DJANGO: 50 Furious Westerns Series
Every now and then we at Furious Cinema turn to one of our favorite classic genres, the western. We’ve previously posted a list of 50 Furious Westerns, and to build on that, we’re launching a series of in-depth looks at some classics of the genre. No rules.
This 1966 Sergio Corbucci Spaghetti Western classic starred Franco Nero as the titular Django, an ex-Civil War Union soldier. We are introduced to the enigmatic character as he trudges through the desert, not on horseback, but on foot and dragging a coffin behind him. Django is out to find Major Jackson, the man who murdered his wife during the war while he was away fighting. On the road he encounters Maria (Loredana Nusciak), a local prostitute who is on the verge of being executed by some brutal racist bandits for coming into contact with a Mexican. The good hearted samaritan Django saves her by shooting them all with lightning fast speed. The two then make their way to a nearby desolate border town (which may be the muddiest ever to grace the silver screen) to seek shelter and rest.
Django stops at the local saloon/brothel and orders something to eat and drink while Maria visits with her friends. They are soon paid an unwanted visit by none other than the sadistic ex-Civil War Confederate soldier, Major Jackson (Eduardo Fajardo) and his band of unmerry men who are clad in bright red hoods and/or scarves. In a tension filled face off, Django quickly proves that he is extremely deadly and shoots several of Jackson’s thugs without hesitation. His show of unflinching force gains him some respect and peace for the time being. Still, Django knows without a doubt Jackson will come back once again with his entire army to kill him. He gets ready for this battle by opening up his trusty coffin and removing a fully loaded Gatling Gun which he then uses to mow down most of Jackson’s gang like blades of grass upon their return.
Django learns that Jackson has been at war with a local Mexican faction run by General Hugo Rodriguez (Jose Bodalo) who he is an old acquaintance of. Soon after, the General meets with Django and gives him the news that they plan on stealing a cache of Federal gold. This gets Django’s attention and he decides to go along with the gang. The heist proves to be successful but soon Django’s own desire to leave his lonely life behind and start over drives him to take a dangerous chance that could potentially get him or his newfound love Maria killed.
Like Sergio Leone‘s Fistful of Dollars, Django was also based on Akira Kurosawa’s 1961 classic samurai film Yojimbo. The main difference was that unlike the Mifune and Eastwood characters who were merely opportunistic drifters playing two groups against each other, Django was on a deliberately planned mission of revenge. Corbucci then brought new ideas to his story such as the use of a Ku Klux Klan style army which gave it more of a political/racial commentary. He also increased the amount of graphic violence and actually made Django an even more ruthless anti-hero than Clint Eastwood‘s Man With No Name. In addition, as Leone’s films had been stylized Roman inspired re-inventions of the American Westerns, Corbucci took Django down a much darker, bleak trail and created a gothic westworld filled with sheer dread. For example, when you see the sequence where General Rodriguez cuts off a man’s ear and feeds it to him you’ll know its playing by its own rules.
As much as I’ve always loved this movie since first seeing it several years ago, my only complaint has to do with the voiceover actor who was cast as Django. I feel it really didn’t match up to Nero’s memorable portrayal of the character. The readings of the dialogue are often awkward and sound detached emotionally, almost like the actor didn’t even see the film while recording it. Ultimately this detail does take something away from the movie but it certainly doesn’t make it unwatchable by any means. Django remains one of the all time greatest Italian Westerns ever made.
For more in-depth info on all things Django, visit the SWDB HERE