Anniversary Post: Django

Django 1966

On this day, 6 April, in 1966, Django was released. Co-written and directed by Sergio Corbucci, it has his usual locomotive-level subtlety. At its time, it was considered extremely violent. They didn’t even let adults see it in the UK until the 1990s, which is, you know, ridiculous. Today, it seems pretty tame.

But nothing has taken away from the film’s effectiveness. Westerns are, at their core, about the conflict of Good and Evil. The only thing that determines whether I want to watch one is if the hero is suitably interesting.

The main villain, Major Jackson, is shaved and well dressed. He looks like a hero from central casting. Django, in contrast, is scruffy and drags around a coffin through the mud.

Why Django Works

But what really makes Django work is its over-the-top action that seems more like a Hong Kong martial arts film than anything by John Ford or Akira Kurosawa. Most of the time you don’t see Django shoot anyone. There are simply some gunshots and six men lay dead.

It’s hard not to compare Corbucci with Sergio Leone. I understand why the latter is held in such high respect. His films tend to be more artful. At the same time, they are also more self-indulgent. Leone usually believed that a scene that needed one minute should take five. Corbucci directs more like a storyteller. His pacing is perfect and nothing gets in the way of the drama.

Django plays as a very speedy hour and a half. Sadly, little effort was put into syncing the English version. The performances are fine, however; so you can try to avoid noticing. But it’s also interesting just how different the Italian and English performances are. You get a very different feel from the two versions. The Italian version is grittier and the English more comedic. So take your pick!

One thing just between us, I like Franco Nero a lot more than Clint Eastwood in this kind of part. Two decades later, he played Django again in Django Strikes Again.

There is one funny thing: the title. Django ends up with his hands crippled, so they named the character after handicapped jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt.

Also on 6 August

In Harm’s Way and one of my all-time favorite films, Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! were both released in 1965.

Actor Billy Dee Williams (The Empire Strikes Back) is 82 today, John Ratzenberger (Cheers) is 73, Marilu Henner (Taxi) is 68, and Paul Rudd (Dinner for Schmucks) is 51.

Screenwriter Dudley Nichols (Stagecoach) was born in 1895, director Ivan Dixon (Hogan’s Heroes) in 1931, and director Barry Levinson (Bandits) is 78.

Django Poster from Euro International Films via Fair use.

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