Django (1966)

Everyone’s getting excited at the moment by Tarantino’s Django Unchained; being me, I choose instead to go back to the source. It was quite amusing, cos it struck me that it was right that Tarantino should have made a “Django” movie; apart from the racial undercurrent in the original that his one seems to possess (or whatever it is that Spike Lee’s pissy about), there’s also one scene that he clearly knocked off for one of Reservoir Dogs‘ more celebrated moments… except that Django goes further with said scene, and I actually burst out “oh FUCK” while watching it. Needless to say, that scene caused the film a lot of censorship issues, including a 27 year ban in the UK; but while the quantity and explicitness of the violence herein has obviously been greatly exceeded many times since 1966, there’s a certain kind of nastiness underlying it here that’s still quite visible, giving the film a flavour that’s still kind of unpleasant even now. The film made a star of rising actor “Frank” Nero, as the drifter wandering through the border states carrying a coffin behind him in search of revenge, landing in a barely-there town amidst a battle between Mexican revolutionaries and a Klan-ish racist group trying to eradicate them. Nero’s enigmatic presence in this field of combat, needless to say, will not particularly improve matters. I was actually surprised this was shot flat (1.66) rather than Scope, but I don’t suppose anyone expected it to be the megahit it became so the money wasn’t there for it… at this remove it’s still kind of possible to understand that success, too, in 1966 it must’ve represented something not new as such (it obviously cops some inspiration from Sergio Leone’s films) but certainly an advance on what already existed. Some of the action is still quite tremendous (Django’s theft of the gold from the Mexicans is a brilliant sequence) and the unfolding of the story keeps you guessing as to whose side Django’s really on. Lots of fun.

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