The film's plot sees Franco Nero play Django, a mysterious cowboy drifter who we initially meet trudging through a bleak, muddy landscape, dragging a coffin behind him. What's in the coffin? If you don't know, I'll leave it as a surprise (here's a hint, it's not a body). Anyway at the beginning of the film he rescues a prostitute called Maria from a group of bandits and escorts her to a nearby town. He finds the place is controlled by two warring factions. On the one side is the sadistic Major Jackson and his band of red masked former Yankee soldiers while on the other side is the equally sadistic General Hugo and his group of Mexican bandits. As Django wants revenge against Jackson he sides with Hugo and his men and helps them steal a large quantity of gold from Jackson. However it turns out Hugo has no intention of giving him his cut so Django decides to team up with Maria to steal his share. Will they get away it? Will Django get revenge on Jackson? What's in the coffin?
Corbucci's film also has a very unique atmosphere. The muddy landscape is highly evocative and stands in stark contrast to the traditional dusty vistas of American westerns. That first shot of Django really sets the tone for the rest of the film. He's literally dragging death into town with him. There's also a great bit later on where someone asks him what's in the coffin and he replies, with no hint of irony, "Django". Corbucci portrays a very cynical and revisionist view of the Wild West. There's no hint of "manifest destiny" or "the land of opportunity" only a lawless place populated by selfish characters who are obsessed with money and wealth. It's hard to see it as anything less than a critique of American capitalism.
The film is also rife with religious imagery which, given that Italy is a heavily Catholic country, shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. Throughout the film there's a fixation on crucifixes that culminates in the final shootout in a cemetery; the character of Django on his knees, hiding behind a tiny wooden gravestone while Jackson mockingly suggests that he should start praying. Also earlier in the film, in it's most infamous sequence, General Hugo discovers the town priest is a spy and cuts off his ear and sadistically feeds it to him as punishment. I can't help but feel these scenes are trying to either say God has abandoned these people or, perhaps more controversially, religion is a falsehood that we shouldn't try to hide behind. I don't know, maybe I'm reading too much into it.
Well, that's enough philosophical analysis for one post. Overall Django is a fantastic movie. Okay, it's a little more cartoonish and more rough around the edges than Leone's westerns but it's just as riverting to watch and still feels surprisingly fresh. If you've never considered yourself a fan of westerns I strongly recommend checking this film out.