Django is a little more demonic than most of your spaghetti western anti-heroes. Obviously those guys are never fuckin Roy Rogers. They’re dirty and scary and sometimes even the titles of the movies are trying to warn you about them (GOD FORGIVES… I DON’T!, RUN, MAN, RUN!, IF YOU MEET SARTANA PRAY FOR YOUR DEATH, GO AWAY! TRINITY HAS ARRIVED IN EL DORADO, etc.). But this guy Django…

Okay, so Franco Nero is obviously channeling Clint with his quiet cool and ragged face, sitting in the saloon unconcerned, only pulling his brim up to grimly squint at people who yap at him for too long. But he looks more hellacious than Clint because he’s bigger and he’s wearing a black coat. And because he’s dragging a coffin.

That’s right, this is the movie cowboy who drags all his shit around like a bag lady. When somebody asks him who’s in the coffin he says “Django.” The villain jokes with him about it, like oh good, you came prepared. You brought the coffin we’re gonna put you in. But that guy probly knows deep down that it’s a threat and he should be afraid.

Yeah, the good guy’s kinda creepy, but the bad guys he’s taking on, led by Major Jackson (Eduardo Fajardo) are a full-on cult. They do the usual Western banditry and pillaging, but they wear red masks, use red scarfs to tie people up, it’s ritualistic. The innkeeper even says it’s like a religion. I guess they’re supposed to be white supremacists, kind of Ku Klux Klansian, but they only have Mexicans to mess with so it comes across like a border war. I’m sure in the modern day they’d be building a fence.

Anyway, back to Django. I bet now days you wouldn’t be able to bring a coffin into a bar with you, even if the place has a coat check. In that sense the Wild West days were more lenient. He sits down at a table, just has it on the ground next to him, nobody says anything.

But we know Django’s far from the most evil guy here because he rescues Maria (Loredana Nusciak) after she’s been tormented by both the Mexican bandits and Major Jackson’s men. The cultists take the cake because they try to burn her on a cross! I think just because she’d been whipped by Mexicans before they got there. That’s how racist they are.

After the rescue Django sticks around, as if daring these guys to retaliate. It becomes clear that he didn’t drift into this town by accident. His plan is a mix of badass confidence and clever maneuvering. He gets into it with Major Jackson in the saloon and shoots a bunch of his men, but says it was an uneven matchup. He gets Jackson to admit how many men he has left (48) and arrogantly tells him to bring them all next time to make it fair. He also proves himself a powerful cork-spitter and seems to be concerned for the health of the vultures that eat the dead bodies around here. I think he’s probly just joking, though, so I won’t count it as badass juxtaposition.

Is it suicide? No, it’s a trap. He lures that 48-man army to the saloon, where he waits behind a log that looks like a bone, then opens the coffin and gets out (SPOILER) his big ass machine gun. It’s the Old West Ol’ Painless. In a way it seems like a cheat. Couldn’t anybody be the best gun-slinger if they got a hold of that monster? Well, yeah, but Django also has the balls to do it, and the ingenious planning to take it a couple steps further. Jackson is the target of his revenge – killed his wife, obviously – but he keeps passing up chances to kill the bastard. See, if Django kills the major now he can’t steal all the gold his men are about to transport.

I guess we also gotta give Django credit for getting that coffin around, sometimes with the gun in it, sometimes with the gold. That thing’s gotta be heavy and cumbersome even when it’s empty, but he totes it around on his back, climbs out windows with it, walks across ledges. He’s good. He’s a Transporter.

And just in case you still think it was dishonorable to use such an overpowering weapon, he makes up for in spades at the end. Not only does he not have that gun, but he gets both hands crushed under an enemy’s rifle butt. He has to use his teeth to remove the trigger guard and painfully struggle to balance a pistol on his wife’s tombstone, where he waits for his showdown. You can’t say it’s effortless.

I’m glad something inspired me to watch this again. It’s alot better than I remembered. The man dragging around the coffin he plans to bury his old life in, the woman he saved trying to save him from being dragged into quicksand by the coffin full of gold… I love a western so full of mythic symbolism. Props to the theme song, too. Is it just me, or would that’ve made a good song for Elvis to sing?

One tip: I watched this on DVD because it was a double-feature set with the sequel, but this version only had the English dubbed soundtrack, and Django’s voice is not very good. So I recommend springing for the blu-ray or another edition that has the Italian language track.

