The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

Announcement

Announcement

Hi everyone, it's been a while since I checked the page, and I wanted to make a few announcements.

First and foremost, it appears a dubious site has claimed the old url, meaning any link in any review that goes to the old mattmovieguy url is corrupt. I'm in the process of trying to remove them all, but it's a lot! It's best not to click on any link without hovering over it first to make sure it doesn't have mattmovieguy in the url.

Second, it appears since my last trip to the blog, Photobucket has decided to charge for third party hosting, meaning none of my images are appearing anymore. That's simply an aesthetic issue, but still annoying.

Thank you all for your patience, and again, hopefully this will all be fixed soon.

--Matt

Friday, January 15, 2010

Django (1966)

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For this week's wild card post, I decided to make up for the treatment Franco Nero got in my review of Enter the Ninja. The truth is, he was The Stash for that film, but in Django, he was something else-- a forerunner to the modern action hero, the lone gunman who can tackle seemingly insurmountable odds. So as much as this is an apology review for Franco Nero, it's also a look at one of the greatest influences on the kinds of films we love here at the DTVC.

Django has Nero as the eponymous gunslinger who enters a border town caught in the middle of a struggle between the KKK on one side, and Mexican bandits on the other. He's got a score to settle with the KKK leader, Maj. Jackson, so he starts by killing most of his men. Then he teams with the bandits, raids a Mexican fort for its gold before Maj. Jackson can get it, only to have the bandits try to keep him from his half of the gold. They catch him, crush his hands, and now he's forced to confront the Jackson in that state. Will Django do it?

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Obviously this is amazing. There was a 13-minute featurette on the DVD, and it said the movie was banned in various countries for being so gruesome. A guy gets his ear cut off in a manner that is so fake you can see the ear on his head while the bandits shoot him. That's it. Compare that with The Dark Knight, which was rated PG-13 and made hundreds of millions worldwide, and features plenty of carving of bloody smiles, explosions, a gross burnt face. Not only that, but The Dark Knight was an hour longer than Django and actually covered less ground. What's most amazing, is comparing the heroes Batman and Django, because Batman is really cut from that Django mold, but you can see where the new Batman really misses the mark. Nero is smooth, yet vicious and cold-hearted when he needs to be. This new Batman couldn't sit in a bar and in one motion take out five guys without making it look silly-- and that hilarious voice. I still don't get what that was about. They just don't make 'em like Django anymore.

Imdb lists this as a Yojimbo remake, which I think is only partially true. I'm not talking about the film's Italian Neo-Realist influence either, I mean just in overall story. While Sanjuro comes into town with the purpose of playing both sides against each other, Django has a grudge against the Major, and his ultimate goal is to take him out. When he teams up with the bandits, his plans aren't to leave on bad terms, but when they won't let him have his gold, he has to improvise. Yes, it had Yojimbo elements, but to call it a straight up remake leaves something to be desired. Also, in the making of featurette, there's no mention of this being a Yojimbo remake.

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Now to Mr. Nero, aka The Stash. I admit I was wrong in not calling more attention to his great work in Django when I poked fun at him for Enter The Ninja. The truth is, a lot of these Westerns, including this one, I saw a long time ago. Growing up, my dad used to watch Westerns all the time, and that was where the bulk of my exposure came from, including Django. What I realize now is at 10 I didn't have the capacity to get these films like I do at 30, plus, advances in technology, especially with unrated DVDs, make the versions of these films better now than the cut, pan-and-scan, (in some cases) dubbed versions I watched on TV.

Of all the myriad sub-genres in cinema, I think none are as fascinating to me as the Spaghetti Western. It not only gives us an idea of how another culture sees us, but it tells us what that culture values over what we value. While our Westerns depict heroes etching out order in an atmosphere of lawlessness, the Italian ones are all about the untamed and uncivilized. I think for them, their world has been a pillar of civilization for centuries before they were born, and to have this other world that's open, perilous, adventurous, with Natives and bandits everywhere, and the man who wins is the man who wants it the most, is probably romantic. We, on the other hand, look at that same world and think "let's get it on the grid, let's throw down a JC Penny, and let's make it safe for families." Our goal is for the Ghost Town to prosper, for the bad elements to be vanquished, and for the Italians, they want the Ghost Town to exist in perpetuity so they can visit and escape the civilization they've always known.

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I was not expecting that last paragraph to be as long-winded, so I'll make this one on Italian Neo Realism short. The last scene (which I put the image of above) hit me as something very familiar, and I couldn't figure out what it was. Then, in the featurette, the set designer mentioned being a fan of Roberto Rosellini, and I was like "That's it, Flowers of St. Francis!" There was more than just that scene, it was throughout the film: the mud, the crosses, the buildings. In terms of subject matter, no, this wasn't Italian Neo Realist at all, but in terms of aesthetic, Django had it in spades.

If you haven't seen this, or haven't seen it in a while, throw it on your Netflix queue. The Blue Underground version, which is what I got from Netflix, is great, and you'll love the featurette too. One of my favorite parts of that was finding out the bad guys had hoods because the only extras they could get were ugly people, because another film in the area beat them to all the good looking ones.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0060315/

2 comments:

  1. This is definitely a fun western. Also great is the theme song, which dates the movie, but is still good, kitschy fun.

    Glad you gave Franco Nero another shot -- now, if you feel the need to make fun of him again, just look to the 80's film TOP LINE.

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  2. I think my next Nero one will be Campaneros, but Top Line sounds great. The problem with that one is irs not easily available. Amazon doesn't even link to it from imdb.

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