“Django,” the Original, Is No Leone, but Still Good Fun


Django (Sergio Corbucci, 1966)

I just watched this last night, to try and see  what insights I could gain into Tarantino’s Django Unchained before my Oscar show on the radio today.

I’m not sure I gained a whole lot, but it was fun to watch. Until now, I had only seen Sergio Leone Spaghetti Westerns, such as the “Man with No Name” series, etc. It turns out that being a master visual stylist, like Leone, is a key factor in making the ridiculousness of these movies work. Corbucci has none of Leone’s visual flair, yet the film is not without its charms.

It is also extremely violent, which makes Tarantino’s film feel more like an homage than I had thought it would be. And it deals with the issue of racism that also helps to explain why Tarantino chose it as a template (that, and he just likes to mash things up). The scenes of actors in red hoods are a clear inspiration for the KKK scenes in Django Unchained.

Django centers on a mysterious gunslinger (Django) – in a Northern Union uniform – who drifts into a barren town after killing off a group of white Southern Confederates. They had bern about to kill a prostitute who had befouled herself by sleeping with Mexicans, whom they had just killed before Django arrives. Once in town, with prostitute in tow, Django sets about killing the racists, and then ends up being betrayed by the Mexicans, who destroy his hands. No one is good. Everyone is soiled. Even Django, who in the name of gold does some not-so-nice things.

Franco Nero as Django is a nice discovery, with the charisma of Clint Eastwood and some very blue eyes, and Loredana Nusciak as Maria (the prostitute) makes for a lovely companion. There is other fine work from the supporting cast, though many of the “whites” look almost as dark as the “Mexicans,” which leads to some confusion.

I would not put this in a class with the great Westerns of the 20th Century, but it’s good fun.

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