This entry was posted on Monday, July 9th, 2012 at 11:22 am and is filed under Reviews, Western. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

46 Responses to “Django”

  1. Good shit, Vern. Indeed, the symbolism is heavy, almost absurdly so, but it’s beautiful & kinda perfect because the movie just goes for it, you know? Fuck subtlety.

    I’m pro-DJANGO. Very manly movie, great soundtrack. You can look past the flaws as elements of 1960s action filmatism and accept its greatness as is, or you can identify every little filmatistical flaw & piece of bad dubbing/editing and admire it for still being a fun time at the movies, an inspiration for present-day Tarantinos and such.

    And there’s that brutal broken fingers ending that makes Deckard look like a pussy.

  2. Yeah, this is definitely a good ‘un. It really goes for it with the operatic violence and imagery, which is exactly what you want from a picture like this. It easily passes my spaghetti western litmus test: Does 75% or more of the movie take place outside? It is my opinion, borne out by a not insubstantial amount of firsthand research, that the majority of spaghetti western scenes not set out in the great and weird wilderness are boring and badly dubbed placeholders concerning the maneuverings and machinations of people who really should just shut up and start shooting each other already. This padding is the reason that most spaghetti westerns are 15 to 20 minutes too long, while DJANGO clocks in at a lean and mean 87 minutes.

    And yes, the theme song is fucking amazing and would have fit well next to “Suspicious Minds” on a latter-day Elvis Vegas setlist.

  3. Knox Harrington

    July 9th, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    My favourite Spaghetti Western theme song is the one in Keoma. It’s titled “Keoma”, and the lyrics go like this: Keeeooooooommaaaa!

    It’s great.

  4. This is one of the 12 best westerns ever made. Franco Nero obviously got the part as Django because of his screen presence and likeness to Eastwood, even if he looks even more like Terence Hill (who played Django in the first unofficial sequel), and that’s not bad I guess for a 25 year old. It’s pretty clear from the get go that The Second Sergio wants to out-do The First Sergio Leone this movie, and he does a pretty good job of it. It bothers me a little that Nero shoots the machine gun without going near the trigger and that Corbucci and second unit director Ruggero Deodato (yes, THAT Deodato) didn’t bother to tell the extras how to fall properly when they get shot (by the way, according to Deodato the reason the extras are masked are that they couldn’t get good looking actors to fill the parts). Which is strange when you think of Corbucci’s attention to detail on his other projects. It took him and Nero half a day just to find the right hat for Django.

  5. This movie is so full of great ideas I always wished it was directed a little more stylishly. It’s fine, but imagine the classic it could have been if someone with some real visual poetry had been behind the camera. The plot is actually surprisingly twisty and gripping — there’s more going on here than any of its obvious peers. It makes me wish for a director and budget that would have really hit a home run with this material, instead of the group that just made a more-interesting-than average badass Spaghetti Western. Of course, there are precious few of those in the world anyway, so maybe I should just shut up and count my blessings. But seriously, this would be a great candidate for a remake by someone who really cared about getting the most possible mileage out of the material. Don’t know if Tarantino’s homage makes that more or less likely…

  6. Great review Vern. I hope you review the official sequel. There’s all of those unofficial sequels, but the only sanctioned sequel, “Django Strikes Again,” is total 80s Rambo rip-off weirdness. Definitely worth a gander.

  7. the whole “guy dragging a coffin around” thing was referenced in an episode of Cowboy Bebop as well, a show which any badass connoisseur show watch regardless of your thoughts on anime

  8. “the whole “guy dragging a coffin around” thing was referenced in an episode of Cowboy Bebop as well”

    In Trigun as well wasn’t it? Or was it just a cross…

  9. Timmy, it’s pretty obvious that Vern intends this DJANGO review to commence a Franco Nero filmography bender (though DIE HARD 2: DIE HARDER: THAT’S THE ACTUAL SEQUEL TITLE IN THIS CASE, NOT AN IRONIC INTERNETTER’S CUTESY HAHA ADD-ON TITLE has probably already been reviewed somewhere here), which will lead him to realize that Nero’s next greatest badass role is in an underrated recent romantic comedy, which will of course culminate in all of us here learning how to love again by watching & discussing LETTERS TO JULIET.

