Friday, July 6, 2012

Django (1966)

Title: Django (1966)

Director: Sergio Corbucci

Cast: Franco Nero, Jose Bodalo, Loredana Nusciak, Eduardo Fajardo


Now that Tarantino is about to release his new western ‘Django Unchained’ he’s got everybody watching Django movies. What’s a ‘Django’ movie you might be asking yourself, well, here’s where you’re going to learn, read on my friends. By now,   most of us are familiar with how director Quentin Tarantino makes a film; we understand his modus operandi. Basically, Tarantino takes a couple of films he likes, takes certain elements from them and then does his own thing. When he made Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2, it was obvious he was influenced by films like Lady Snow Blood (1973) and Shogun Assassin (1980), amongst many others. These films garnered a whole lot of attention when Tarantino’s Kill Bill films came out because people wanted to know why Tarantino thought they were special, I know I did. To me this is a positive thing because some of the movies that Tarantino borrows from are cult classics that wouldn’t be seen by a lot of people otherwise; but thanks to Tarantino being inspired by them, a lot of the films he draws from suddenly get new releases, and so a whole new generation discovers them. The same thing is happening with the Django movies. I recently had a chance to finally see the first Django film, and I have to say I was genuinely impressed; I loved every second of it!

 The first and most important of the Django movies is the film I’ll be reviewing today, simply titled Django (1966) written and directed by Italian director Sergio Corbucci. This film was so successful in its time and considered so controversial for its graphic violence that many films after it used the Django name in their titles just to cash in on the original films success. Reportedly there are more than 31 westerns that have used the Django name in their titles, but it’s rumored that there are more than 100 films that have used the name ‘Django’ in their titles! Truth be told, the only official sequel to Corbucci’s film is a film called Django Strikes Again (1987), directed by Nelo Rossatti and written by Corbucci himself. It had Franco Nero reprising his role as Django. Sufficient to say then that Django is an extremely influential film. Hell, even Japanese director Takashi Miike made his own Django movie entitled Sukiyaki Western Django (2007)! What other films has Django influenced you might ask? How's about Robert Rodriguez's El Mariachi (1992) and Desperado (1995)? That ear slicing scene in Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs (1992)? Straight out of Django thats where it came from! So this isn't any old movie, a lot of important filmmakers love this one, and chances are you will too. 

A lot has been said about the violence quotient in Django; and it’s true, the film is pretty violent. Maybe by today’s standards this film isn’t all that graphic, but back in the day having a character impaled on a cross, or having someone get their ear sliced off and fed to them was a bit too much for some, and so, the film was banned in many countries. I can definitely see why though, the film does have a body count of 138! A character does get his hands crushed to smithereens by a pack of wild horses. Hundreds of Mexicans are shot to death. So yeah, I think it’s safe to say that this movie can be considered violent and graphic. This isn’t surprising when we take in consideration that this is a ‘Spaghetti Western’ which means, it’s a cowboy movie made by Italians, and Spaghetti Western’s same as Italian Horror films, do not have a ratings system, these guys could just shoot whatever the hell they wanted because they didn’t have to worry about a ratings system, in fact, in all of Europe they still don’t have a ratings system, which of course I think is fantastic. This is why Italian horror movies and Spaghetti Westerns are more violent than your typical Hollywood films.

The story for Django is simple enough; Django arrives at a small town so he can avenge the death of his wife. He walks in carrying a coffin with him; nobody seems to think much of it. Django soon discovers that the town is at war, two factions are at each others throats. The Mexicans and another band of red hooded misfits led by a man named ‘Major Jackson’. This to me was the biggest reference to Akiro Kurosawa’s Samurai Epic Yojimbo (1961), a film in which a Samurai named ‘Sanjuro’ stumbles onto a town with the same dilemma; the people of the town are suffering because two factions are at war. The character of Django functions in the same way that Toshino Mifune’s ‘Sanjuro’ functions in Yojimbo; he comes to set things right. He’s not a true blue good guy, because you’ll notice right off the bat that Django has no problems in blasting away anyone who gets in his way. He is for all intents and purposes the epitome of the anti-hero. On the one hand he treats the ladies with the proper respect they deserve, but on the other he has no quarrels with killing people to steal their gold. So Django is that kind of character, a loner, a rebel who lives by the beat of his own drum.  

Django was a film made in response to Sergio Leones famous westerns, primarily A Fist Full of Dollars (1964). When you see Django you immediately notice some similarities with Leone’s films, the scruffy looking characters with ugly, almost cartoonish faces. The main character is a loner, waltzing into town to set things right. He is good with a gun. Same as in many Leone’s films, characters are backstabbing each other all the time, so this is the kind of film where nobody really, truly trusts each other. One second someone is your friend, the next they betray you, and then they become your friends again? That sort of thing. In that sense it reminded me of Sergio Leone’s The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966). Actually, it was this last film that I thought Django had the most in common with, both films deal with a treasure, both films end up in a cemetery; Franco Nero himself looks and acts a heck of a lot like Clint Eastwood, the cool, silent type. I have to say, Nero looked great on this film! He’s got that tough guy thing down flat; it’s all about the attitude. He’s smart and cunning, always looking out for number one: himself.

The film has a pretty cool atmosphere, the town in which the story takes place in is dreary, cold, wet, muddy…the landscape seems to be eternally drenched in grays. The wind is howling most of the time…I loved that about the film, it had lots of atmosphere. The score was surprisingly good as well, the wardrobe was in my opinion detailed, in short, there’s lots of things to like about Django. It surprised the hell out of me because I have to be honest; I’m not a huge lover of Westerns. I’ve seen a lot of them, but for me a western has to be really, really special in order for me to truly like it.  I love The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, Unforgiven (1992), The Quick and the Dead (1995), The Wild Bunch (1969), Magnificent Seven (1960), and of course now I will be adding Django to my list of favorite westerns; I suggest you give it a shot even if you don’t like westerns, it’s that good.

Rating 5 out of 5 



Stephanie said...

A body count of 138 was undoubtedly quite shocking back in the day. :-) I don't usually particularly enjoy Westerns, but it sounds like this one is well worth checking out, particularly before watching Django Unchained.

Jack Thursby said...

Yeah, only recently discovered this as well. Really enjoyed it. Very stylish and violent. Much crueler than Leone's Dollars films. The ending scene in the graveyard was particularly well shot.

I've watched Strikes Again and it's not very good - more like dull Rambo than a western. Very odd.

Some of the 'rip offs' are quite good though. Django the Bastard has a great hook in that he makes gravestones for the people he's planning to kill before he shoots them!

Going to be interesting to spot what Tarantino 'borrows' from this for Unchained.

Franco Macabro said...

Funtimes in deed Stephanie, the violence gets crazy and Django always outsmarts everybody.

I was curious for Django Strikes Again, particularly since it was made so many years after the first one, I wonder how it plays out. Django the Bastard sounds fun, I will definetly be watching more of these Django movies.

Jack Thursby said...

Kill Django... Shoot If You Live is also meant to be another good one. I should think around the time Tarantino's film comes out in the cinema some cheap DVD label will release a ton of these "rip-offs".

By all means, check out Strikes Again if you get a chance. Just go in with low expectations and you might get a kick out of Nero wielding his machine gun one more time.

If you want to watch another really great 'alternative Western' with Franco Nero check out Keoma.

Franco Macabro said...

Thanks for the recommendations Jack, I'll jot them down and check em out if I can get a hold of them. I agree with you, I'm betting we'll see a lot of those Django movies on dvd in the coming months.


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