Thursday, February 17, 2022

Cjamango (1967)

In the wake of seminal spaghetti western Django's success, a horde of imitators sprung up, from what I can only assume was Italy's lax copyright system (sorely needed elsewhere!). Sometimes these films would shake it up a little, such as today's film, Cjamango...Which did not stop the German market from renaming it to Django anyway...

Cjamango is a wily drifter, who has just fleeced a bandido in a card game. No sooner than he celebrates however, there is an ambush, and everyone in the tavern is killed, except for a lucky Cjamango. Hunting those who stole the money and gold, he soon ends up in the empty border town of corrupt official Don Pablo, where he must protect a single mother and her child from the villains surrounding them...

Cjamango is a pretty typical Italian western. You've got a loner hero, the girl who likes him, the idealistic young boy who yells his name, and multiple sets of villains, who hate each-other just as much as the hero.

The film keeps a nice small scale, and never tries to be bigger than what it is. When you get right down to it, Cjamango is a guy who was stiffed in a cards match, and wants his dough back. Fairly simple stuff.

As the film progresses, it becomes apparent the director only had a couple of sets to go between. This isn't a criticism though. Some movies can feel artificial when this happens, but considering it all makes sense here, and these are real locations, it alleviates this. The biggest problem with the lack of variety is with the story, and while Cjamango's isn't boring, it never wowed me.

Cjamango, otherwise a typical cowboy archetype, is quite human, with some vulnerable moments.
The only thing I felt was missing was some backstory. I'm not asking for a lot, and some mystery is ok, but it feels like we came into a story halfway through, and have no idea who this guy even is, even in vague terms. His likeability comes through regardless, and he's not a bad hero to be around, and by no means miserable and brooding.

The little boy is an alright sidekick, and never too annoying. Besides his friendship with Cjamango, he also hangs out with his grandfather (or old co-guardian?), who you just know is gonna bite the dust. But surprisingly it takes an hour!

Also present is a mysterious man in black. He's often hanging about, and you're not quite sure what his game is. This makes for a fun wild card, though he doesn't actually do much till the climax. I liked the answer to who he is, even if I wasn't 100% satisfied with his part in the ending.

Local woman Pearl is a bit all over the place. She's moving away from Don Pablo's town for a job, but also keeps hanging around, and she hates Cjamango, before realising he's ok. She's in the dark about Don Pablo's role in her husband's death, which is strange considering her son knows everything. They never sat down and had a chat about this? "Son, I've got a new job as a showgirl! It's with Don Pablo!"-"Ummm, didn't he murder dad?"-"True, but the pay looks to be real good!" 

The villains here are ok. Don Pablo is a greedy schemer who'll stop at nothing. His death a little sudden and underwhelming, but I guess even though he's a big boss, it might feel a bit underhanded if this portly middle-aged guy was shot by the hero. The bandit Tiger is a more physical opponent, and gets in a couple of good moments in the climax, but doesn't seem to realise Cjamango was going easy on him.

The ending is ok, but a bit of a bummer. Cjamango doesn't get the gold, nor the money, or even the girl, but is instead saddled with a kid! The weird thing is, I remember the ending being a lot more fun, with the guy and girl seeing off the 'unmasked' secret agent at a train station. Although on reflection I may have just been getting it mixed up with the pilot movie of Alias Smith and Jones or something.

Cjamango has a pretty good cast. Headlining the picture is Ivan Rasismov, surprisingly! I'm accustomed to seeing him as villains, playing either cannibals or the Devil. Here he's your average cowboy hero, and he does fine. Mickey Hargitay also appears as the shifty man in black, making the most of his role.

The direction here is decent. Edoardo Mulargia is no Sergio Leone, but he gets the job done, and there is plenty of effort put into some shots!

The score is fairly typical for the genre, in a good way. We've got fun western music, and some suitably rousing tracks.

Cjamango might not seem like much compared to the likes of Sartana or Django, but as far as the little leagues of spaghetti western go, it's a more than decent watch, and worth checking out...

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