Monday, May 28, 2012

Django is the villain in DJANGO!

DJANGO is the ultimate example of the word 'extreme' in the Italian western genre.  It is violent and shocking with it's use of gore   The body count is the highest in the genre too as far as I know.  Bad guys are blasted left and right flailing their arms in the air or clutching their bullet riddled stomachs as they spin dead face first into the muddy streets of the soon to be ghost town.  DJANGO is the reason why we watch Spaghetti Westerns. From what I understand both Sergio Corbucci and Sergio Leone both saw YOJIMBO and decided to make a western based off that movie.  While director Sergio Leone completely ripped off Akira Kurosawa's YOJIMBO with a nearly shot for shot remake titled A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, the other Sergio made a violent messy film that was merely inspired by the samurai classic.  Both Italian films have rival gangs pitted against each other by a mysterious gunman.  Both are stylish and violent with unique visuals like  Eastwood in the serape and Django pulling behind him a muddy coffin.  But what makes DJANGO a more interesting film is the character of Django himself.  Eastwood's character is clearly the hero who kills for money but has a heart of gold.  We have seen that character a billion times before.  Django on the other hand is the main villain of the story who cares for nothing but money.  He is one S.O.B. who happens to be a B.A.M.F.

So the movie starts out with some poor woman named Maria trying to cross a bridge but instead is tied up and bull whipped by a group of Mexican bandits.  Django dressed in a Union soldier uniform is watching from a nearby hill.  Then BANG! all four bandits drop dead.  Before you can say "Hey, I only heard one shot!" another group of villains emerge from another hill.  They shot the bandits at the same time.  Not to be outdone by their rivals in the mean department the new bad guys saved the woman just so they can tie her up to a cross and burn her alive.  These guys are part of a gang that is like the K.K.K. led by the dastardly Col. Jackson who apparently really hates Mexicans.  Django appears before them.  They all have a blah-blah-blah back and forth then suddenly Django blasts them all saving the woman from certain doomy-doom-doom.  If you were paying attention you would have seen your first clue as to the moral character of Django.  Django draws first.  Normally the hero waits for the bad guy to go for his gun first with the hero being so fast that he can draw, fire and kill in an instant.  Django is quick but he isn't interested in being good.  Don't let the fact that he just saved an innocent woman from death fool you.

After mowing down a hundred red hooded clans men in the muddy streets of the a run down town with a Gatling gun, Django strangely lets Col. Jackson escape.  We learn that Jackson killed Django's wife.  So when given the opportunity to kill Jackson twice Django abstains.  Why?  Hugo and his merry men of marauders shows up and reclaims the broken down town.  Hugo is a self appointed general who is planning a revolution in Mexico.  He and Django are good friends.  In times past Django saved his life in prison.  It is kind of a weird back story for Django.  He must have been gone from his wife for a very long time to be in prison and fight in the Civil War.  Jackson doesn't seem to even know who Django is.  They don't really have a back story together.  Jackson just killed Django's wife and that is it.  I guess that is a good thing because the movie doesn't get bogged down in boring flashbacks or long winded tales of who did what to who back in the day.  DJANGO just speeds along to the next violent set piece. 

Django reveals to Hugo that Jackson has a bunch of gold in a fort and with his mens' help they can all be rich.  I can only assume that is why Django did not kill Jackson.  He wanted to make sure Jackson put his gold in the fort.  Hugo is impressed with his old pal Django.  Not only did he wipe out Col. Jackson's gang he also returned Maria back to the flock.  That is right.  Django saved Maria to ensure that his standing with Hugo was solid.  This film should have been titled DJANGO THE BASTARD!  So Hugo, eager to fund his revolution, raids Jackson's fort and steals his gold.  That night Django betrays his old friend and steals all the gold for himself.

Every move he has made to this point in the film was simply to steal all the gold for himself.  Revenge was never in the equation.  That is pretty unique for a simple western.  This is why Django is the villain.  DJANGO is similar to a caper film.  Hugo maybe bad but he didn't betray Django.

Unfortunately for Django life is a bitch and he loses all the gold in quick sand and his former ally Hugo has his men run over his hands with horses.  With his hands pretty much destroyed the 'evil' Django is perished and replaced by the good Django who realizes that his destiny is to kill Jackson for the murder of his wife which he does in splendid unrealistic fashion.

DJANGO is a near perfect Euro-Western.  There is one really slow part where Django is sneaking out of his hotel room on his way to steal the newly acquired gold but other than that DJANGO moves quickly.  A ton of people die in this one and it gets a little gruesome from time to time.  At one point this guy gets his ear cut off and fed to him.  That is pretty graphic for a mainstream film.  This scene inspired the ear cutting off scene in RESERVOIR DOGS.  Many movies were called DJANGO after this but none lived up to the hype the name invokes including the official sequel DJANGO STRIKES AGAIN.  Hopefully DJANGO UNCHAINED does.  Probably won't though.  Most likely we will get another movie about people sitting at tables talking about stuff in a clever manner.  Stop going for the Oscar, QT!

I wonder if DJANGO inspired elements of TOMBSTONE.  Both have a second in command villain named Ringo and both have a gang that is identified by their red sashes.  Makes me think.  Watch DJANGO and THE GREAT SILENCE back to back.  Best double feature ever.


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