[The Monkey would like to take a moment to welcome the collective writing efforts of two of our new staff writers for this kind-of, sort-of, almost, review. They have decided to go by the pen name of BK Basement. They also happened to pick The Monkey's favorite spaghetti western. Yes, Leone deserves the adulation heaped upon him. Yet in all the hubbub surrounding him, Sergio Corbucci is often forgotten. Corbucci films, for me at least, stand out as what Spaghetti westerns are all about. They are gorgeous in both their cinematography and violence. If you want to see a master at the top of his game I suggest both this film, and the even more brutal The Great Silence.]
In preparation for the upcoming Quentin Tarantino remake/ sequel/ rebootquel, Django Unchained we started a review for the 1966 Spaghetti Western Django where an ex-Union soldier seeks revenge against the man who killed his wife in a gritty remake/ rip-off of A Fistfull of Dollars. We soon realized that Django’s pure awesomeness could not be contained to a single article. So, will this article explore the gritty violence of the Spaghetti Western genre? The Y-Chromosome kryptonite that is Django star Franco Nero? Nope. We couldn’t even make it through the credits of Django without having to stop and appreciate its grandiose theme song, creatively also called Django.
Why pick just the theme out of a movie filled with so many great moments, bizarre characters and graphic violence? Well the film gives you little choice, assaulting you as soon as the film starts. Blaring in over the soundtrack with loud guitars, a string orchestra and some real Italian swooning it comes on like an Elvis Presley rejected B-side. Though many westerns feature theme songs written by popular performers overplaying their credits (Shane, The Searchers) the credits are usually over a static background, separating them from the rest of the film. In contrast, the Django theme creates an immediate unison between character and song, which goes against the visual context provided. The opening scene in Django follows a muddy and unkempt union soldier dragging a coffin across bleak terrain; it establishes a dark and ominous tone for the rest of the film. It does this magnificently, using the spatial relations of the character and the harsh terrain to establish a mood that is far from the standard glossy Hollywood look.
Then, the theme song kicks in. It is loud, obnoxious and goes against all the imagery of the film. A swooning singer followed by a chorus of childlike voices takes you right out of the dark and dreariness. Contextually it doesn’t work and prepares you, not for one of the darkest Westerns ever made, but instead it leaves your expectations disoriented.
But, by the end it becomes one of the greatest themes from a film we’ve encountered in the Basement, and we’ve been singing along to it for days now. And not because it is bad and we are cold-hearted beings that pick on things like that. The film begins to use this theme to create one of the greatest Spaghetti Western characters out there.
The amount of Italian Machismo on display in Django begins to feed back into the theme as it is instrumentally reprised throughout. Highlighting the excess and almost comic book quality of the film, making Franco Nero seem larger than life in his singularly sentimental and tragic performance. The movie embraces the ‘love lost’ theme and rides it for everything it has. The tragic qualities of the theme that are hidden in the jarring introduction begin to seep their way into the film until the conclusion where the theme comes back in full force and puts a smile on your face. Despite the cheesiness of the theme, the film reaches such a high level of pure ‘badassery’, that it not only starts to work, but leaves you craving a cigar and a shot of whiskey like any good western should.
We set out to get background for Django Unchained and instead found ourselves head over heels in love with Django. This is where Quentin Tarantino’s magic truly lies, making you go out and watch movies you normally wouldn’t and discovering a great cinematic experience. Possibly we will get back on course and review Django, or we’ll review the theme song to Clueless next.