10,000 Dollars for a Massacre

10,000 Dollars for a Massacre ★★★½

original title: 10,000 dollari per un massacro

Bounty hunter Django reclines on a beach. The waves roll to the shore in a steady calm. He turns to a person next to him. He comments on the vastness of the sea. The camera pans. The man is a corpse. Django quips that it is heaven the dead man is probably rather concentrating on. Thus begins this last of Romolo Guerrieri's three Westerns, a film that inherently holds nothing remarkably new for these movies, but which contains elements that lifts it above your average genre staples. The story at its basics follows Django, played by Gianni Garko, being hired by a rich landowner to hunt down bandito Manuel Vasquez (Claudio Camaso) who has kidnapped the man's daughter in retribution of him sending him to prison for four years.

Accepting the job for the price of $10,000 he doesn't expect to get, he at first tries to instead join up with Manuel, but when the robbery of a gold shipment leaves Django's love Mijanou (Loredana Nusciak) a casualty, his priorities turn to that of vengeance. On paper much of this sounds fairly routine, but director Guerrieri throws in a number of unique touches that brings out more to the story than what would have really been required. One of the most interesting aspects is the film's handling of relationships, not only in the case of the very ambivalent protagonist, but also in relation to the antagonist as well.

For one, in giving Django a specific love interest in the form of a saloon keeper who has a very dim view of the violence that perpetuates his profession, it not only brings a softness to the psyche of our male lead, but also allows for a very rare case of him actually being permitted to show genuine heartbreak when he finds her dead after the gold raid. Similarly, Manuel has a number of relationship connections of varying tints, from the attachment he feels toward his father (played with scene-stealing verve by Fernando Sancho), to the complicated emotions connected with both his kidnapping victim and to Django himself, the latter's roll in the hay during a fight carrying some distinct homosexual reflections to it.

All of this comes to significantly play into the final, tense reckoning between the two men in a ramshackle ghost town that transcends a simple action climax of a shootout with a notably greater emotional core of tragedy to it all. Bolstered by the stylish cinematography of Federico Zanni and the melancholy music of Nora Orlandi, there's certainly much to appreciate here, while the core performances are notably of higher calibre than normal, making this one Western genre fans should certainly seek out. Aka. “$10,000 Blood Money.”