In the canon of enigmatic gunslinger films, the opening to Sergio Corbucci's 1966 spaghetti Western is hard to beat: a tall, brooding stranger walking across the desert, dragging a coffin behind him. That man is Django (Franco Neri), and though he quickly kills nearly half-a-dozen men, that coffin has other purposes.
Django has come to town to settle a score with the Major — the details aren't totally clear. But the Major leads a Ku Klux Klan-type group, and shoots Mexicans for sport. Django sets up alliances with the town's brothel-keep, as well as a group of Mexican gangsters also angry at the Major. Despite the slow pacing, a fair amount of mayhem ensues, including whippings, shoot-outs, some dismemberment, a deadly pit of quicksand and the reveal of the coffin's true function.
Django was once infamous for its graphic violence, but today's audiences will barely notice. (The body count is pretty epic — well over 100 — but largely bloodless.) As a cult favorite, it also spurred many unrelated sequels and spin-offs, many simply incorporating the "Django" handle. Quentin Tarantino's new film, Django Unchained, is among the "imitators," even borrowing the original's awesomely cheesy title song. In Italian, with subtitles. Through Sat., Dec. 28. Regent Square