Did you know that there is going to be TV show based on the character Django? Ms. Noomi Rapace is the only name I recognize in it, but stars Matthias Schoenaerts, who was… uh… DJ Cosmonaut X in Elektra, as well as being in many other movies I haven’t seen. But upon the announcement a cry went up in a small section internet: “How can you have a Django TV show if the character is white?” And I can totally see where they’re coming from; Django Unchained is most likely how most people today know the character. But Django–specifically the white Django–predates Unchained by almost 50 years. It’s very much a Nick Fury situation. Anyway, saddle up, buckos! We’re diving into some old spaghetti westerns! Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker!
The film opens with a man we know to be Django (Franco Nero) thanks to the title and theme song–the same one used in Django Unchained–dragging a coffin through the mud. He saves a woman named Maria (Loredana Nusciak) who is having just the worst day, having been whipped by a Mexican gang only to be “rescued” by dudes in red who want to burn her alive. Django rescues her for real with his incredible gunfighting skills and they head to a nearby town that’s stuck in the middle of the gang war between the forces of Major Jackson (the reds) and General Hugo (the Mexicans). Django has beef with Jackson, who killed his girlfriend some time ago, so he murders a few of Jackson’s men and tells the major to come back with more. What should be a one-sided fight against Django turns when he opens the coffin and unleashes the big ass machine gun he has in there. Jackson survives, but that’s part of his plan. Hugo and his gang swoop in and it’s revealed that he and Django go way back. Django suggests they raid the nearby Fort Charriba for its gold, which has the added benefit of pissing off Jackson even more. The heist is successful and they escape across the Mexican border, but Hugo doesn’t seem like he wants to give Django his share of the loot. One stealth mission later, Django, Maria, and the gold are on the run with Hugo’s men hot on their heels. A dreadful series of events see the gold lost to quicksand, Maria shot, and Django’s hands absolutely crushed by Hugo. But Hugo’s victory is short-lived as Jackson and the soldiers stationed at Charriba were waiting for the gang, ambushing and killing all the Mexicans. Once he’s sure Maria is safe, it’s down to Django versus Jackson. Picking a graveyard to meet in, our hero has to pull the trigger guard off his gun with his teeth while using the tombstone of his dead love as cover. But his jury-rigging works, and Jackson is finally dead. With that our hero walks off, most likely to meet up with Maria.
Picture this, if you will. A western that has a character with a mysterious past dragging around an item associated with burials that secretly holds one hell of a weapon. After reading that summary you’re probably focusing on Django, but doesn’t that also apply to Nicholas D Wolfwood from Trigun? Coffin, giant cross, it’s close enough. I can’t say for certain that Wolfwood is based off Django, but the parallels are too much to just dismiss outright. And because it always amuses me, the “D” in “Nicholas D Wolfwood” apparently stands for “Dokonokuminomonjawaresumakinishiteshizumetarokakora.” That has nothing to do with Django, but I just enjoy that fact.
Django has become a classic in the western genre. It has one official sequel (Django Strikes Again), one spiritual successor/reboot (Django Unchained), and dozens of unofficial sequels. A bunch of movies slapped the name “Django” into their titles in order to ride the hype train, even if the film was otherwise unrelated. It’s a violent film–especially for the time–but was successful enough that people wanted more. And why not, right? The story is based off of Yojimbo, so it tracks. Oh, right, this was inspired by 1961’s Yojimbo, as was A Fistful of Dollars. Hell, apparently Japan market the film as a full on remake of Yojimbo, so that says a lot right there.
The genre name of “spaghetti western” is actually pretty literal: they’re westerns made in Europe, usually Italy. Get it? “Spaghetti?” Look, I’m not the one who came up with the term, so don’t shoot the messenger. When you watch these films–typically set in North America–you start to notice that at least half the actors are clearly not speaking English and have their lined dubbed in. Django is almost all in Italian, but the version you find in America is the widely accepted English dub. The genre boomed thanks directly to Sergio Leone, an Italian director who made The Good, the Bad and the Ugly; A Fistful of Dollars; For a Few Dollars More; and more. Yup, those Clint Eastwood films your grandpa remembers fondly weren’t American productions. The entire western film genre was molded by these films, and Django was absolutely one of them. So the TV show casting a bunch of European actors is actually quite on brand!
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