The Principles: Sergio Corbucci, Franco Nero
The Premise: Django comes to town, clad in black and dragging behind him a coffin. He finds himself in the middle of a war between red-wearing racists and Mexican banditos, and it turns out he’s going to have to shoot just about everybody involved.
Is It Good:
It’s kind of great. Legend has it that both Sergios Corbucci and Leone were inspired by Akira’s Yojimbo; Leone ended up with A Fistful of Dollars while Corbucci’s film, Django, is decidedly pulpier and more brutal and contains a pretty ridiculous body count (Django himself has killed about fifty men before the film hits the half hour mark).
Franco Nero, whose almost gray eyes peer dangerously from under the wide brim of his black hat, cuts a classic figure as Django. His gunslinger seems to be a good guy at first, but it soon turns out that he’s just in it for himself. And at the end, when everyone has turned against him and all the gold is gone, he exacts his bloody revenge in a great shootout – even with his hands destroyed by the bad guys, Django outshoots all comers.
Is It Worth A Look: It’s one for the library. Django came out the same year as The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, but the two spaghetti westerns couldn’t be more different. Where Leone’s film is sprawling and artful, Corbucci’s is compact and rough around the edges. If Leone is wining and dining you and giving you one of the great experiences of your life, Corbucci is giving you a quick and dirty back alley fuck. And there’s a spot for both on the cinematic spectrum.
At the time of its release Django was notoriously violent. By today’s standards it’s fairly tame – there aren’t even any squib hits in the massive shoot outs – but the brutality at the heart of some of the violence still packs a punch. I mean, it’s one thing to cut a guy’s ear off, but it’s another to shove it in his mouth.
All spaghetti westerns are fantasy films at their heart; the Italians didn’t have a lot of understanding of American history or culture (or often geography), but that’s part of why we love the films so much. The Western was already the American myth, but it took the Italians to elevate that myth to really far out places. Django is mythic on every level, but it’s a dark and ugly myth. Still, while Django fits into the spaghetti western’s traditions of revisionism of western myth, its darkness isn’t that serious. There’s a real EC Comics vibe to the proceedings, with inhuman cruelty being played for black humor.
Random Anecdotes: Ruggero Deodato, the man who directed the great Cannibal Holocaust, was Corbucci’s assistant director. Quentin Tarantino has said that the ear slicing scene in Django influenced the ear slicing scene in Reservoir Dogs. While The Good, The Bad and the Ugly may be the better and more respected movie, Django spawned a mini-industry, even if none of it was official. In 1966 alone there were four Django clones released, and over the next decade or so it’s possible that a hundred plus fake Django sequels (spaghetti westerns with Django in the title but no connection to Corbucci’s film) were released. There has been only one official sequel, and that came out in 1987.
Cinematic Soulmates: Yojimbo, Reservoir Dogs, Sukiyaki Western Django, Jango Fett (Lucas wishes!), a thousand rip-offs and homages.
Tally So Far