Peter’s Retro Corner: Django (1966)

February 25, 2013

Django (1966)  Movie Poster

by Peter Nielsen

I guess by now you’ve figured out that I love all types and genres of movies. Yes… even musicals, but you won’t be seeing any reviews of them here on Forgotten Flix, though. Another genre I haven’t touched upon much yet is the Western, or more precise… the so called Spaghetti Western. My dad was a western-fan so I grew up watching some of the classics by John Ford and Howard Hawks to name a couple. I’ve devoured many a John Wayne movie in my days!

And then, in my early teens, I discovered the Italian produced westerns! The Spaghetti Westerns!  And a life-long love was formed!

The term itself was actually used in a derogatory way at first, but has since then instead become a way to describe this particular sub-genre.

The very first ones were made in 1959, but the genre didn’t really start to soar until Sergio Leone made his “Dollar Trilogy” in the mid 60’s. It started with A Fistful of Dollars in 1964 and was followed by For A Few Dollars More (1965) and The Good, The Bad and the Ugly (1966).

What was typical for these westerns was that the crew was predominantly from Italy and Spain, the director from Italy and the cast was mostly Italian, Spanish, German and American, so the sound was of course post-synched. For the most part in Italian!

This town looks like shit!

This town looks like shit!

Between 1960 and 1980 there were several hundreds of these Spaghetti Westerns made, but by the mid 70’s the genre was more or less dead, unfortunately. Another influential Spaghetti Western was Django from 1966 which was directed by Sergio Corbucci and this is the movie I have chosen for this week.

The movie opens on a dark-clad stranger, slowly dragging a coffin across a wet and muddy landscape. He suddenly comes across a group of Mexican bandits whipping a young woman, but before he can intervene, the bandits are gunned down by a group of red-hooded men. Yeah, but don’t get your hopes up quite yet, because these men aren’t there to help her, unfortunately. They instead intend to burn her on a makeshift cross.

Major Jackson and his merry men!

Major Jackson and his merry men!

Apparently, the girl Maria (Loredana Nusciak) has angered the leaders of both groups. The stranger, who now thinks it’s gone far enough, kills the men and rescues Maria. They later arrive in a little piece-of-shit town, where we learn that the stranger has some kind of business to take care of.

The town is run-down, mostly empty and the streets are just a wet and muddy mess. Most of the population has been killed and now resides in the cemetery. Actually the only other people we see here are the girls and the bartender at the saloon. So you see it really is a little piece-of-shit town.

The red-hooded men from earlier worked for a man called Major Jackson and he apparently killed the woman who was the love of Django’s life. So the Major is the business he’s here to take care of. Oh yeah, Django is the name of the stranger, in case you wondered. While he’s having a meal, Major Jackson and a couple of his men arrive at the saloon and start hassling Django. He of course shoots them and Jackson says he’ll be back! With more men!

Don't disturb me while I eat, ok?

Don’t disturb me while I eat, ok?

He’s a mean son of a bitch who likes to shoot Mexicans for sport. It’s almost a little bit like skeet shooting, where he releases them one at a time and then lets them run a little to get their hopes up, before finally killing them. But Django’s not worried though, because he’s got his little friend in the coffin to help him and the two men’s next meeting ends in a massacre. This of course delights the Mexican bandits who, for obvious reasons, want the Major dead.

Django hasn’t killed him though, at least not yet, because he has other plans for him. It turns out that the Mexican leader, General Hugo, and Django are old acquaintances and together they plan a daring heist. They intend to steal a large quantity of gold from a Mexican Army fort where Jackson is doing business with a government general. Later, when Hugo seems reluctant to give Django his share, he takes all the gold for himself and runs off with Maria. The bandits soon catch up with them and the general exacts a brutal punishment on Django for being a thief.

That scene actually hurt to watch and almost made me go ouch! Django is a pretty brutal and violent movie with a high body-count. Ok, so by today’s standards the violence might seem a bit tame, but back then, Django was actually banned in several countries for being too violent. Sweden was one of those countries! Of course!

A man and his coffin.

A man and his coffin.

Sergio Corbucci, the director, also made The Specialist, Super Fuzz and Navajo Joe for instance. Navajo Joe starred Burt Reynolds in his only European Western and he apparently didn’t like that movie at all! I didn’t think it was all that bad and quite enjoyed it.

Django is played by Franco Nero whom you might recognize from Die Hard 2 or Enter the Ninja to name a couple. I’m not going to mention any of the other actors because, although some of them have more than 200 credits to their name, they’ve mostly worked in Italian and Spanish movies or on TV and you probably haven’t heard of them. Unless, of course, you’re really into European Cinema! I just have to mention one tidbit about Loredana Nusciak who plays Maria.

As I was going through her list of credits, I suddenly recognized one… Här kommer bärsärkarna (The berserkers are coming), an adventure/comedy made in 1965, in which she has a small part. It’s a joint venture between Sweden, Denmark and Yugoslavia and is an obscure little viking-flick which I’ve heard of, but never seen.

Another little piece of trivia is for you horror-fans out there… the assistant director on this movie is Ruggero Deodato who has also directed such memorable movies as Cannibal Holocaust, The Barbarians and House on the Edge of the Park. Well, maybe The Barbarians aren’t as memorable as the others, but still…

There are a couple of reasons for me choosing this movie! This first and most obvious being, that I love Django. It’s a great movie! Another reason is the theme song by Luis Enrique Bacalov… I love it and have had it playing on a loop in my head for the past couple of days and in order to get it out I had to watch the damn movie again.

The third reason is that I thought it would be cool to bring it up now that Quentin Tarantino has released his western Django Unchained. And you know what? Franco Nero has a small role in it. You know, kind of as a little homage to the original and first one! Nice touch, Mr. Tarantino!

So, my friends… Until next time, why not leave a little comment about Django for me and tell me what you think? Me? I’m gonna go listen to the damn theme-song again…

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