Monday, May 7, 2012

Django (1966)

Good morning!

I've survived the weekend! I was excited to see some of the new photos released from Quentin Tarantino's upcoming project, Django Unchained. If you're a big QT fan, you're probably already aware of his tendency to borrow-from-this, directly-lift-from-that to visually reference and name drop some of his big influences as a hardcore lover of cinema. But! Did you know about the classic 60's spaghetti western from which his new movie almost definitely takes its name?

The "D" in "Django is completely silent. In French, the "D" placed in front of the "J" makes it a "Juh" sound, instead of a "Shuh" sound. Because "Jango" sounds better than "Sssshango", right?
The more you know.
In college, I minored in cinema studies and one of the best perks of following that specialization were all the wing-ding electives you could take and actually get credit. For every boring core requirement like "Intro to American Film", you had at least one "Independent Movies in the 90's" or "German Cinema 1910-1980" per semester. One of my very favorite classes I took was "Special Topics in Italian Literature: Sandal Epics and Spaghetti Westerns", which was essentially an entire curriculum built around directors like Leone (the obvious) and Corbucci (the less obvious), and which randomly touched on some of the old Steve Reeve muscles-and-mythology pictures (why not?). The professor was a tiny Italian woman named Flavia, who would clack into class in cigarette pants and kitten heels every Tuesday and Thursday, her blonde hair piled high atop her head and dark, Sophia Loren sunglasses obscuring most of her face. EVERY. DAY. It was like an object lesson in "how to make entrance". You can see the course outline and a photo of the professor in her ever-present sunglasses here and here, respectively.

Have coffin, will travel.  
At any rate, we watched "Man with No Name" Eastwood trilogy of Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly along with lesser known titles like Companeros and My Name is Nobody. I developed, in the meantime, a huge crush on Franco Nero, smitten, smitten, smitten by his leonine good looks and consistently larger-than-life screen presence. Django has unfortunate voice dubbing (in later movies, Nero would do his own dubbing, thank GOD), but the story of a deserter Union officer during the last days of the Civil War dragging around a full sized coffin like it was a wheeled suitcase in an airport terminal, quick drawing bandito dudes left and right...well, it just doesn't get old for me.

A maaaaan called relation to Reinhardt.
Very much along the lines of Fistful of Dollars, excepting (spoiler alert) the addition of a freakin' HUGE hand-held Gatlin gun (my poor gun-savvy dad pipes up, "You couldn't hold that thing! Are you kidding me?! Is that guy serious holding that gun like it's a bazooka?" Me: "Pappy! Watch the movie! Save the commentary!"), Django is a mysterious stranger who wanders into town lugging a coffin behind him and sets up shop in the saloon, seeminly just waiting for plot lines and villains to show up so he can drop them. And do they ever! At one point, he's fighting a huge gang of Mexican another, the KKK (in strangely more-scary-that-white red head coverings) has to be dispatched to their respective deaths...he certainly keeps busy. This all leads up to a gunfight in the most unrealistic looking cemetary since my beloved sixties' series Dark Shadows. In spite of the, again, horrible dubbing (and I don't even usually mind dubbing...but good lord), it's quickly paced and a lot better than many of the stranger-comes-to-town Italian westerns that came out of the period.

I wonder if Tarantino will use any of the visuals/plot lines from this movie in his new Django...? While the stories sound different, you can never tell with that guy. And he's said in interviews that this film is kind of to be his spaghetti western...let's hope for the best!

Dum, dum, DUUUUUM!
If you look closely and past the stubble, you may recognize Nero from his performance as Lancelot in the late 60's movie adaptation of Camelot, with Vanessa Redgrave and Richard Harris. Interesting personal note: Redgrave and Nero were romantically involved during and shortly after the filming of Camelot, having a child together (Carlo Nero) before going their separate ways for thirty some odd years. In 2006, they not only reunited but married, and remain so to this day! Who does not love a story like that. I followed their love affair through sixties' issues of Cosmo (lots of bylines like "Why We're Not Getting Married!", ironically enough) back in high school, and was so suprised to see them back together in their golden years.
You can also listen to this AWESOME calypso track by the Destroyers that uses taglines from his movies to create a narrative about ye olde Nero ("I sells death to the highest bid-der...! If you want me, meet me face to face...that's your first lesson"), a mix cd staple from my college days.

Are you a spaghetti western fan? Are you excited to see how the new Tarantino movie progresses? Let a girl know!

Watch Django on Youtube:


  1. This was a very enlightening, educational and exceptionally superb post "My Pretty Baby Cried"! I was lured into the YouTube clip out of curiosity and stayed in the land of the Tube to find out what was going to happen and ended up wanting to see more! No wonder you enjoyed the class and gave appropriate accolades to Prof. Flavia ! Thanks for sharing and please, keep us all informed of your unique topics and interests. You are a joy to read.



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