Spaghetti Western Archive – DJANGO

DJANGO 1966 director: Sergio Corbucci; starring: Franco Nero
As far as most people are concerned, when it comes to spaghetti westerns, only one director ever made an films of merit. That director, of course, was Sergio Leone, who made five westerns—Once Upon a Time in the West, A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, The Good, the Band and the Ugly, and Duck, You Sucker! —four of which deserve their reputations of being among the best westerns of all time. But once you remove Leone and his films from the equation, a whole new stick must be used for measuring the massive flood of westerns that came out of Europe—primarily Italy—during the 1960s and the 1970s. Director Sergio Corbucci’s Django is that stick.

Leone was head and shoulders the best of the filmmakers cranking out spaghetti westerns, but he was not alone (there were, after all, over 600 Eurowesterns produced), and within the rank and file of journeyman directors churning out largely forgettable crap, there were some talented filmmakers. Arguably the best of the of the spaghetti western directors who was not Sergio Leone was the other Sergio, Corbucci. Not as well known or respected by the mainstream as Leone, Corbucci was responsible an incredible list of westerns that rank among the best of the genre.

Little more than a rip-off of Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars; Django manages to stand on its own merits, emerging as a classic. From the opening scene, with Django (Franco Nero) dragging his coffin behind him through the mud, you know you’re in for something special. Mere moments after our main man wanders into town , he’s forced to massacre the local scumbags, with the aid of the Gatling gun he carries in his coffin; and it isn’t long before more hot lead starts flying, and the bodies start piling up in one of the greatest GGM (Gatling Gun Massacres) of the genre. Like Toshiro Mifune’s Yojimbo and Eastwood’s Man with No Name, Django begins playing two rival gangs against each other (one of which is a freaky KKK-type group). There are more shoot outs, more bodies piling up a double cross or two, and in the end, Django must face an army, with both of his hands smashed to bloody pulps.

Although not his first western, and arguably not his best, Django is the film that established Corbucci as a force to reckoned with in the genre, and would be followed by some of the best westerns to come out of Europe. Part of what makes this film incredible is the star-making performance of 25 year old Italian actor Francesco Sparanero, better known as Franco Nero. Like so many of the other gunslingers to appear in the Eurowesterns of the late 1960s, Nero was little more than an imitation of Clint Eastwood, just as Django was little more than a rip-off of A Fistful of Dollars. But just as Django proved to be a worthy film in and of itself, Nero proved himself to be far more than an Eastwood imitator.

Nero emerges as one of the baddest motherfuckers to ever appear on screen, and is at his gritty best in Django, embodying the pasta pistolero. This cat has more charisma and talent (even when his voice is terribly dubbed by an American actor) than any of the tough guys currently working in film. Nero’s first spaghetti western was Albert Band’s Tramplers. He also appeared in films like the musical Camelot, as Sir Lancelot; and John Huston’s The Bible…In the Beginning, where he co-starred as Abel. But it’s Django that catapulted him to super stardom. And even though other leading men like George Hilton and Tomas Milian would appear in more spaghetti westerns than Nero, none of them could come close to his macaroni machismo.

Django would prove to be one of the most popular spaghetti westerns of all time, giving birth to a sub-genre of over thirty other films, all with the name Django in the title. But don’t be fooled, ’cause damn near all of the other Django films out there have nothing to do with this film, or this character. These other Django films merely bare the name in an attempt to cash in on the popularity of this movie—the originator. Hey, no one ever said the Italian film industry wasn’t even more parasitic than its American cousin.

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