Staring: Franco Nero, Eduardo Fajardo, José Bódalo, Loredana Nusciak, Ángel Álvarez, Rafael Albaicín, Jimmy Douglas, Simón Arriaga
Plot: Dragging a coffin behind him, the drifter and gunslinger Django (Nero) makes his way into a desert town, only to soon finds himself caught in the middle of a war between two rival fractions as a group of Yankees lead by the sadistic Major Jackson (Farjardo) face off against a group of Mexican bandits lead by General Hugo Rodriguez (Bódalo).
Review: With the release of “Django Unchained”, Quentin Tarantino’s loving homage to spaghetti westerns and the work of this films’ director Corbucci it is unsurprising that it has received a new burst of interest as of late. Still even without the Tarantino effect the film more than stands on its own merits, especially when its popularity spawned over thirty unofficial sequels which have been confirmed of the rumoured one hundred, while finally getting an official sequel in 1987 with “Django Strikes Again”.
Opening with Django dragging his trademark coffin , as he walks though the desert, as the now iconic Django theme tune plays, it is possibly one of my favourite film openings as with this simple setup we are given essentially everything we need to know about this character, especially when Nero holds himself so well as a brooding badass and this is even before he has even done anything, while Corbucci ensures the tone of the film is essentially set with his opening, as he follows the iconic wandering Django sequence with the flogging of local prostitute Maria (Nusciak) by a group of Mexican bandits, whose assumed rescue by a group of Yankees is cut short by their sudden desire to burn her on the cross, tieing in nicely with their crimson klu klux klan hoods, the similarities of which are never acknowledged despite their general attitude to the local population is scarily similar. At the same time these hoods could also be attiributed to the popular belief that the extras playing these masked Yankee’s Corbucci had deemed to ugly to be shown on film, while at the same time being unable to find any other extras, due to a surprising shortage at the time of filming.
Needless to say when the film was released it soon gained a reputation as being one of the most violent movies ever made, ensuring that it was refused a certificate in the UK until 1993 were it finally gained an 18 certificate, which was later reduced to a 15, elsewhere the ear cutting sequence, reportedly forgotten to be cut by Corbucci, has ensured that the film remains banned in Sweden. While this violent reputation might seem tame in comparison to some films now released, this is still a bloody western, as Corbucci ensures that the film features a suitably high body count, with most shootouts, usually ending with bodies lining the streets, even more when Django revels the Gatling gun which he is hiding in the coffin, whose true significance outside of hiding this weapon and being a handy place to store stolen gold is never really revealed and left me wondering if there was some subtle symbolism I was missing.
For a modern audience the violence might not seem overly shocking as Corbuci films his shootouts much like “The Wild Bunch”......gratuitously bloody, while the only noticeable moments of gore being an ear sliced off and feed to its previous owner (a possible influence on “Reservoir Dogs” perhaps?) and Django having his hands crushed via a combination of a rifle butt aswell as being trampled under the hooves of the Mexican steeds, after a double cross doesn’t play out in his favour. Still despite this, it never feels like violence for the sake of it and only adds to the tone of the film, much like the permantly muddy surroundings the characters find themselves in, in a welcome break from the more traditionally desert associated with the genre and one used to its full potential by Corbucci.
Meanwhile Corbucci’s world view for this is very much black and white, with the villians being suitably odious, as is especially the case with Major Jackson and his men, who think nothing of using their Mexican captives in their human shooting range, while generally only caring about their own goals and none to fondly about anyone who is not a fellow Yankee. What is frustrating here though is that Corbucci introduces Major Jackson which would appear to be a fantastic entourage of henchmen, only to then kill them off with their first encounter with Django, rather than taking the more traditional route of eking their inevitable demise out over the course of the film. Still what remains true is that the path of revenge is never straight path and that could not be truer here, especially when Django finds himself teaming up with the bandits to lead a raid on the Yankee’s base, while also taking possibly the most roundabout routes to taking his revenge on Major Jackson who we find out is also responsible for killing Django’s wife.
The casting throughout is incredibly spot on, with Nero in particular embodying the role, even if he originally wasn’t Corbucci’s first choice having originally wanted to cast Mark Damon in the role, he more than owns role so that even though there would be other Django’s in the years which followed its release both in a homage and unofficial sequel form Nero is definitive article as this film proves. Elsewhere Farjardo makes for a great villain, with his leading man looks proving the perfect disguise for his true sadistic nature, while Bódalo makes for an interesting and certainly more frenzied counter, yet none the less dangerous General Rodriguez.
Even though Tarantino might have crafted his own original vision for Django, the original still remains a film worth hunting down, even if you’re like myself and not typically a fan of the Spaghetti Western genre, as the quick pacing, bloody action scenes and colorful characters make it an enjoyable watch and left me keen to check out the other additions to the series aswell as the other films with Corbucci directed, as Django is one character far too colourful and memorable to be contained to one film, as undoubtedly the legacy has shown.