A stagecoach brings callow but idealistic Sheriff Jack Ronson (Fabio Testi) to crime-ridden Black City, where he quickly discovers local outlaws have no respect for law and order. Crime boss Bud Wheeler (Dino Strano) rules the roost and having struck an alliance with Mexican bandit Sanchez (Benito Pacifico) carries on robbing, raping and killing with no-one to stop him. Having killed the last two sheriffs who tried, Wheeler taunts Ronson in the local saloon but then a black-clad bounty hunter called Django (Hunt Powers) rides into town...
Wait a minute, where is Sartana? Fans of the quasi-supernatural, gadget laden gunfighter featured in If You Meet Sartana Pray for Your Death (1968) and its four 'official' sequels must be tantalised by the idea of him trading bullets with the coffin-carrying anti-hero Franco Nero famously embodied in Django (1966). But no, in this early role stuntman turned matinee idol Fabio Testi is not playing Sartana in spite of the title. One Damned Day At Dawn… Django meets Sartana is one of the many, many spaghetti western rip-offs trading on the popularity of an established character, although does rank (in marketing concept, if not execution) among the first team-up genre pictures. Django and Sartana would be paired several times again, including in Django against Sartana (1971) a.k.a. Django defies Sartana, while the latter would later team-up with other characters including Trinity and Sartana... Those Dirty S.O.Bs (1972) and Hallelujah & Sartana Are Sons of God (1972).
The man behind this outrageous, if pioneering cheat is Demofilo Fidani, a notorious Italian hack who dabbled in crime films, sex comedies and gialli but proved most prolific with westerns, having thirteen to his credit. Amongst aficionados, Fidani has a reputation as the Edward D. Wood Jr. of spaghetti westerns, though sadly not on account of his fondness for angora sweaters but owing to his film's eccentric characters and complete disregard for continuity. Despite Fidani's reputation, the film is competently made with sand-swept photography enhancing the grungy, gloomy tone although his storytelling is a jumbled mess of flashbacks, voiceovers and bursts of disconnected violence.
Compared to Sergio Leone's radical take on the western genre, this weaves a scenario as old-fashioned as a 1930s horse opera. Basically, repetitive scenes have the villains beat, bully and kill everyone in town until they are shot dead. That's your lot. Hunt Powers is a quietly effective Django who, despite his spooky eyes, is kind to women and takes an almost paternal interest in young Ronson, not that he seems particularly grateful. Fabio Testi essays one of the whiniest, most ineffectual heroes in spaghetti westerns. Frankly, he is not much good at this hero lark, whether getting his ass whupped on a regular basis, slapping a grieving widow for information, or partaking in endless, tedious staring matches that bulk out the running time while viewers wait in vain for something exciting to happen. After a disguised Django substitutes himself for Ronson during a gunfight, the sheriff nearly rides off in a fit of pique and later avenges his wounded machismo in a lengthy fist-fight that doesn't seem like a smart move the night before they face down the villains. The film is punctured with idiocies, especially the moment where Wheeler shoots a man dead then asks him to "tell the sheriff, I'll be waiting for him." Hunt Powers returned as Django opposite yet another phoney Sartana in Fidani's Django and Sartana Are Coming... It's the End (1970).