Sergio Corbucci made thirteen westerns, generally they were not as well known as Sergio Leone's world-renowned Dollars trilogy and none of them truly cracked the American market. The best known was Django (1966). A prototype spaghetti western influenced by Akira Kuroswa’s Yojimbo (1961) which in turn had been influenced by American westerns like High Noon (1952) and Shane (1953). Django established the masochistic aspect of the spaghetti western hero, the use of a coffin to store something other than a body and a format that included rivalry between two factions, in Django its between the white skinned red hooded "fanatics" led by Major Jackson and the "Bandidos" Mexicans led by General Hugo Rodriguez. Even our 'hero' is far removed from the standard American western hero who would fight for love or loyalty where as Django and his like fought only for money and self-gratification, a cynical mercenary who would never hesitate to kill. (As Johnny Cash once sung 'I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die’)
Django was played by the 23-year-old Italian actor Franco Nero and the film was shot on a previously made set just outside Rome which had gravely deteriorated and was in need of a complete revamp but Corbucci said it was ideal, and in fact the director insisted that the set be made worse to give it authenticity.
|Django saves Maria, but not before she gets whipped.|
The movie was famous at the time for the amount of violence and mutation, including the brutal whipping of Maria (Loredana Nuscick), an whore who falls for Django, by the sadistic Mexicans and the cutting off of a preachers ear who is made to eat it before being shot dead. Even the ‘upstanding’ Major Jackson is witnessed shooting the local peasants for fun. But the most horrendous violence is inflicted on our "hero" Django when both his hands are crushed by the butt end of a rifle and then trampled on by horse’s hooves. The action mostly takes place in a western ghost town populated only by out of work whores, a bartender and a preacher who spy’s for Jackson. A subplot involves Django taking revenge for the death of his wife but is never expanded.
|Django awaits the big showdown......|
|..... finally Jacksons 'Fanatics' appear|
There are some truly great set pieces including the showdown when Jackson brings 48 of his men to town to kill Django and we find out what he has been dragging around in the coffin. Another is the final showdown in the cemetery at Tombstone Hill a similar location to the final scenes of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966).
|A bloody end is never far away......|
Because of its excess madness, mayhem and violence the film was banned out right in the UK, unable to get a BBFC 18 certificate until 1993, downgraded to a 15 certificate in 2004. There were many so-called sequels to the original film to cash in on its success (it was a big hit in Europe). None of these films featured Corbucci or Nero until 1987’s Django Strikes Back when Nero reprised his role, with Corbucci writing the story. Now thanks to a certain Mr. Quentin Tarantino the concept of Django has been resurrected and it even includes a cameo from the original himself!