One of the many great things about the comprehensiveness of Film Forum’s “Spaghetti” Western celebration is that it will be giving us many lesser-known and rarely-screened examples of the genre. Many people pretty familiar with the work of Sergio Leone, but one of the most prolific and terrific practitioners of spaghettis was Sergio Corbucci, who is spotlighted tonight starting with his profoundly influential Django. Again, I wrote about this one in my “Field Guide To ‘Spaghetti’ Westerns“, but here’s a slightly expanded take:
First of all, Sergio Corbucci’s productivity was pretty amazing during this period. Django is the second of three Corbucci movies released in 1966 alone! Once you’ve seen the movies though, it’s fascinating to consider that Corbucci made Navajo Joe and Django in the same year.
As I’ve noted, Navajo Joe is extremely violent, but compared to Django, it’s like a Diane Keaton romantic comedy. Django is ridiculously violent (that infamous ear scene from Reservoir Dogs was a lift from Django.) Also, at least Navajo Joe cracks a smile – Django is unremittingly grim. That may be due to the difference between the films’ two stars: Whatever else he may be, Franco Nero is no Burt Reynolds.
Franco Nero is a name that is going to come up many times on any discussion of this genre movies. He’s had a long career in Italian films, where he still works, alongside detours into international cinema with films like Enter The Ninja and Die Hard 2. In terms of box office, Franco Nero actually was their version Burt Reynolds, in a way — just not as funny. Nero appeared in a prodigious amount of Westerns and crime movies in this period – he was the go-to guy for iconic Italian anti-heroes. It makes sense, I guess; he’s a striking guy who looks convincing in period costumes and can truly rock a mustache – he just isn’t always the most expressive actor (with some pleasing exceptions, as we’ll see down the road). He sure was game for all kinds of onscreen madness, though – Django is notoriously violent. Its most famous image is that of the lead character dragging a coffin around with him everywhere he goes. I won’t tell you what’s in it, but let’s just say that it’s not good news for anybody who crosses the guy.
Since it’s another spin on Yojimbo and I’m a huge Fistful Of Dollars guy, I’m not as big a fan of Django as I am of some other Corbuccis, but I’m in the minority there. Django was and still is immensely popular, and it incited several official and unofficial sequels, in many languages, and many involving Quentin Tarantino. The upcoming Django Unchained is an obvious homage, and it even has room for a cameo by Franco Nero. (He’s the guy on the right!)
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