  10. Vern did review ENTER THE NINJA.

  11. remember that awful scene in Enter The Ninja when the bad guy yells “DON’T LET HER GOOOOOOOOOO!” in really awful acting?

  12. Fun fact: Django was named after the jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt because Reinhardt had an accident that left one of his hands partly paralyzed and he had to relearn how to play guitar in a totally different way (most people credit the accident for making Reinhardt an even better guitar player). Django basically does the same thing with a single action Colt.

    I drew a picture for Franco Nero once. Of course, he didn’t show up to the screening of HIGH CRIME like he was supposed to, so I had to give it to Enzo Castellari. Afterwards, I saw Nero shopping at the mall (wearing a slick black suit and Nikes) so I began chasing him (it was a lot like one of his Eurocrime films). When I caught up to him, I told him I gave my drawing to Castellari, and he screamed, “Where eez dat sonuvabeesh! I had an appointment!” Luckily, Castellari showed up and all was good. For those interested, here’s the pic: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1376225372180&set=a.1376175010921.2055221.1428210738&type=3&theater

    Beyond my shameless name-dropping, I’d like Vern to review some of Nero’s Eurocrime films, starting with HIGH CRIME. And yeah, review KEOMA too. The official DJANGO sequel is a waste of time.

  13. Also, one of the things I like about DJANGO is that it takes place in some Western themed alternate reality where one minute they’re talking about the Civil War (inferring that Django is a veteran) and the next they’re firing belt fed machine guns and mowing down khaki dressed Federales like it’s the Mexican Revolution. Someone complained about Django not having his hand on the trigger of his machine gun…probably because the thing wasn’t real! Did you see that the ammunition belt wasn’t moving? It’s some weird prop gun that was either left over from FISTFUL OF DOLLARS or made to look like the one in FISTFUL OF DOLLARS. I’ve never seen a gun like that outside of Spaghetti Westerns (it pops up in the DJANGO rip-offs and in Corbucci’s film THE MERCENARY, which Vern also needs to review, as I think it’s my favorite non-Leone Spaghetti Western).

  14. I don’t think the official Django sequel is a waste of time, but it’s just stupid that it get’s to be the “official sequel” when a movie like DJANGO, PREPARE A COFFIN with Terence Hill is a lot better both as a Django movie and a western. If Vern’s really on a Nero bender I highly recommend TEXAS, ADIOS and MASSACRE TIME, they’re both a lot of fun.

  15. THE GREAT SILENCE is another interesting Corbucci movie. It certainly has the one of the all-time greatest fuck-you endings. Maybe not the best italian western, but its a good watch.

  16. Shoot, the funny thing about THE GREAT SILENCE is that when you realize that Kinski’s actually the good guy and Trintignant’s the bad guy it all makes perfect sense. And I would say that it’s one of the best Italian westerns.

  17. Hmm…I need to seriously re-watch it THE GREAT SILENCE since apparently I don´t really remember the ending OR the movie as good as I thought I did.
    An interesting side-note is that the back of the dvd-cover I own it spoils the ending in the listing of special features: Alternate “Happy” ending. Quite the fail from the designers of the cover in my opinion.

  18. I’m really looking forward to seeing Franco Nero in Tarantino’s DJANGO UNCHAINED. From the stills it looks like he’s wearing gloves, so I guess he’s supposed to be the real Django.

  19. Is cork-spitting related to cork-soaking?

  20. Which Django’s the one where he starts out as a monk but (naturally) ends up returning to his old ways, killing some bad folk on a ship going down a South American-looking river? I’m pretty sure Nero was in it, looking rather too old for this shit.

    Also, is the Django in those DJANGO & SARTANA/SABATA films meant to be the same Django Nero and Hill played, or a different guy who just also happens to be called Django?

  21. I’m pretty sure the one with the riverboat is DJANGO STRIKES AGAIN, which is the only official DJANGO sequel. All the other ones just take advantage of Italy’s lax copyright laws that allow anyone to title their movies as if they were sequels to films they had nothing to do with, the most famous example being ZOMBI 2. I’m pretty sure most of the DJANGO ripoffs didn’t even have a character named Django in them. “Django” just became code for “badass western,” like how “Mondo” became code for “exploitative documentary” after MONDO KANE.

