Spaghetti westerns might have just as easily been called Sergio westerns—as the three greatest directors of the genre all shared that same first name. Everyone knows Leone was the first, but probably at this point only real history/movie nerds know the other two–Sollima and Corbucci.
Sergio Corbucci directed this classic Pasta Western back in 1966. The story is yet another play on Yojimbo, with a silent but deadly hero wandering through the desert who finds himself caught in the middle of two warring factions.
This time around the hero in question is named Django—played by Franco Nero, an actor with some of the finest facial expression and body movement I’ve ever seen on screen. If he had been able to speak English plainly with no accent, he would be just as famous as Eastwood and Bronson here in the United States.
The movie begins with Django dragging a coffin across the desert during a muddy rain storm while a catchy Elvis like tune plays in the background. The coffin here seems to be the obvious inspiration for Robert Rodriguez’s El Mariachi trilogy where the hero carried his personal armory inside a guitar case.
Django set a new precedent for violence in westerns. Hundreds of extras are mowed down, and there are gruesome (for their era especially) scenes of body parts being cut off and maimed. It’s all that sort of violence directed young adolescent boys who went to school the next day in awe of the badassery they had just beheld.
This film is the very definition of a beautiful ugly movie. There are shots in this film that will stay with me for as long as I live, such as the climactic final showdown with Django taking cover behind a cross at a cemetery and facing off against six armed men.
I have watched this in both the poorly dubbed English version and the original Italian with subtitles. Unless you speak Italian neither is ideal, but regardless this is a movie that every western fan ought to see.
If you’re a fan of the Dollars trilogy and haven’t seen this, you should remedy that as soon as possible. This movie spawned over a hundred unofficial sequels, including the famous Tarintino movie from a few years ago that Nero guest starred in. Aside from the title, these two movies have literally nothing in common however.
Django gets a four out of five: GREAT.