I love the Spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone with the Dollars trilogy, for me, eclipsed by the ultimate Western, Once Upon a Time in the West, unrivalled in my eyes since my first viewing many years ago. While Leone’s work is considered the definitive example of this subgenre of traditional Westerns, there have been other films, including Django which was directed by Sergio Corbucci. Inspired by Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars, Corbucci looked to make it big with his own film and succeeded…in some respects.
Django has a similar premise to that of A Fistful of Dollars which in turn took its inspiration from Akira Kurosawa’s samurai classic, Yojimbo. In Corbucci’s film, set in the US after the Civil War, we have a wandering stranger named Django (Franco Nero) who drags a coffin behind him whose contents are unclear. At the outset, Django rescues a prostitute named Maria (Loredana Nusciak), who is in the middle of a tussle between Mexican bandits and former Confederate soldiers. Offering Maria protection, he ends up in a remote town with a brothel and not much else. Well, there’s a bar as well. Django discovers this is a neutral zone of sorts and there is a difficult struggle between the ex-Confederates led by Major Jackson (Eduardo Fajardo) and the Mexican bandits led by General Hugo Rodriguez (Jose Bodalo). Will Django favour one side over the other? And what is his purpose in being here in the first place?
Playing out similarly to Yojimbo and A Fistful of Dollars, Django became notorious upon release for the excessive use of violence. By today’s standards it will seem fairly tame but back in the 1960s I can imagine it was a big deal and it led to the film being banned in places. As a Spaghetti Western, many of the right ingredients are in place with some terrific set-pieces and combat sequences. However, the film is painfully short at just under 1½ hours and beyond the violence it doesn’t offer anything spectacular. Franco Nero looks the part as the protagonist but his voice was dubbed by Tony Russel and some of the dub work here doesn’t look great, I’m afraid. The supporting cast are okay but there is no one memorable unlike Leone’s films. The highlight was undoubtedly the mysterious coffin that Django drags around, its contents I will not reveal, but, believe me, the revelation was worth the wait. This isn’t a bad Western but in a crowded field, there are many better ones than this.
Verdict: A pretty standard Spaghetti Western with some good combat scenes, very violent, but underwhelming as a whole.