Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.


With his invention of the spaghetti western in 1964, Sergio Leone created a genre that threatened to overwhelm European filmmaking for a few years. Following A Fistful Of Dollars, European-made westerns seemed to be everywhere, most of them possessing only a spark of Leone's potent combination of action, stylish direction, and cynical humor. Still, enough did it effectively to keep the genre alive and well outside Leone's own films. Among the most popular non-Leone spaghetti westerns, critic-turned-director Sergio Corbucci's Django (1966) attained an only somewhat deserved notorious reputation for its violence. After Peckinpah, nothing's shocking about Django—although a scene in which a man is fed his own ear comes close—but it's not hard to see why it caught on. Playing a slightly cuddlier variation on Clint Eastwood's "Man With No Name," Franco Nero stars as Django, a hero who not only has a name but a catchy theme song that opens and closes the film. (Although even the melodramatic song doesn't outdo the trailer's description of Django as "an audacious man of action capable of a tender, hopeless love which could only last a day, but a day which was worth all eternity.") In a slight variation on the Yojimbo-by-way-of-Fistful plot, Nero plays a stranger who drifts into town dragging a coffin behind him. There, he finds himself caught between two warring parties: a group of swarthy banditos and a racist ex-Confederate officer and his army of Klan-like followers. The action that follows doesn't stray too far from formula, nor does it come close to Leone's film, but it's stylishly entertaining enough to serve as a passable time-filler, particularly when its second-rate hero takes to wielding an oversized (and anachronistic) handheld machine gun. Django proved so popular in Europe that it inspired more than 50 unauthorized sequels, including such colorfully titled pictures as Ballad Of Django, Even Django Has His Price, and A Man Called Django. Django's only official sequel would come more than 20 years later with 1987's Django Strikes Again, a belabored, confusing, deeply unpleasant movie. Nero returns, this time with a beard and under the direction of Nello Rossati (The Sensuous Nurse). Sadly, the film, which pits Nero against an evil slavemaster and his minions, feels more like a bad Chuck Norris movie than a western, spaghetti or otherwise. (The fact that it was filmed, rather conspicuously, in South America doesn't help). Django Strikes Again essentially put an end to the official and unofficial Django franchises, but fans needn't give up hope: A new incarnation is reportedly in the works.


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