In this new feature to the website, Western Wednesday will aim to provide short and simple reviews for western films that have been released in recent times – all stemming from various different subgenres. In this first edition, three spaghetti western themed flicks will be under the microscope, all featuring the infamous Django character, ranging from 1966 to 1971 in terms of release, with some being far more iconic than others. As with every article and review on the website, this entire series will be spoiler-free.
The Django Edition
Spaghetti western’s were typically filmed and produced in Europe, emerging prominently in the 1960’s upon the praise received for Sergio Leone’s film-making style and international box-office success with the dollars trilogy, which was made up of three films, A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965) and more famously, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966). Many filmmakers decided to try and emulate the Italian’s style, consequently creating a new genre of western – the spaghetti western.
One of the staples of the Spaghetti Western subgenre would be that of Django, a fictional character that inspired a wealth of releases, mainly due to the loose copyright laws that were in place at the time of these pictures being released. Many of the productions simply featured a character named Django, but some strangely just capitalised on the name of the character in the title of the movies itself. Below, three Django films have been reviewed.
Django – 1966
To kick us off, we have perhaps one of the most well known Spaghetti Westerns of all time and the one that kicked off the Django saga. The film Django features a skilled coffin-dragging gunslinger that goes by the name, Django (Franco Nero), who later finds himself embroiled in a bitter feud between American’s in the south and Mexican revolutionaries. As noted, Django is widely known as being responsible for spawning an ungodly amount of unofficial sequels since its 1966 release.
With almost 200 deaths notched up in the ninety-one minute runtime, this exciting and wild western epitomises the genre it finds itself in, effortlessly blending a solid amount of action, suspense and violence. The setting is also superb, a muddy and almost desolate town with very few appealing features, which plays up perfectly with the direction and tone of the flick. There’s even a typical, yet classic, cemetery scene thrown into the mix too.
Many also know Django as being the inspiration behind Quentin Tarantino’s film Django Unchained (2012), although it is not a direct remake of this film, despite using the theme song in the opening credits and also starring Franco Nero. It’s fair to say that Django should be somewhere near the top of the list, when it comes to old-school Spaghetti Westerns and their impact on the genre.
Django, Prepare a Coffin – 1968
As noted, a plethora of unofficial sequels followed from the release of Django in 1966, but one that perhaps stands out among the majority is Django, Prepare a Coffin. Director Ferdinando Baldi had originally hoped Django would be played by Franco Nero once again, but ultimately Terence Hill adopted the role of the lead gunslinger. The story revolved around Django forming a small gang of outlaws to eventually extract revenge on the politician and outlaw responsible for killing his own wife.
As you’d come to except, there was action, emotion, suspense and most certainly mindless violence around each and every corner in this one, with some noteworthy action based scenes in the later stages of the flick. It’s also worth noting that George Eastman starred in the film, adopting the role of one of the lead antagonists Lucas, while Horst Frank played David Barry. Prominent figures in similar productions.
One of the better Spaghetti Westerns of the era and certainly one worthy of a watch, especially considering the homage paid at times to the original release “Django”, which starred Franco Nero.
Viva! Django – 1971
Another of the unofficial Django spin-off films was Viva! Django, also known to some as W Django, released in the early 1970’s and starring Anthony Steffen, with support stemming from Stelio Candella. The story was extremely straightforward and easy to follow, with Django himself, hunting down the renegade outlaws that were responsible for the death of his wife – similar to feature above.
Interestingly, one aspect of this one that stuck out for me, was the fact that it included not only a wealth of gunfights and manic violence in general, but also a fair share of humour too. The humour seemed to come across well in the early stages of the flick, being very slapstick in nature – not something that was prevalent in the previous films.
All in all, Viva! Django can be noted as being a thoroughly watchable Spaghetti Western, but probably a forgettable one at the same time, not particularly worthy of repeat viewing. There were some minor issues with the pacing too, which in turn made the film a little tedious as the runtime wore on.