(1966) dir. Sergio Corbucci
Like many of the topics upon which I write here, I hardly consider myself an expert. The Spaghetti Western is a definant interest of mine, but not something that I have delved into in great depth in my years of film watching. Django, however, is one exception. I happened to catch it on video in 1995, the year I was living in England, and while having whetted my appetite with the Sergio Leone/Clint Eastwood trilogy, I was duly impressed by the film of which I had never heard. And so it’s sat in my mind all these years to revisit.
Django is nearly as iconic as A Fistful of Dollars (1964), the film that heavily influenced it. It’s just that Django was not released in the United States. In Europe, it’s probably as well known as the Eastwood films. Stylistically, it borrows heavily from Leone, but it has a lot of its own that it brings to the table.
Django, as played by Franco Nero, is a good stand-in for Eastwood’s “Man with No Name”, but he has more of a story, he has his name of course, and he drags a coffin behind him through the would-be Texas desert. The surprises inside the coffin, I leave for the uninitiated, though it’s easy enough through web research to have the surprises foiled. The film involves a scene with mudwrestling prosititutes, a bloody severing of an ear (which is then “fed” to the victim), and a graveyard showdown as surprising and iconic as you can imagine.
Django is one of the biggies of the genre, and on second viewing, definitely stands up. The shots are framed in clever and aesthetically atuned ways, playing up the action and the narrative with the kind of grit and ingenuity one might hope for. The wet, muddy town which is the center of much of the story really stands out in contrast to the dry, arid heat of most Westerns, Spaghetti or otherwise. And it didn’t fail to remind me, or reckon of Sukiyaki Western Django (2007), the awful Takashi Miike re-take on the genre.
It is interesting the way that the Spaghetti Western adapted the Samurai film, much as A Fistful of Dollars (1964) so notably adapted Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo (1961), which had adapted itself further from Dashiell Hammett and questionably the Western in general as well. Perhaps, in a way, it’s one of the earliest instances of Post-Modernism, some mixing and remixing of styles, techniques, tropes, character, narrative, everything and evoking something new. I’ll have to look into that.
But for the uninitiated, Django is certainly (badly dubbed) but brilliant. If you like or even think you like the Spaghetti Western and have not yet seen Django, you really, truly should. It is the shit. And I do mean that in a good way.