Django (Italy 1966)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 5/28/17
Cast: Franco Nero, Loredana Nusciak

Maria (Loredana Nusciak) is not having a good day. After being sold as a whore to a Mexican general, she runs away and is subsequently caught and tortured. A group of Texans come to her rescue, with the intent of burning her as an abomination of sin. Luckily for her, a mysterious man named Django (Franco Nero) just happens to be passing by and easily kills her would-be executioners. This brilliant opening sequence quickly establishes who the good guys and the bad guys are, and sets the tone for the rest of the film. Dragging a coffin behind him, Django and Maria spend the night in a deserted border town, which becomes Django's personal battlefield of revenge against a group of Mexican revolutionaries and Major Jackson's violent cult of religious racists.

The film is shockingly brutal and was even banned in the UK when it originally came out. Nevertheless, it was an instant hit that spawned dozens of copycat Django films that had nothing to do with Nero's character. Much like Sergio Leone's "A Fistful Of Dollars" (1964), it plays out more like a Japanese samurai film than a traditional Western, and Nero definitely channels Clint Eastwood's iconic drifter character in Django's appearance and demeanor. Franco Nero is fantastic as the stoic and brooding Django, and he delivers an extremely memorable performance. His piercing blue eyes and scruffy beard give him a dangerously alluring sex appeal, which makes him stand out among the rest of the cast. Competing in the sex appeal department is Loredana Nusciak, whose radiantly savage beauty is laughably out of place with the rest of the film. She's simply stunning, even though she does little more than cast intensely withering glances of defiance and disdain. Maria and Django seem to be made for each other, but the film leaves their fates unresolved.

The movie is beautifully filmed, even on its limited budget. The most laughable prop is Django's machine gun, which looks horribly fake and has a seemingly endless supply of bullets. Naturally, the belt feed doesn't work at all, so the gun never appears to consume ammunition or eject spent shells. It's clearly powered by magic, which may be why the god-fearing Jackson hates him so much. The music score is wonderful and punctuated by a very memorable theme song, which Quentin Tarantino would later recycle for his homage, "Django Unchained" (2012). The film is full of great moments and striking visuals, and one of the most amusing anecdotes is that Jackson's followers all wear red hoods because the extras were reportedly too ugly. While the pacing may be challenging for contemporary audiences, the film is never dull and it never overstays its welcome. "Django" is a defining classic in the realm of Italian Westerns and highly recommended for fans of the genre.