Django may be incredibly popular in Italy, the UK, the US and Germany, but the rest of the world is often unaware of this spaghetti western hero. Quite a shame, so let’s talk about the film.
The main character’s name, Django, refers to Django Reinhardt, the famous jazz musician. Django wasn’t just known for being an exceptional musician, he also had a copule of fingers missing. Why director Sergio Corbucci chose this name for the main character of his movie will become painfully clear when you see the movie.
A sick joke, yes. But far from the only sick joke Corbucci has put in the movie.
Django was supposed to be shot on a spaghetti western set. Sadly, heavy rainfall had made the grounds considerably muddy, probably too muddy for a western to be shot there. Corbucci did not despair, he even liked what he saw and decided to make the set even soggier. This is just one of the details that draw you into the movie when you’re watching the opening scene.
While not many spaghetti westerns will start with the film’s hero dragging himself through the mud, Django has another extra: the hero is dragging something along with him, a coffin.
As human beings tend to be curious, you want to find out why someone’s carrying around a coffin and who or what is inside this coffin. The film’s main character is definitely not the guy that’ll tell us: Django is a mysterious character. It would be wrong to describe him as a hero, he’s more of an anti-hero, just like it’s hard to find a good character inside this film.
Franco Nero is excellent as Django, in fact so noteworthy lots of producers tried sticking the name Django to all their spaghetti westerns with Nero. Actually, Nero didn’t even have to be in the film… it was enough that the movie was a spaghetti western. With more than 20 movies using the name Django, it should be noted that there is only one official sequel, Django 2: Il Grande Ritorno, made 20 years later with Nero once again as Django. Sadly, the movie is not that good.
Much more noteworthy is Django Kill, a spaghetti western that was released just a couple of months after Django and which had its title changed from If You Live Shoot, much to the annoyance of director Questi. While being completely unrelated to Django (the main character is played by Tomas Milian), it is the one movie that comes closest to the unhealthy atmosphere of Django and is even way sicker (the scene where bandits pull golden bullets out of a wounded guy’s chest springs to mind).
Django itself has its fair share of whipping scenes and torture scenes, including a rather notorious one where one guy has his ear cut off and then has it put in his mouth.
You’ll notice the bad guys wear red masks. Great (it stands out so much you remember those scenes forever), but it wasn’t planned. A major production that was being shot at the same time as Django had hired the best-looking extras, so Corbucci could only get his hands on ugly extras and had them wear capes.
This is probably what makes Django such an interesting picture: if the extras are ugly, have them wear capes; if the grounds are muddy, make them muddier and insert a scene where the prostitutes are sitting by a stove in an attempt to get warmer, that’ll convince the viewer it’s late autumn or even winter.
Add to this the wonderful looks of Franco Nero, who looks good but isn’t as clean cut as many heroes in spaghetti westerns. You could actually believe Nero spent a couple of weeks in cold and dirty areas. In fact, once again movie magic helped establish that: the make-up crew gave Nero a few extra wrinkles, to make him look tougher.
All in all, that’s what makes this film so exceptional: its combination of luck/coincidence and a relentless creativity that manages to work all the misfortunes into the film as if it had always been planned like that.
One important name hasn’t been mentioned in this review: that of the assistant director, one Ruggero Deodato, who later became a director himself and got his name into movie history books as the director of Cannibal Holocaust.
Being quite brutal, the English censors did not take kindly to the film and had Django banned in the United Kingdom. The British audience only heard about the film’s reputation and were only introduced to Corbucci’s film when The Harder They Come was shown in British theatres, a reggae movie that included a few scenes from Django.
This is the sort of stuff that does wonders for your reputation.