One of the greatest Spaghetti Westerns, and without a doubt the most influential, Sergio Corbucci’s iconic masterpiece Django was originally banned in several countries, made an international star of Franco Nero and spawned over 50 sequels. On foot and dragging a coffin behind him, a mysterious drifter arrives in a bleak, mud-drenched town near the Mexico-US border. He saves the life of a prostitute and makes enemies amongst the motley band of vagabonds and outlaws who run the town. Courtesy of Argent Films and in collaboration with the Centre for World Cinemas, University of Leeds.
’I wanted to do it my way,’ said the director, ‘with cruelty, exaggeration, mud, crap, a lot of killings … in order to contrast with Sergio Leone who used to show a ‘sunny aesthetic’, with hot sand and bright sunshine. I was inspired by the Japanese style, by Akira Kurosawa’s movies…’
‘The film is noted for a very disturbing scene in which a character’s ear is cut off and he is forced to eat it. ‘When the movie was screened at Cola di Rienzo cinema,’ said Corbucci, ‘people started to scream in the movie theater and then, at the end of the movie, everybody was talking only about that scene. In that sense it was a very confrontational movie. There is a guy dragging a coffin in the mud, there is a machinegun in the coffin, his hands are going to be crushed by horses’ hooves… in the 1966 these were quite strong ideas…’
Corbucci often recalled that Burt Reynolds visited the set on the day when they filmed the famous ear-cutting sequence and the actor was completely shocked by what he saw. ‘What the hell was that?’, he asked. ‘This is the western all’Italiana, it’s a cinema of exaggerations. This scene you have just witnessed is one everybody will remember,’ replied Corbucci. Released during the Easter holidays in 1966, Django was well received by Italian audiences. Interestingly, in contrast to every other hero of the western all’Italiana, Django never rides a horse. Django is loved by everybody: from Alex Cox to Quentin Tarantino.
From Dizionario del Western all’Italiana by Marco Giusti (2007, Milano: Arnoldo Mondadori).
Translated by Marco Brunello and Lee Broughton.
BBFC Cert 15.