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Clearly intended as an Italian version of Clint Eastwood’s Fistful of dollars, Django is an appealing Western revenge tale designed for a male 8th-grade mentality. Stunningly simple-minded and sadistic, the film offers plot turns and surprises that generate unintentional humor and lead to a thrilling and satisfying climax.
Reportedly Quentin Tarantino lifted and ear-cutting scene from the film for his own Reservoir Dogs, and ramped up the sadism and overall brutality in both action and dialogue exchange. Here it feels like a playful school-yard trick with the violence coming without any real signal, dampening the overall impact of the violence. The reason for this may be the gap in viewer expectations between 1966 and 1988, and the natural ability of Tarantino to create suspense out of the most inane ideas.
It’s easy to understand why Quentin Tarantino has re-made Django with Leonardo DiCaprio as it’s full of moments in which he can vent some new post-modern takes on the religios imagery anchoring the film. There seems nothing Tarantino cannot or will not remake as Inglourious Basterds in 2009 allowed him access into the demographic of the Holocaust audience of serious film lovers, and the new Django will gain another group of viewers who admire the director’s lack of original stories.
Director Sergio Corbucci doesn’t have nearly the height of cinematic prowess that others like Clint Eastwood had at that time. Corbucci prefers to lay out simple sequences of action to supply a rationale for character motivation in his story about early American West that feels filtered through some scrim like a story having been retold through a third party. We never feel as if the storyteller here is giving us a first hand account, but rather a wish of what things felt like back then.
Although the movie gets to be pretty outlandish as it moves along, what with crack shot master marksman Franco Nero’s mystery man Django, able to shoot six men dead with a colt 44 from 20 yards away (it is impossible for even a real marksman to shoot accurately with such a double-action hand gun- I know from first-hand experience that the revolvers were good for close range but terrible for distances), to the funny fast-action movement inserted for his taking out his Gatling gun and mowing down a group of red-masked Klansmen.
It’s nice that the film touches on the racist elements that certainly were central to the settling of the west particularly after 1866 and Abraham Lincoln’s ascension to the top governing position in the white House, but the film never explores the basic causes of the Klansmen and their brutal and sadistic systematic killing off of the Mexican natives. Eduardo Fajardo’s Maj. Jackson is introduced excellently as he uses the Mexican boys as moving targets, a scene lifted by Steven Spielberg for his film Schindler's List as he has a German officer shooting errant refugees from high on a hill.
As for the performances, Nero is great- a pretty boy with pampered good looks to match any American movie star of the time. This was one of the actor’s earlier successes but he went on to play a wide varity of roles with equal screen weight. He played the conscience-challenged Sir Lancelot, best friend of Sir Arthur in Camelot in 1967; the gay ship captain opposite Brad Davis in Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Querelle in 1982; and cunning sadistic Esperanza, opposite Bruce Willis in Die Hard 2 in 1990. Nero’s handsome features and natural good looks allowed him to play particular aspects of character that may have gone unfulfilled in other actor’s hands.
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Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older