Ok, time for a long overdue film review. This time, it’s Sergio Corbucci’s Django, from 1966. Of the nearly 600 westerns that European film companies made between 1960 and 1975, Django tends to get mentioned quite a lot. It followed shortly on the heels of Sergio Leone’s Fistful of Dollars, and was quite a success.
The plot is about a quiet, mysterious gunslinger (as is usually the case) named Django, who is introduced to us while dragging a coffin behind him into the muddy streets of a town. The town is stuck between a rivalry of some red-hooded racist types and outlaw Mexican revolutionaries. We later learn that the head of the racists was somehow responsible for the death of Django’s wife. In similar fashion to Fistful of Dollars, Django is able to play the two gangs against each other to get some gold. Turns out that the coffin he’s dragging around has a big ‘ol Gatling gun in it, which he is miraculously able to use while carrying it around. It ends with Django getting his hands nearly destroyed yet still facing down the main baddie in the town cemetery.
So there’s the synopsis, now the commentary. Although nowhere near as good a film as the Leone films, there are some good things to be had in Django. First off, this is the film that made Franco Nero (in the title role) a huge European star. He’s got the good looks and charisma to pull it off. His character has the moral ambiguity so prevalent in these films; he does the right thing when it serves him well. Nero was so popular that, after this film hit it big, when his other films were released across Europe, they would somehow find a way to put ‘Django’ in the title (at least in Germany). There are over 30 unofficial sequels using the Django name, most of which don’t even have a character in the film named Django. There’s W Django, A Few Dollars for Django, Django - Il Bastardo, Django - Kill! If You Live, Shoot!, even Nude Django (!) and so on. This, apparently was nothing new in Italian cinema; have a big hit and all of a sudden, there’s a hundred more like it with a similar name. Nero only actually played the character of Django once more, in the mediocre 80’s flick, Django Rides Again, which is still considered the only 'official' sequel.
The sets are designed by Carlo Simi, who did the sets for the Leone fims, and as ususal, they look great. Dirty, dingy, run down, and quite realistic. There is no place in the movie that you could see yourself wanting to be. All of the streets in the town are covered in tons of mud, there’s no picture perfect anything here. The acting was so-so, as in most of these movies. The soundtrack by Luis Bacalov is unremarkable, yet fitting. The Blue Underground release that I watched was taken from a recently found master print of the film. With the exception of an occasional anomaly due to the ravages of time, the restoration process looks fantastic, although the soundtrack is still in mono. And one more important thing if you get this film… watch it with English subtitles and the original Italian language track (with Nero’s voice). The English overdub is awful and corny, and the Italian dialogue is much better, too.
Another thing that Django is known for is its violence. It recieved a ‘18′ rating in Italy and was banned by the BBC for 25 years because of the violence. By today’s standards, it’s pretty tame, except for the scene in which a spy is captured and his ear is sliced off and put in his mouth. Quentin Tarantino lifted this scene for Reservoir Dogs. It is said that Corbucci ‘forgot’ to remove that scene when requested by the censors, hence the 18 rating.
Overall, it was okay but if you’re getting into the genre I’d put it on your ‘must-see’ list, if only for the historical context. One thing that I’m discovering as I explore this genre further is that other than the Sergio Leone westerns, most of them, although some have their merits, aren’t really more than B grade films. Fred Thom’s review of this film over at Plume-noire.com, sums it up:
“Except for Sergio Leone films, the genre wholly belongs to the B series, of which Django is the figurehead.”
I’m ok with that, though. It’s a hell of a lot more entertaining to me than Godzilla or women-in-prison movies.