Review Summary: Hackneyed plot, bad overdubbing and trashy dialogue. But a whole lot of style and a killer soundtrack.
Spaghetti Western soundtracks are predictable beasts; main themes with twangy guitar tones, joyful Mexican horn ditties, jarring orchestral flurries for the gunfights and serene cinematic interludes for a lone rider cantering towards the camera as the sun sets over a bleak landscape. The actual films invariably placed an emphasis on style over substance, even those which had relatively large budgets. When you settle down to watch something like Sergio Leone's classic Dollars
trilogy you're in it for the larger than life characters, the one-liners, the black humour and, of course, the music. Morricone's spaghetti western soundtracks have of course become utterly synonymous with the art form and famous in their own right, and rightly so. But Ennio Morricone wasn't the only purveyor of all that is twangy and theatrical. Luis Bacalov was also churning out suitably bleak and dramatic western soundtracks and his contributions to the music for the 1966 movie 'Django' stand as his most enduring.
Most people will be familiar with the 'Django' theme due to Tarantino's 2012 tribute 'Django Unleashed' in which, as is his wont, the mercurial director drew lovingly on his favourite aspects of popular culture to inspire his own bold creation. In its original form, however, it was an instrumental and forms the effortlessly cool main theme for the original 'Django'. If you've heard the Morricone penned soundtracks for the aforementioned Dollars
trilogy you'll know what to expect on here. Django happens upon five desperadoes who are mistreating a woman and drops his hand towards his gun
- tense bass guitar runs and discordant strings build to the inevitable showdown. Django rides into a stereotypical old west town
- jolly Mexican horns play as we see the town's inhabitants going on about their daily lives in the dust. Django talks to his lady
- romantic Spanish guitars set the scene. Django rides off into the setting sun
- delicately plucked acoustic guitar mirrors the main theme backed by swelling orchestra. You get the idea. Hank Marvin
style Stratocaster twangs permeate the whole thing and the music is clearly designed to provoke a suitable mood, which is succeeds in doing with aplomb.
The actual film is no classic unless you revel in B-movie excesses. The dialogue is stilted, the cardboard cut-out stereotypes are almost comical and the hero, played by Franco Nero, hardly serves up an Oscar winning performance. None of this matters though. It's all about the charmingly downbeat atmosphere, the physically impossible gun-play, the desolate landscapes and the grizzled lone traveller with a conscience. The soundtrack serves as a perfect backdrop for these Spaghetti Western cliches and is musically strong enough to be enjoyed in its own right, even if you can't stop yourself descending into a fantasy of wandering the old west plugging holes in greasy desperadoes and using your icy blue stare to silence meek townsfolk at ten paces.