Django: Spaghetti westerns never tasted so good

The other day thanks to my favorite Internet movie streaming service and a bad back that kept me on the couch with a remote gave me a special treat with the movie Django. Now some of you may already be fans of the film and so you’ll have to excuse me for the years I have spent having not added this to my list of films I have seen. I really have no excuse, after all I have found myself liking films that reference Django and the genre that surrounds it.

I’m going to get a few tomatoes thrown at me for saying this, but for years I have always found myself in love with the film Last Man Standing starring Bruce Willis and Christopher Walken. I’ve always been told that the film plays out like a spaghetti western and I always promised myself that some day I would immerse myself into the genre. I’ve even found myself respecting the work of directors like Tarantino and Rodriguez over the years and once again heard people talk about the spaghetti western genre and how it influenced their work as well. Yet for some reason, I still avoided diving headlong into the genre. Luckilly my instant queue and my bad back finally told me it was time jump into the genre and I found myself enjoying it quite a bit.

For those not familiar with the genre, a Spaghetti Western became popular in the 60’s thanks to the work of Italian director Sergio Leone. Leone was most famous for the Man with no name trilogy starring Clint Eastwood. His directorial style was often found replicated and spawned a whole sub genre of Italian inexpensive westerns that were cranked out normally surrounding a lone bounty hunter or bounty killer fighting against the Mexican resistance while traveling through town. Django definitely fits the bill, as it tells the tale of a gun man who is dragging a coffin with a machine gun into town and taking care of business when he messes with the KKK and the local Mexican resistance.  The film Django was so popular that it spawned hundreds of remakes and continuations of the story line in the spaghetti western genre.  Depsite the hundreds of films bearing the Django name, they are unofficial sequels aside from Franco Nero’s return to the role in Django 2.

What I found most fun about a film like Django is not the actual storyline, or cinema effects but the over all influences a film like this has on film making over the years. The lone, man of few words, anti hero character is always intriguing in a film and Django isn’t an exception to the rule. But it’s the little things I found the most enjoyment in, such as the character dragging a coffin as a gun case, that we have seen replicated in Rodriguez’s films, El Mariachi and Desperado (albeit his gun case was a guitar case) and a slew of other films . Or perhaps Taranitino fans may look to the famous ear slicing scene in  Reservoir Dogs as an example of something that has been borrowed from Django. It just so happens as well that Tarantino’s next film is called Django Unchained and anyone thinking that he may not be dipping into the spaghetti western genre with a title like that may need their heads examined. Last Man Standing with Bruce Willis seems to follow the plot of Django right down to the letter despite jazzing it up a bit and setting it during the mafioso days of the 40’s.  While I always thought I enjoyed Last Man Standing because it was  a “mob” film, it turns out I also enjoyed the Django references as well.  I was even able to see the influence cross over into modern day animation as the Johnny Depp Lizard film, Rango seemed to model itself after this genre in a much more clever, family friendly way.

I’d say that the film plays out feeling a bit dated but to me that was to be expected. The film was made on the cheap in 1966 and to mock it for lack of big budget effects and camera work is like mocking a penguin who can’t fly. It looks cheap and doesn’t sport an all star cast aside from the role of Django, played by Franco Nero. Despite this, Django kept my interest for the hour and half run time, most likely because it kept to a simple, straight forward plot. There were no amazing discoveries or twists and turns but instead played out like a perfect waltz that just so happened to rack up approximately 140 dead bodies at the hand of one gunslinger.

The point is even if you are not a fan of the western, Django may be a film that you might enjoy. As a whole, spaghetti westerns are an acquired taste, but I can’t help stress enough how much a simple film like this has helped develop the way modern film making is made today. From camera work to story lines, Django is one of many films in the genre that sparked a change in the way that people made films. Its influence on cinema alone should be enough to get any cinemaphile interested in the flick. However, if you’re still not getting hyped about Django, perhaps your inner Tarantino is calling out to you to check the flick out. Even if you don’t like “old stuff” wouldn’t you like to be in on the references that Tarantino is making? Immerse yourself in films like Django and you too can sound like the smart cinema guy at the party.

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