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Lately, directors have been opening up to the press about the obscure influences that are coloring their current features. In the New York Times Magazine, Looper director Rian Johnson revealed that T.S. Eliot and Shakespeare helped shape the narrative of his current science-fiction thriller. And in the same outlet, Quentin Tarantino’s peeling back the onion on his highly anticipated Django Unchained.
And as you might have already guessed, Italian spaghetti westerns cast a huge shadow of Django, even though Tarantino sets his movie in the American South. And not just any spaghetti westerns, but the films of Sergio Corbucci, specifically. “His West was the most violent, surreal and pitiless landscape of any director in the history of the genre,” Tarantino tells NY Times Magazine. “His characters roam a brutal, sadistic West.”
And in these descriptions of Corbucci’s Westerns, Tarantino tips his hand as to the bleak vision we’re likely in store for when Django opens on Dec. 25. He says:
“As time went on, Corbucci kept de-emphasizing the role of the hero. One movie he did, The Hellbenders, doesn’t have anybody to root for at all. There’s bad guys and victims, and that’s it. … When I actually put pen to paper for the script, I thought, ‘What will push the characters to their extremes?’ I thought the closest equivalent to Corbucci’s brutal landscapes would be the antebellum South. When you learn of the rules and practices of slavery, it was as violent as anything I could do -- and absurd and bizarre. You can’t believe it’s happening, which is the nature of true surrealism.”
Corbucci directed the original Django back in 1966, with Franco Nero in the title role. (Look for the legendary actor to make a cameo in Tarantino’s film. I believe he was spotted in a trailer or commercial, already.) So you likely assumed that Corbucci’s filmography influenced Tarantino’s first Western. But now you know that if you’d like to do as much prep work as the notoriously prepared director before you head into Tarantino’s Django Unchained, start renting Corbucci’s past works.