1 Hr., 30 Mins.
Django / Django Strikes Again February 5, 2019
Licia Lee Lyon
1 Hr., 36 Mins.
trawling, unlikable bore.
As it opens, we learn that Django, now weathered and ponytailed, has given up his lawless life in favor of a monastic one. He now goes by Brother Ignatius, and resides in a secluded temple. His retirement, though, proves itself short-lived. When he learns, via a dying ex-lover, that he has a long-lost daughter, and that she’s been kidnapped by an arms dealer and slave trader (Christopher Connelly), rescue becomes the name of the game.
Although Django Strikes Again is notable for being the only official sequel to the 1966 movie, it is better left an unwatched factoid: it is a tacky and one-note follow-up. Its 96 minutes, ridden with fetishistic slave-centric imagery and incongruous location-hopping, move sluggishly — and it doesn’t help that we more often track the dramas of uninteresting side characters. (Django goes from magnetic wanderer to one-dimensional action-hero cutout, making a habit out of coming out from the shadows to inflict surprise violence.) The only way to remedy its ills is, I suppose, re-watching Django.
Django Strikes Again: D
ero, who was wary about taking on the part at the outset — he was looking for “serious” roles at the time — would not personify the mythologized Django again for another 20 years. When he finally reprised the arguably career-defining role in 1987’s Django Strikes Again, the thrill, unfortunately, was gone. Shot in Colombia, and directed by Nello Rossati as if it were a straight-to-video Dolph Lundgren star vehicle, the movie is a
and I remember actors like Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, who were shooting their own films in that area, they all came. And Terence Young, the film director, saw it three times. That’s when it started to strike me that the film was something special.”
When production on Django began in the winter of 1965, ideas of it being “special” were mostly nonexistent. Though its co-writer and director, Sergio Corbucci, had a definite artistic vision as principal photography began — it was to be a reworking of Akira Kurosawa’s samurai movie Yojimbo (1961) — financial promise was what undergirded morale throughout its two-month shooting schedule. Corbucci had been approached, in the first place, to direct Django by the fledgling producer Manolo Bolognini. The latter's first and very recent filmmaking foray, the mystery thriller The Possessed (1965), had tanked at the box office. He wanted to retrieve his sizable losses. Corbucci also resolved to outperform his friend Sergio Leone’s epochal A Fistful of Dollars (1964), a film oft-credited as the first Spaghetti Western, a subgenre whose minimalism, austere violence, and Italian backing set it apart from its American variants.
Yet Django, which starred the ice-blue-eyed Nero as the eponymous anti-hero, proved itself more than a savvy financial maneuver and a rebuttal. It came to be totemic for the Spaghetti Western. Even though it did not see proper U.S. distribution until 1972, its synonymy with the subgenre was pretty immediate. Not only did it embody and typify soon-to-be recognizable visual and narrative tropes — extreme violence, limited dialogue, tight camerawork, pulpy scoring. The name Django became an inextricable part of the subgenre, too. More than 30 unauthorized sequels were released by the time Nero returned to the part for 1987's Django Strikes Again. Curiously, only a trickle of them actually feature the character. Most of the “sequels” were unrelated to the foundational story, and disingenuously put the protagonist’s name in the title for the sake of audience-attraction.
The original Django is tenuous compared to its Leone-directed counterparts. Though this was, in some ways, unavoidable. The budget is smaller, the stars aren't as habituated, and the running time is too economic to recreate their ambition and sprawl. It also feels improper to try to draw a connective line between Corbucci’s and Leone’s respective instincts. The films of Leone were imposing and deeply serious, while Django is most comparable to something you’d find in pulp magazine. I also thought about the features Sam Peckinpah churned out during his zenith, which gave rise to cinematic violence being disturbing and heinous rather than thrilling and cathartic. (At the time of its release, Django set a new precedent for onscreen carnage.)
It's unsurprising that the movie would come to be iconic. The opening image — that of our eponymous hero, clad in a dirtied Union uniform and a tattered black hat, trudging through the desert, pulling along a coffin — is indelible in itself. What narratively follows feels classic, too. Coming is a sagatic story characterized by double-crosses and racially charged warfare. In the film, the stealthy Django, who has traded military life for drifting, descends on a ghost town on the Mexico-United States border. His arrival has to do with his rescue of María (Loredana Nusciak), a mixed-race sex worker who is first terrorized by Mexican revolutionaries, then by a KKK-like group called the Red Shirts, after leaving the town's brothel.
Early on in Django, our anti-hero offers María protection. Once he safely returns her to the place from which she departed, though, Django discovers that the ghost town is something of a neutral zone between Mexican revolutionaries and the malevolent Red Shirts. Even then, the region is still frequented by both groups, and is vulnerable to their whims. In the movie, Django uses the discord to benefit himself — especially once he finds out that the Red Shirts’ leader, the hood-eyed Major Jackson (Eduardo Fajardo), has gold stashed.
In keeping with the Spaghetti Western’s nice-guys-finish-last ethos, Django is a loathsome movie. The atmosphere’s scorching, dusty, and brutal; every man and woman must fend for themselves; evil goes unchecked. Small-scale pogroms are commonplace. Close-up savagery — from a man being forced to eat his own chopped-off ear to our anti-hero’s hands being irreversibly crushed by the butt of a gun — is everywhere. Whereas most onscreen violence is meant to be stimulating, the kind found in Django underscores bleakness. Django makes for a riveting protagonist because, even though he’s acutely aware of how easily he could lose his life, there is an electrifying willingness to risk it all in order to reign supreme in the cruel otherworld in which he aimlessly moves about. Nero doesn’t possess the same perennial cool as the seemingly all-knowing Clint Eastwood, who starred in the majority of Leone’s masterpieces, but he’s assured all the same.
t wasn’t until around the time production commenced on Camelot (1967) that the 25-year-old actor Franco Nero sensed that the movie he had made immediately prior, a Western called Django (1966), had the potential to be big. “I had a print of Django with me, and one day I decided to do a screening for the crew and some people there,” Nero told Eric J. Lyman of The Hollywood Reporter in 2013. “They loved it so much I had to do three more screenings,