Django (1966)

Django (1966) – The American West. It’s been endlessly romanticized in film, with the likes of John Wayne and Gary Cooper showing us how men should act. It’s American as apple pie. Truthfully, the legend of the Old West like so many other parts of American history was written in blood. The Italians (perhaps being less sentimental about American history) always believed in showcasing the violence of the Old West. It wasn’t so much ideology as practicality. Western were reasonably cheap to make (well, the way they made them in Italy anyway) and were practically guaranteed to bring in an audience. Some of the very first movies EVER were Westerns. It’s a genre that will likely never really go away. The most famous of the so-called “spaghetti western” directors is Sergio Leone, fames for flicks like The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and Once Upon a Time in the West. He is one of my all-time favorite film-makers and those are two of my all-time favorite films. But if Sergio Leone was the Beatles of the spaghetti western then Sergio Corbucci was the Rolling Stones. Corbucci’s most famous film is Django, which spawned over 30 unauthorized sequels (including modern day homages by celebrated directors like Takashi Miike and Quentin Tarantino). Django is legendary for its brutality, but does it deserve its beloved cult status?

A woman named Maria (Loredana Nusciak) is being flogged by some Mexican soldiers. She is quickly “rescued” when the Mexicans are all shot dead, but the Americans behind the guns don’t have anything nicer planned for poor Maria. She is saved once more (for real this time) by a mysterious man in black dragging a coffin behind him. That man is Django (Franco Nero). He takes her with him to a nearby town. The town is in the midst of war between two factions: the merciless cult led by former Confederate officer Major Jackson (Eduardo Fajardo) and the displaced Mexican soldiers under the command of (José Bódalo). With the help of the local saloon-keeper/brothel owner Nathaniel (Ángel Álvarez), Django works on a plan to benefit one side over the other. However the side he picks is not necessarily any more trustworthy than the side he decides to take down. Double crosses are in the cards for Django, but what he is dragging behind him in that coffin is something worthy of its grim container…

Its reputation for brutality might seem a bit undeserved to modern audiences, but before Reservoir Dogs, the sight of a man getting his ear sliced off was nothing people were used to seeing. Italian films tend to be pretty generous with the blood and compared to some other ones I have seen, Django is downright restrained. The brutality comes more in terms of tone. Django is not a Gary Cooper-style hero, doing what’s right in the face of unpromising odds. He’s more along the lines of the type of in-it-only-for-himself characters that Clint Eastwood made his career playing. There’s no happy endings or sad endings for this type of movie, just an ending that will be soaked with blood. I don’t mean to oversell the violence (again, to modern audiences it isn’t that bad) but I will happily endorse the movie as a badass one that any fan of the genre should check out.


Oh how I love the spaghetti west… they shot on the cheap but made up for it with badassery. I watched this movie in the original Italian… but you don’t have to. Normally i insist upon watching movies in their original languages but most spaghetti westerns shot without sound with all the actors speaking their disparate native languages and dubbed all the sound in later. So any version of this movie you watch will be dubbed. I just didn’t like the American voice of Django and chose to watch it with Franco Nero’s original Italian dialogue instead. Nero is a badass in this movie. Long before he was the romantic old guy in some Amanda Seyfried movie, he was a tricky motherfucker dragging a coffin across the old west. And whatever you do you don’t want to make him open up that coffin… The cinematography and action are great as is typical for the genre although they don’t even use squibs for the gunshot which kind of bugged me (not because I’m clamoring for more blood, it just looks really fake without them). Sergio Corbucci is not quite Sergio Leone when it comes to this genre but he still kicks fair amounts of ass. Molto benne.

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  1. […] The 1966 spaghetti western Django is a violent little gem beloved by a fans of the genre (and hey, I just reviewed it!) that spawned over thirty unofficial sequels. These “sequels” basically have nothing in common […]

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