#17 Django (dir: Sergio Corbucci, 1966)
Although revered today, back in the 1960s and into the 1970s ‘spaghetti westerns’ were seen as poor imitations of the real deal. John Ford, Howard Hawks, Anthony Mann: they made westerns. The three Sergios (Corbucci, Leone and Sollima) sniffy critics would say, made poor imitations. Burt Kennedy, in an interview with John Ford, told the Hollywood legend Italian westerns were ‘no story, no scene, just killing.’ Well Burt Kennedy was dead wrong.
Italy in the 1960s rivalled Hollywood for production. Everybody was making films at Cinecitta and the other studios around Rome. International money allowed for co-productions to shoot exteriors in Spain (as spaghetti westerns would do) and film the interiors hundreds of miles away at Cinecitta, or even at Madrid’s studios. They were factory style productions and some were obviously more superior than others. There’s literally hundreds of Django titles but there’s only one Franco Nero and only one true Django.
Yes, Sergio Corbucci’s 1996 picture unleashed a torrent of imitators in its wake. The film itself riffs on Sergio Leone’s work which in turn lifted its material from Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo. This was indeed one of the gripes by critics who saw them as exploiting other works and creating inauthentic, blood soaked imitations of ‘better’ titles. It was people such as Christopher Frayling whose writing and critiques paved the way for spaghetti westerns to be treated, if not with respect, then at least admiration of some kind. If you’ve never read his book ‘Spaghetti Westerns: Cowboys and Europeans From Karl May to Sergio Leone, I highly recommend it.
Django is brutal and so loved by Quentin Tarantino, he’s nicked the character name for his forthcoming western, Django Unchained. QT also robbed the ear slice scene in Django and put it in Reservoir Dogs (though depicted off-screen). Django, with his Gatling gun concealed inside a coffin, is on a roaring rampage of revenge in a bordertown but he seems way more interested in gold stashed at a near by fort. And why is he called Django? The character has his hands mashed up good and proper yet can still shoot his pistol like an ace. Sergio Corbucci and his brother, Bruno, thought it would be fun to name their character after Django Reinhardt, who played jazz guitar like a demon despite missing fingers. It is also a little known fact that Cannibal Holocaust director Ruggero Deodato shot the opening credit sequence and worked on Django as Assistant Director. Deodato and Nero, once friends, had a huge falling out. Rumour has it the falling out occured over a woman.
The Top Twenty Films Challenge is an inter-blog daily feature between myself and Laurent di Alberti at FilmLand Empire blog. Each of us will reveal our Top 20 favourite films. Today Laurent named Le Père Noel Est Une Ordure as his number 17. For the other Cinemart entries click here: Top Twenty Films Challenge.