Django (1966) Horse Man Films/Western RT: 91 minutes No MPAA Rating (strong bloody violence, suggested sexual content) Director: Sergio Corbucci Screenplay: Sergio Corbucci, Bruno Corbucci and Franco Rossetti Music: Luis Bacalov Cinematography: Enzo Barboni Release date: December 1966 (US) Starring: Franco Nero, Loredana Nusciak, Eduardo Fajardo, Jose Bodalo, Angel Alvarez, Rafael Albaicin, Jimmy Douglas (Gino Pernice), Simon Arriaga. Box Office: N/A Spoken in Italian w/English subtitles
With the recent success of Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino’s ode to spaghetti westerns, I thought it would be appropriate to go back to the source and revisit the original 1966 Django featuring Franco Nero (Enter the Ninja) in the titular role. Let me start by saying the two movies have nothing to do with each other. Besides the hero’s name, the only other connecting factor is Nero’s cameo in the later film. The original Django merely served as an inspiration for Tarantino’s blood-soaked tale of a slave-turned-bounty hunter. I like spaghetti westerns; I have since a good friend introduced me to Sergio Leone’s Man with No Name trilogy more than 20 years ago. For those few who don’t know, I’m referring to A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965) and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), all starring Clint Eastwood. Franco Nero is no Clint Eastwood, but still makes a decent anti-hero in one of the most violent and brutal films of the time. Django is still pretty violent by today’s standards; the highlights include a guy getting his ear cut off and fed to him and somebody’s hands getting smashed to a bloody pulp. It’s also a pretty ugly movie. I have rarely seen as much mud, dirt and filth as I did in Django. If director Sergio Corbucci (Super Fuzz) intended to de-mystify the Old West, he certainly succeeded. He presents a more realistic vision of the Old West with the less-than-reputable people that likely populated many (if not all) of the frontier towns. They’re neither the clean-cut singing cowboys (Roy Rogers, Gene Autry) nor the upstanding heroes (John Wayne, Gary Cooper) that starred in the westerns your grandparents (or great-grandparents) grew up watching at Saturday afternoon matinees. Even the so-called “hero” isn’t especially heroic. This is what spaghetti westerns are all about. I can see why Tarantino digs these flicks, they are pretty bad ass!
As the movie opens (with a cool theme song by Roberto Fia) with drifter Django (Nero) making his way to a border town dragging a coffin behind him. What’s in the coffin? The answer is not as morbid as you think. He stands and watches as a beautiful young woman named Maria (Nusciak) gets brutally whipped by a gang of Mexican revolutionaries. A group of bandits wearing red scarves shows up and kills the Mexicans only to be shot down by Django after they try to kill the woman. He takes Maria to a nearby town where he waits at the saloon (where else?) for gang leader Major Jackson (Fajardo, City of the Walking Dead) to show up. The saloon keeper Nathaniel (Alvarez) explains that his only customers are Jackson’s men and the Mexicans and they hate each other. He also explains that Maria isn’t welcome there due to her past associations with both groups. Most of the prostitutes (the joint is full of them!) don’t even want her there. Django has a personal grudge against Jackson; he wants revenge for the murder of his wife. After a confrontation that leaves a few of his men dead, Jackson returns to town with his entire gang to kill Django. Now we find out what’s in that damn coffin! Django pulls out a machine gun and mows down almost the entire gang. Jackson manages to get away, but that’s just the way Django wants it. He makes a deal with Mexican general Hugo Rodriguez (Bodalo) to help him steal a large quantity of gold from a nearby Mexican Army fort. Rodriguez, who needs the gold to fund his revolution, agrees to share it with Django in exchange for his assistance. I don’t need to tell you that certain things don’t work out as planned and it all culminates in a couple of violent confrontations.
There’s not really a lot to Django if you want to know the truth. It’s a rather simple story with no surprise plot twists or sudden revelations. A few plot points might be a bit murky, but nobody goes into a B-movie like Django with expectations of perfection. Like I said, Nero doesn’t have the screen presence of Eastwood, but he’s still a bad ass in his own right. I love it when he pulls out that machine gun and makes quick work of Jackson’s men. It’s one of the baddest things that I’ve ever seen in one of these flicks. Then there’s the dialogue! You have to love lines like, “Cemeteries are a good investment in this area if you can get paid in advance” and “If you’re a coffin maker, you sure did pick a good town to settle”. Gee, makes me want to move there right away. What are the schools like? LOL! There’s no question that Loredana Nusciak is smoking HOT, but she’s definitely lacking in the acting department. You know what? WHO CARES? Like I said, viewers approach a movie like Django with certain expectations. Things like acting, plot and character development aren’t really important here. What is important is whether or not the movie delivers in the action department. It does! Is it violent? Most assuredly, YES! I say the more violence, the better. I noticed that Ruggero Deodato (Cannibal Holocaust) served as assistant director on Django. That’s pretty cool. The music by Luis Bacalov is also pretty good even though it sounds like ersatz Ennio Morricone. In short, Django makes for a pretty decent B-movie spaghetti western. Be warned, many subsequent movies have the name Django in the title, but the only official sequel is 1987’s Django Strikes Again (aka Django 2: Il grande ritorno). It definitely makes a nice companion piece to Tarantino’s movie. Now there’s a good idea for a double feature with the guys.