Austin Chronicle

DIRECTED BY: Sergio Corbucci

REVIEWED: 08-10-98

The first in a series of popular Django movies (i.e. Django the Bastard, A Few Dollars for Django, Django Shoots First, Vengeance Is a Colt .45) helped define the Italian tradition of "spaghetti Westerns" with a tormented antihero, extreme, sadistic levels of violence, and loud, heroic music. Django (Nero) trudges into town dragging a coffin behind him, guns down some bad guys from the gang that regularly terrorizes the town, and soon manages to get on the bad side of the gang and the Mexican revolutionaries both. We soon find out that the casket contains a large, early-model machine gun, and the townsfolk try to hire him for protection. The villains are so bad that they cut a man's ear off and then force him to eat it, a few people fall into quicksand that looks like a jumbo-size batch of pinto beans, and eventually the Mexicans torture Django by pummeling both his hands to bloody paws with a rifle butt, then letting horses stomp on them. The director follows in the footsteps of American directors like John Huston and Peckinpah by using the unforgiving Mexican desert almost like another character to itself. The Italians, however derivative their Westerns might have been, also put their own touches on the myth. Their Old West is one of grime, filth, weak whiskey and flat beer, amoral, trashy and bleak (later spaghetti Westerns would be informed with strong political overtones). Like the giallo genre also popular at the time, Django has a rather episodic, disjointed plot that favors brutal setpieces over a linear structure. The scenes of Django shambling miserably through endless gravy-like mud, dragging the casket like a millstone, are archetypal unto themselves.

--Jerry Renshaw

Capsule Reviews

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