Directed by: Sergio Corbucci
Written by: Bruno Corbucci, Franco Rossetti, Jose Gutierrez Maesso, Oram Piero Vivarelli, Sergio Corbucci
Starring: Angel Alvarez, Franco Nero, Jose Badalo, Loredano Nusciak
HCF REWIND NO. 141. DJANGO [Italy 1966]
AVAILABLE ON DVD
RUNNING TIME:88 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
A woman named Maria is being brutally whipped by some men until saved by some other men, only for them to turn against her. However, she’s rescued by Django, a mysterious man who walks through the desert dragging a coffin. He takes her back to the brothel where she lives and works in a muddy ghost town where only the saloon and the brothel are open. In and around this town, American bandits, who charge protection fees from the few dwellers, are continually at war with a group of Mexican bandits over the area. Django is confronted by the leader of the Americans, Major Jackson, who is angry that some of his men have been killed, but kills his men, leaving Jackson alive. The Major escapes to round up his 48 surviving men and take revenge on the totally unfazed Django…..
After A Fistful Of Dollars, it was Django which really kicked off the spaghetti western boom. It’s not quite a classic, being somewhat clumsy at times, and is certainly not as assured as director Sergio Corbucci’s later work like The Great Silence and The Mercenary, but as long as you don’t mind a great deal of blood, it remains a fun movie, an action-packed, very comic book-type western whose body count is 138, a definate record at the time. It was considered so violent that it was refused a certificate in the UK until 1993, and even the Italian censors wanted one scene, a certain bit where a man has his ear cut off and shoved down his mouth […and THEN he is shot!], removed, but Corbucci supposedly ‘forgot’ to cut it and the censors never checked it again. It led to a total of, get this, 31 sequels, though none were really official except for 1987’s rather disappointing Django Strikes Again, one of the few to also feature the star of Django, Franco Nero. Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained isn’t much like Django either, though it does have an appearance by Nero and utilises its title song, where the singer seems to be channelling Elvis but actually sings better.
Django is almost a remake of A Fistful Of Dollars [which of course was derived from Yojimbo]. Again, a lone stranger arrives in a town where two groups feud, and plays them off against each other as he switches sides, while many situations are almost the same. However, Django is far more over the top and sometimes reaches heights of violent delirium which Leone got nowhere near. The very first scene has a woman being repeatedly whipped, while the final graveyard showdown, which has a real Gothic flavour to it, shows how it’s possible to fire a gun when your hands have been smashed by a rifle butt. Probably more unbelievable is the bit where Django sneaks out of a building with his coffin with no one knowing. The action is virtually non-stop and aside from the huge amount of gunplay also contains a striking one-on-one saloon brawl which even seems to feature a bit of early what we now call ‘shakycam’, only here it’s more justifiable as an attempt is being made to show what the combatants see as they are knocked about. Meanwhile Django, like Clint Eastwood’s The Man With No Name, says little, but looks and acts totally cool throughout even when he spends a third of the film dragging a coffin about, and we do learn a little bit more about his past. The romantic aspect is slightly stronger here, with the woman even saying she loves Django, but not enough to get in the way of people being continually killed.
Django was filmed in an oft-used western set which had somewhat gone to ruin and was extremely muddy. Corbucci rejected set designer Giancarlo Simi’s proposal to clean up and repair the set, as he felt it added to the atmosphere of the film. It was a good decision, the run-down buildings and muck everywhere enhancing the sense of moral murkiness. By comparison, the main interior set of the saloon/brothel looks too bright and lavish, but overall this town convinces more than the one in A Fistful Of Dollars. There is some sloppiness though which Leone probably wouldn’t have accepted, like extras dying very unconvincingly, and look out for the bit where the American bandits ride around with their red neck-ties over their heads Klu Klux Khan-style; one appears to have an orange hood for some reason. A scene where two prostitutes mud wrestle is totally gratuituous, while Corbucci’s direction is sometimes clumsy [he would get much better] and the cameraman seems to use the zoom lens more than anything else.
Like most of the Italian films of the period, Django was shot without sound, then dubbed into various languages. Therefore there is no original language track – all of them are dubbed. Nero, who like much of the cast in this movie looks like he’s speaking English, normally did both his Italian and English dubs but here only did the Italian track, and the character’s English voice is too weak, though overall the dub isn’t too bad. In any case Nero projects immense charisma, really making you believe he is as skilled with the gun as the film makes out, and making you totally on his side even when he’s more of an anti-hero than a ‘proper’ hero. Loredana Nusciak, who plays Maria, is a total stunner. She seems to combine the best features of Bridget Bardot, Claudia Cardinale and Luciano Paluzzi all rolled into one. Luis Bacalov’s score is okay but lacks the originality of Ennio Morricone’s work of the time. In some ways Django is more good for a laugh nowadays than anything else with its unashamed excess, but there’s nothing wrong with that. Highly entertaining.