DJANGO — CLASSIC FILM PICK
Following sharply on the heels of Sergio Leone’s hugely successful Spaghetti Westerns “A Fistful of Dollars” (1964) and “For a Few Dollars More” (1965), Italian director Sergio Corbucci put his own stamp of violent exploitation on the genre in 1966 with Django. With an emphasis on gory brutality, Coubucci introduced a blood-soaked drifter closely modeled after Clint Eastwood’s iconic character from Leone’s films, but with one clear difference — Django drags a coffin with him everywhere he goes.
In the title role, Franco Nero apes Eastwood’s stoic mannerisms to a tee. Naturally, his voice is dubbed along with every other character. As the film’s cheesy Tom-Jones-styled theme song plays over blood-orange credits, Django pulls a dirt-caked coffin across a long stretch of muddy ground. Questions abound. Is there a corpse in the coffin? Before the contents of the casket are disclosed, Django liberates Maria (Loredana Nusciak), a comely prostitute being tortured by Mexican banditos before she can be immolated by a rival gang of Confederate cowboys led by Major Jackson (Eduardo Fajardo) — the man responsible for the death of Django’s wife. Jackson and his gang wear red hoods to identify them with such racist groups as the Ku Klux Klan. Good thing Django is quick with his pistol.
The second act opens with Django hunkered down with his mysterious coffin behind a giant tree stump in the middle of the street in a one-horse town. Prostitution, booze, and undertaking provide the town’s limited sources of income. As Major Jackson and his band of roughly 30 troops approach, Django opens the coffin to reveal a uniquely designed Gatling gun he swiftly uses to dispatch the whole bunch — with the exception of Major Jackson. Django has a method to his madness. Anyone who has seen Brian De Palma’s “Scarface” will see the connection to the scene. The famous ear-cutting incident from Quentin Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs” owes inspiration to a scene in “Django” where Mexican bandits punish Major Jackson’s right-hand man with a very sharp blade. The bandits go so far as to “feed” the man his own ear.
True to the Spaghetti Western template, the lead is a loner anti-hero who pays allegiance to no man or country. If Django teams up with a rebel Mexican gang to steal a fortune in gold from Major Jackson, he does so only long enough to take more than his share of the bounty.
“Django” encouraged some 31 “sequels” from filmmakers attempting to cash in on Corbucci’s second-generation creation. Corbucci himself went on hit a nerve with Spaghetti Western fans in 1969 with “The Great Silence,” which was similarly notable for its outré use of blood-soaked violence. Quentin Tarantino pays the film homage a second time with his film “Django Unchained,” which features an appearance by Franco Nero.