  22. Yup, Majestyk, that’s the one.

    I’m pretty sure the not-Django in these team-up films was indeed called Django, but then again, in the versions I watched, Sartana was also called Sabata – but he wasn’t the guy Lee Van Cleef played in his Sabata films. I guess it’s down to all these different international versions switching things up even more to pull in the fans.

  23. While a ton of unrelated films were retitled to include the name DJANGO (like DJANGO KILL…IF YOU LIVE, SHOOT!) there were many specific attempts to outright rip the film off. In fact, that’s how Terrence Hill got his break, if I’m not mistaken. Fun fact: VIVA DJANGO’s title song was the basis for the Gnarls Barkley song CRAZY.

    Also, I wasn’t crazy about TEXAS ADIOS or MASSACRE TIME. I like THE GREAT SILENCE, but feel it gets overrated for its ending when the rest of the film isn’t that amazing.

  24. I agree about THE GREAT SILENCE. It was actually the movie where I formulated my theory of exterior vs. interior spaghetti western dynamics. All the scenes set out in the snowy woods were eerie and atmospheric, but then they’d come inside and it’d be all doughy dudes in suits sitting at tables, talking about people that weren’t there.

    I realize that the awesome end scene takes place at least partially inside. It’s not a hard-and-fast rule, obviously.

  25. David, I know that TEXAS, ADIOS and MASSACRE TIME aren’t among what we usually call THE CLASSICS, but they’re good fun with a lot of action. THE GREAT SILENCE on the other hand is a masterpiece. Personally I’m so fond of westerns that I tend to find something good in just about all of them. But of course, there’s no one better than THE WILD BUNCH, which is the best MOVIE ever made!

  26. Yes, TEXAS ADIOS was pertty good, not as memorable as KEOMA,though. That might be my favourite Franco Nero western. The action scenes are damn good in that one. Heavy use of slow-mo,which is always good and the protaganist has a shotgun as his go-to weapon of choice. Shit I´m into,basically.Speaking of which, Yul Brynner also had a big ass shotgun in ADIOS,SABATA, the third in a trilogy of movies that are must-see´s. The first one,especially with Lee Van Cleef is a highlight of the genre as far as I am concerned.

  27. Yeah, the first Sabata is a classic. The second is a bit lightweight in my opinion. And you know of course that the third one with Yul Brynner isn’t a Sabata movie at all, but it was redubbed to cash in on the other Sabata movies. I have a bit of a problem with Yul’s outfit, but other than that it’s a cool movie. I went on a Lee Van Cleef bender a few months ago and, damn, that man has an impressive cv. If you haven’t already, Shoot, you should check out DAY OF ANGER, DEATH RIDES A HORSE, BARQUERO and, hell, everything you can get your hands on with Lee.

  28. DEATH RIDES A HORSE is so awesome its not even funny. Morricones theme is just mindblowingly great. Typically,Tarantino ripped it for KILL BILL Vol1,but can you blame him? Shit like that don´t grow on trees. I only have a pisspoor 4:3 version of the movie, but not even technical issues take away its greatness.

    DAY OF ANGER and THE BIG GUNDOWN are also some of my Van Cleef favourites. I don´t think I´ve seen BARQUERO, but I will.

  29. BARQUERO’s an American western he did inbetween all the Italians. Warren Oates is the bad guy, and I kid you not, they’re trying to sell Van Cleef as some sort of macho sex symbol, bare chested and sweaty all the time, and he has a girlfriend with the biggest tits in town. She’s played by Maria Gomez, who you can see topless in The Professionals with Lee Marvin. Just saying.

  30. Pegsman, I agree about THE WILD BUNCH being the best film of all time. R.I.P. Ernest Borgnine.

    Anyway, I love finding all of the WILD BUNCH rip-offs, like the unwatchable REVENGE OF THE WILD BUNCH, which has an amazing final gunfight: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HhwZaXIsjj8 The director of that film (Paul Hunt) later went to work on THE LONG RIDERS: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vr0MlCjzJak

  31. pegsman – Did you know that the main theme of DAY OF ANGER was later used in the kung fu classic INVINCIBLE ARMOUR starring John Liu and Hwang Jang Lee? One of my favourite kung fu movies of all time. Kind like the SECRET RIVALS-movies also directed by Ng See Yuen.
    I know it was common practice among kung fu filmakers in Hong Kong to “borrow” soundtracks but I thought I´d mention it since i love both them movies.

