Django Explained! A History Of Tarantino's Anti-Hero

Only a month now until Tarantino's Django Unchained hits the pictures, but Django has actually been around for nearly 50 years in many guises...
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Below is a trailer to ‘Django Unchained’, Quentin Tarantino ‘s new film.  Hooray. He loves b-movies and wearing his influences proudly and this is no different, being the newest member of a sub-sub genre, that of the spaghetti westerns with ‘Django’ in the title.

The original ‘Django’ was pretty good (see below) and proved to be sufficiently popular and useful as a template that many films were made which were supposed sequels,  rehashes or just plain rip offs. There are maybe 31 in total, but it’s impossible to tell because many were stock Italian/Spanish westerns with some recutting or even simply sticking ‘Django’ somewhere in the title for foreign audiences, several times if necessary – there are films with two or three different names. It helped the filmmakers that the Django character is often a strong, silent man without a name so can be anyone really. If you have made a cheap cowboy movie and it’s 1970 and you want distribution, just change the name to Django something and bob’s your uncle.

Here’s a wade into the Django depths. Some are ace, some are crap and some I simply could not find.  I imagine I didn’t miss much in most cases but there are some I’d like to see, for the gutsy titles alone:

Django The Last Killer

Halleluja For Django

A Noose For Django (Aka. No Room To Die)

One Damned Day At Dawn Django Meets Sartana

Django Kills… If You Live, Shoot!

And not forgetting

Don’t Wait, Django… Shoot!

Django (1966) D/W: Sergio Corbucci.

Unlike Tarantino, I knew nothing about this film, aside from genre and that it’s the original, sine qua non etc.  I didn’t know a whole lot more afterwards because my copy was in Italian, which I do not speak.  The dialogue may be brilliant, I may never know. I picked up the gist I think, anyway.

Django (Franco Nero) is a taciturn cowboy type and he drags along a coffin. Then some bad Mexican guys in sombreros turn up and whip a prostitute and then some other guys in red scarves arrive and shoot the first lot.  But then Django shoots the second lot of guys, really fast. Then they go to her whorehouse which is in a deserted town and all the hookers are sad because there are no punters but they still wear fancy knickers.  More of the red scarves are about and they shoot Mexicans till their hats fly off and I think they are racists. Aside from the scarves, it’s hard to tell who’s who. This being a spaghetti western, all of the extras are southern Spanish locals so we have to somehow believe that one lot of dark-haired, olive-skinned, moustachioed ne’er do wells are murdering another group (who look exactly the same) for racist reasons. Django shoots some more dudes but they come back for revenge. He hides behind a log with his coffin. A couple of dozen racist red scarves come to town and Django opens his coffin and guess what! There is no corpse in there but there is a corpse maker. He pulls out a massive Gatling gun and sprays most of the mooks dead with his massive gun, the scene is a precursor to the minigun in the forest scene in Predator, as well as many other gun porn shots.

Every man kills someone or is killed, aside from some work slaves, and every single woman is a sex slave, no exception.

The film continues in a similar vein. Django doesn’t smile or bother reloading but does kill loads of people, and he does it while looking cool. Tarantino clearly loves it with his heart and soul, and there’s one scene which he took directly, the ear-cutting moment in Reservoir Dogs.

Every single male character either shoots someone or gets shot. Every single female character is a prostitute. The only fight the women do is mud wrestling. This is Djangoland, and it’s oddly pure and simple, like later video games. Django himself is even more of a cipher than Eastwood’s nameless man so it’s clear to see why he became a stock character.

The theme song is notable on its own. It’s pretty dramatic and suggests Django has been dumped and not really over it. It’s terrific, a sort of very camp cowpoke Matt Monro.

Django Strikes Again (1987) D: Nello Rossati, W: Sergio Corbucci

Django 2 is the only official sequel with the original actor and character creator. It’s not all that, so the clip above is just a whistlestop jaunt through Django’s murders.  Note especially some of his weapons; a dynamite cigar, his massive fucking infinite bullet cannon and a grim reaper scythe.

There are some fun elements which amuse however. Every man kills someone or is killed, aside from some work slaves, and every single woman is a sex slave, no exception. Django goes around in a hearse, occasionally shooting fools out of the back of it. Donald Pleasance hams up a silly role. Tarantino takes some plot elements from this film too, it’s about slavery and the head slave is more loyal to her master than to the other slaves, which Samuel L. Jackson is set to do in the new film.

Django the Bastard (1969) D: Sergio Garrone (AKA The Stranger’s Gundown)

This is one of the many films which has a main character called Django but shares little else.  I only watched it because of the title. This one is also in Italian, but with enormous Spanish subtitles – proper enormous, they covered a third of the screen. In this one Django is a bit cavalier with money and shoots a lot of people but he isn’t much of a bastard. Maybe he slagged everyone else off, I don’t know, I couldn’t tell.

Viva Django! (1968) D: Ferdinando Baldi (AKA Prepare the Coffin! AKA Django Sees Red)

This one is not much cop. The opening credits are good, in the style of Iginio Lardani who did the Sergio Leone films, and the plot makes sense but it’s not nearly violent enough so who cares.

Sukiyaki Western Django (2007) D/W: Takeshi Miike

There are so many Django films, ‘Django Unchained’ isn’t even the first one Tarantino has been involved in.  He plays a cowboy cameo in this mental film by Miike, he of ‘Ichi the Killer’, ‘Visitor Q’ and ‘Audition’ notoriety. It’s the same plot as other westerns, but with some samurai elements, bringing back the influences to the home of templates like ‘Yojimbo’ and ‘Seven Samurai’.  The gangs sort of look like cowboys but they look more like J-Rock steampunks. Every actor (except QT) is Japanese, and they speak English - but not very well - some actors genuinely do not have a clue what they are saying.  It’s
stylized, pretty violent, very, very odd indeed and a total mess.


Gianfranco & Gian Piero Reverberi - Nel Cimitero Di Tucson (1968)

This is another soundtrack and it’s meant to be from ‘Django the Bastard’ but it wasn’t on my version. It’s hard to tell, the titles seldom match. It matters not, for this is a fucking brilliant tune and contains an instantly recognizable sample from an international behemoth megahit.

Like this? Check out these Tarantino articles…

Django Unchained: Tarantino Takes On The Western

The Greatest Film Quotes, True Romance: “You’re Part Eggplant…”

Quentin Tarantino: Accept No Substitutes

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