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Bone up for QT's latest with Sergio Corbucci's cult gem.


As much as for his inimitable way with words and his virtuoso flair for renderings of violent retribution, movie geeks revere Quentin Tarantino for his frequent, loving nods to all manner of grindhouse landmarks and obscure gems. With Django Unchained hitting screens on Christmas Day, TIFF is offering film buffs a chance to bone up for the inevitable game of “spot the reference,” with a Lightbox presentation of a direct precursor to QT’s latest: Sergio Corbucci’s 1966 Spaghetti Western, Django.

Corbucci’s film is itself indebted to a seminal antecedent, borrowing liberally from 1964’s A Fistfull of Dollars, directed by Corbucci’s compatriot Sergio Leone. Like the first episode of Leone’s Dollars trilogy, Django concerns a stoic drifter with a lightning trigger finger who finds himself embroiled in a triangular intrigue between two warring factions. But Corbucci’s tale—which became an international cult hit in its own right—is both bleaker and bloodier than Leone’s, and was once banned in the U.K. due to a scene depicting the severing of an ear. (Unchained‘s various callbacks, including Luis Balaclov’s stupendous title tune, evidently aren’t the first instances of Tarantino sampling from this particular source.)

Today, there’s a laughable, distinctly low-budget quality to that ear scene, but Django generally holds up marvelously, and is often blackly funny by design. Even as it lacks the operatic grandeur of Leone’s classics, it’s easy to see why Corbucci’s stylish blend of cynical wit and gleeful schlock commands Tarantino’s keen appreciation.