that.

No comments: