Django Unchained: Tarantino’s Spaghetti Western

Just saw this trailer for Django Unchained the new film from Quentin Tarantino. It’s been out for a minute but I wasn’t aware of it until last night. Since 95% of people have never seen any of the Django films let me give you some info about this film and why I am fucking exited about it.

I am a film nerd but it’s kinda under cover these days. I actually moved to NYC mostly so I could see films that I couldn’t see when I was living in Richmond, VA. I pride myself in having an eclectic taste and watching the Hollywood blockbusters as well as the underground indie stuff and all the film classics but my specialty is exploitation film.

I could give you 100 pages on exploitation film but let’s try to make it simple. Exploitation pictures were generally low budget films that exploited things like violence, nudity, etc to make a profitable fim cheaply. My personal favorite subgenre is Blaxploitation which “exploited” the previously untapped African American filmgoing market. Before 1971 there were pretty much no films catering to a huge American population. These films were made cheaply and often featured sex and violence to sell the picture.

As you probably know Quentin Tarantino is a huge exploitation fan and pretty much every film he makes is a reference to a bunch of them. Jackie Brown is actually named after exploitation director Jack Hill and his Blaxploitation classic Foxy Brown. His Grindhouse film Death Proof is just his own attempt at making a Carsploitation film and Kill Bill is just one reference after another.

Okay, so let’s get to the point cause this is beginning to drift. Tarantino is remaking Django. It’s been made 30 times and the original was pretty much a remake of a remake. Four years ago I reviewed Sukiyaki Western Django, the Takashi Miike remake of Django which actually featured Quentin Tarantino in an acting roll and I am going to quote that to you for some important background…

Let’s start with answering the question: What is a Spaghetti Western?

Spaghetti Westerns were Westerns made by Italian’s shot in Spain, primarily in the 1970?s. They used Italian actors to play Mexicans in the west. They also employed international actors and had them all speaking different languages to each other. The most well known of these movies were the Leone/Eastwood “Man With No Name” films… A Fistful of Dollars, A Few Dollars More and Good The Bad And The Ugly. In these films Clint Eastwood spoke English to the Italian actors speaking Italian. When the film was released in the States, Eastwood’s dialogue remained his own, but the Italian actors had their voices dubbed into English. This was reversed for the Italian releases. These films were generally low budget, but often ultra violent making them especially interesting to American audiences. These movies gained significant influence in the world of American filmmaking.

So the next thing we need to talk about is Yojimbo. Yojimbo was a samurai film made in 1961 staring Toshiro Mifune made by the legend Akira Kurosawa in 1961. It was about a samurai who comes to a small town that is stuck in a war between two rival gangs who run gambling houses. Yojimbo convinces one gang to hire him for protection and then plays the two gangs against each other, getting money on both ends. Despite my love for Kurosawa and Mifune it is not one of my top 5 favorite Samurai films… however two of it’s remakes are two of my favorite movies of all time.

The first of these was the previously mentioned A Fistful of Dollars in 1964. This put Spaghetti Westerns on the map and made both Eastwood and Sergio Leone famous. Only 2 years later a bad ass motherfucker named Sergio Corbucci decided to remake A Fistful Of Dollars… only this time he added more blood. You know that scene in Reservoir Dogs when Mr. Blonde cuts off that cops ear? Well he stole that from Corbucci’s remake 1966 Django. Corbucci, while not as well known as Leone, is probably just as amazing, and definitely way more fucked up.

Okay so now Tarantino is finally doing is proper remake of the Django story and I could not be more excited. By the look of it Tarantino is not only referencing the original Django film but other Corbucci films as well. Specifically I see references to my favorite Corbucci film “The Grand Silence” which featured Klaus Kinski as a bounty hunter. The choice to cast the German actor Christopher Waltz seems as a bounty hunter seems like a direct homage to Kinski’s roll. The Grand Silence also features a lot of amazing snow scenes which you don’t see a lot of in westerns and you see a lot of great snow shots in the Django Unchained trailer.

This write up has become long and confusing and is a perfect example of why I started writing about film on my site but I hope this gives you some background about the movie and I hope you search out some of these amazing Spaghetti Westerns. Anything by Leone or Corbucci is very worth picking up. Lastly here are a few clips from some films so you can see what the hell I am talking about.

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