Spaghetti Westerns, Part 1

I happened to comment in a previous post that I’ve been watching a lot of westerns. More specifically, I’ve been watching a lot of spaghetti westerns – westerns produced or directed by Italians during the sixties and seventies. I’ve fallen so much in love with these stylish and violent films that I feel a duty to encourage others to explore the genre for themselves. With this in mind, I am going to post a whole series of reviews, spotlighting what are for me are some of the most enjoyable and interesting spaghetti westerns made.

Django (Django) (1966)

Mention spaghetti westerns to anyone with a passing knowledge of film and they’ll invariably think of the movies of Sergio Leone. Leone defined the genre and it is impossible to discuss the importance of spaghetti westerns without considering the influence of this brilliant director.

Unfortunately, Leone’s films are so strong that I can’t help feeling they have been allowed to eclipse the work of other directors. I do intend to write something up about Leone’s films in due course, but right now I am more interested in the obscure titles.

Sergio Corbucci’s Django is not my favourite spaghetti western, but it’s a good film and a great bridge to the genre beyond Leone. After Leone, Corbucci is the most noteworthy of spaghetti western directors, whose work I have found consistently entertaining.

In a plot reminscent of Leone’s Fistful of Dollars, Django rides into an isolated town and plays a gang of racist Ku Klux Klan types against ruthless Mexican bandits. Django, played by Italian actor Franco Nero, was popular enough that the film spawned a slew of sequels and imitations. Unfortunately, later incarnations lacked the screen presence of Nero, whose steely, blue-eyed intensity made the first film.

Django demonstrates that other Italian directors were keen to explore the same ideas as Leone, but Corbucci’s style is much darker and dirtier. His films are characterised by scenes of mutiliation and brutal violence, often inflicted on his heroes and heroines, and this has led to many critics dismissing him as an exploitation director. This is a great shame, because Corbucci was an intelligent filmmaker and at the core of Django are some powerful themes. I urge you to give it a go and will leave you with the trailer.


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