By ANTHONY LUSARDI
Django (1966), dir. Sergio Corbucci
If there was another spaghetti western that acts as a game changer for westerns, alongside The Dollars Trilogy, it is Django. In a classical John Ford-style western, you can expect to see a poetic portrayal of the Old West with visual beauty of western landscapes like the Monument Valley. With rule-breaking director Sergio Corbucci, this spaghetti western packs in what a normal John Ford-era western wouldn't dare.
One of the biggest influences of spaghetti westerns was making the violence more frequent, more graphic, and in Eastwood's words, "larger than life." Even if there wasn't much blood flowing from the wounds, the body counts could number in the hundreds. Django is definitely no exception.
In fact, Corbucci's first breakthrough is the kind of western that would have been heavily censored, if not banned in the U.S. Like a lot of Corbucci's films, Django is known for its bleak atmosphere and tone, symbolized by its ghost towns and cemeteries with hundreds of crosses. Just by seeing its sadistic titular antihero (played by Italian actor Franco Nero) dragging a coffin across a muddy landscape, you know this is not going to be a "clean" western.
The film is also noted for its music by composer Luis Enríquez Bacalov. From just the movie's signature theme song, with its electric guitars, syncopated violins, and bluesy piano, the name Bacalov, like Ennio Morricone, soon becomes synonymous with spaghetti westerns. Even his score found its way into Quentin Tarantino's movies, like Django Unchained, which borrows the name of the protagonist, but has its own original story.
Django made a star out of Nero. As with Eastwood, Nero went go on to appear in multiple spaghetti westerns, which helped catapult his career to action movies like Battle of Neretva, Force 10 from Navarone, and Die Hard 2. Also like Eastwood, his fame from the subgenre still persists to this day. He was even able to make a friendly cameo in Django Unchained.
This spaghetti western is further known for having as many as thirty "sequels." Almost none of them have anything to do with the original storyline, aside from having the name in their title. Django Unchained takes inspiration from the spaghetti western, but contains its own original story of a black slave giving payback to white slave owners. Django features a colorful story of a returning Union soldier entering a town caught in the middle of a war between KKK-like gangsters and Mexican bandits.
Watching this spaghetti western, it's like something out of western-themed pulp magazine with a body count getting higher with every page. The ground is already wet with mud. And soon, it will be soaked further with blood.
Trivia: Aside from numerous imitators in Italy, Django has inspired other countries to produce their own movies based on the character. In Japan, director Takashi Miike (Audition, 1999) created his own movie inspired by the spaghetti western, Sukiyaki Western Django (2007). Quentin Tarantino has a supporting role in this movie.
[To be continued next week]
Anthony Lusardi lives in Rockaway Borough, New Jersey. He’s a 2013 graduate of Centenary College (now Centenary University) in Hackettstown, New Jersey and is currently working as a freelance reporter in the Morris County region. Lusardi is an avid movie fan, reader, and lover of arts and entertainment. He’s attended and covered music concerts, art exhibits, festivals, parades, book readings, library lectures, and even a movie premiere in Parsippany and a movie shooting in Roxbury.