  32. Thanks guys, now I have two more movies I have to check out. Any idea of where I can get hold of them? I’ve been trying for years to get hold of MACHO CALLAHAN with no luck. I’ve only seen the first 20 minutes and it looked pretty good. And why isn’t RIO CONCHO out on dvd?!

  33. This is a fun movie & the theme song is great. Considering Corbucci’s body of work you have to think the theme song is meant to be ironic. It is soaring and uplifting, like it could be the theme to a TV show, but it is in contrast to the dirty & gritty aesthetic & tone of the film.

    I also like THE GREAT SILENCE. It not without its flaws, but I appreciate what Corbucci was trying to do with the film and (SPOILERS, SPOILERS, SPOILERS) the ending is stunningly bleak. Kinski’s performance is also another highlight of the film. He plays the most unlikeable and vile character so well that you desperately want to see him get his comeuppance, and it setups the ending perfectly.

  34. Guys, stop saying that the ending of THE GREAT SILENCE is bleak. Silence (Trintignant) is a hired killer and the bad guy. Loco (Kinski), whom you never see killing anyone that’s not wanted, is the good guy. Corbucci’s playing with us by twisting the perspective. And Charles, there are no flaws.

  35. pegsman- what about the sheriff which Kinski leave to freeze to death in the water.yeah, he´s the good guy,all right!

  36. I think “protagonist” might be a more accurate descriptor than “hero.”

  37. I’m sorry, Shoot, but the sheriff’s corrupt. He’s portrayed by a sympathetic looking actor, but he’s gonna kill loco before they reach the next town. I’m not saying that Loco’s a great guy, but he doesn’t do anything worse than Eastwood’s character does in the DOLLAR TRILOGY. Watch the movie again and you’ll see what I mean.

  38. Pegsman, I don’t think we the audience are supposed to side with Kinski. Loco is the “good guy” in that the laws and the money of the town support him so he is not a criminal. He may not do anything illegal, but he is a ruthless villain. He is like a slimy politician that helps get laws changed so major corporations can exploit our environment without legal repercussions. It is not illegal, but it is morally irreprehensible. Silence is a hired killer and operates outside the law of the town, but he is honorable and more morally just that Loco.

  39. pegsman – I must be dumb, since I re-watched it yesterday and have no idea what you are talking about. What makes you think the sheriff would have killed him before they´ve reached the next town?
    That is just a hypothesis at best.

  40. Sure, and that’s exactly why the ending is as it is. Corbucci wants us to side with Silence because he looks like a hero and works for a grieving mother, but he’s the one who goes around killing “innocent” people – for money, I might add – and you can almost hear the Corbucci brother’s laugh over the end credits.

  41. Shoot, okay that was just a hypothesis, but Loco couldn’t let himself be imprisoned at that stage. The sheriff had to go.

  42. I´m really intrigued by pegsman´s perspective on this one so I might watch this movie again real soon trying to figure out how to side with Kinski. I guess my appreciation for THE GREAT SILENCE< bumped up a notch, since clearly the movie has some moral ambiguity.

  43. It’s a classic, that’s for sure.

  44. pegsman, to be clear the flaw I was alluding to in my previous post is what feels like uneven filmatism throughout The GREAT SILENCE. I am not blaming Corbucci because I am sure he was saddled with a very small and limiting budget that would not allow for numerous takes or reshoots, but there is a lack of consistency in filmatism from scene to scene in THE GREAT SILENCE that is not present in DJANGO. There are scenes in THE GREAT SILENCE with strong filmatism that are well conceived, executed, and shot, but then there are scenes where all those elements seems to be missing and the scene feels like it was directed by someone else for another film. That inconsistency in quality is my only problem with a very provocative and daring film that I really enjoy.

  45. The Continental Op

    July 21st, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    Vern, the spaghetti western genre seems like it would be your perfect genre. There are some truly well-made films within a fair amount of shite, and some of the most badass moments ever captured on film (Van Cleef and Milian’s moment with one throwing the gun to the other at the end of Big Gundown making me think of you). Hopefully if you have the time we will get to see you do a series of reviews on some of the classics and not-so-classics of these movies on the lead-up to Django Unchained.

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