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Stepping Out of the Shadow

Quentin Tarantino recounts the story and life of Sergio Corbucci in the documentary Django and Django

By Khizer Asif |
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PUBLISHED February 20, 2022

Django and Django is a documentary that explores the prominence and work of the late Sergio Corbucci, and Director Quentin Tarantino comments on how Corbucci’s cinema was a form of resistance against the fascist regime that plagued Italy. The documentary focuses on the two Djangos, Tarantino and Corbucci, where Tarantino was greatly influenced by the stories from Corbucci, both real and created from Corbucci’s spaghetti-western films. Spaghetti-westerns are, as the name might suggest, western films shot and produced by Italian writers/directors while also being filmed in Italy. One famous example is A Fistful of Dollars, directed by Sergio Leone—the other Sergio. The documentary discusses the issue of Corbucci being confused for Sergio Leone and how Leone's shadow cast over Corbucci. For the reason of constantly being compared to Leone, Tarantino is trying to push a new light on Corbucci as the great filmmaker in his most authentic form.

From Fascism to Fighting Fascism

Like all creators, Corbucci derived most of the inspirations for his film from his childhood and upbringing. Delivering films that are fast-paced, dark and above all: violent. Corbucci had stated that his love for comic books had found its way into his films. This trait is even more apparent in the fashion in, which Corbucci's protagonists are typically shown to have superhuman abilities (at least abilities that no one else in the film has). Tarantino later adds to this by saying, “They didn’t just pick a shirt that fit. There was a comic-book panache.” To Tarantino, Corbucci’s protagonists were made for the part they were costumed as superheroes, and they had the superpowers to back the looks. Yet these characters were more like anti-heroes rather than the typical comic-book heroes, as they were flawed and had personalities that were in the grey area of them being a hero and a villain. That ‘panache’ that Tarantino talks about is like a glove covering a muddy hand, and the audience can't help feel drawn by the mysticism. Quentin Tarantino also mirrors Corbucci in this way, as Tarantino's protagonists have such superhuman abilities. In Kill Bill, Uma Thurman's character, Beatrix Kiddo, is a bloody sword slashing kung-fu master whose lightning-quick reflexes serves her in her vendetta. Then jumping onto Django, where the main character is practising to shoot a gun and almost immediately masters his draw and accuracy, prompting Dr Schultz to state that people will be calling Django “The fastest gun in the South.” It from these superhero qualities were it can be seen that Tarantino and Corbucci were in sync when devising their protagonists.

However, comic books weren't the only influences that Corbucci had when creating his films; in the documentary, Tarantino opines the idea of Fascism playing a large part in Corbucci's films. When he was younger, around World War II, Sergio Corbucci had been part of Mussolini’s choir boys. It is also mentioned as a small theory or rumour per se that Corbucci had met Hitler. There’s nothing concrete to support this theory, but considering that Corbucci was part of Mussolini's personal choir and Hitler did come to visit Italy at a certain point, it was historically noted that Hitler did listen to the choir on that visit. Regardless of the historical tidbit, Corbucci was raised in a Fascist household, yet Corbucci admitted that he never agreed with the ideology he was being forced to learn. His father who was also involved with Mussolini's regime, yet, just like his son, wearing the uniform didn’t equate to Corbucci’s father agreeing with the regime’s dogmatic rules. In the documentary, Corbucci is shown stating his disapproval of Fascism in reference this his film, saying, “The Great Silence, which refers also to Vietnam as well as to the Third World, is a movie about Fascism against Fascism.” This statement support Tarantino’s claim about Corbucci’s attempt at combat Fascism.

It is from this totality in controlling people's thoughts, beliefs and lives that Tarantino, in the documentary, believes what Corbucci wanted his heroes to fight against. Tarantino continues to add saying, "The villain is the most important character in the whole movie. The villain runs the show. The villain tells the story that's being told. The villain creates the landscape. “A great—but—rather old example of this is Shakespeare's Richard III, in which the first sonnet is of Richard proclaiming to the audience his ambition to take control and rule.” This unapologetic archetype is also found in Corbucci’s characters and villains, where they become the insurmountable odd that the protagonist must overcome. This story structure echoes the words from Tarantino when talking about the importance of the villain in Corbucci's films, and when Tarantino connects this to the idea of Corbucci combating the hate and evil in Fascism that he grew up through his spaghetti-westerns.

Suggested Corbucci Films


In Corbucci’s version of Django (1966), the story, set in the US during the Civil War, follows a gun-slinging vagabond who is seen carrying around a coffin with him. This wander is then forced to between the fighting between the Confederacy and Mexican revolutionaries. Corbucci was greatly inspired by the legendary filmmaker Akira Kurosawa specifically the film Yojimbo (1961), and also from his contemporary Sergio Leone and his film A Fistful of Dollars (1964). He incorporated the guns, coffins, rival gangs and the lone stranger into Django. Moreover, this film added a political theme, and it followed the same principle that Sergio employs in more of his western films: a fight for peace through the quarrelling between two equalling sadistic sides. The two fighting sides are the Confederacy and Mexican revolutionaries, and the thing that is almost fatalistically sent in to stop them is the drifter. Compared to most films by Corbucci and other contemporary films, Django is considered to be the most violent film to have appeared in theatres, toting a body count of around 180. This kind of over-the-top violence is very common in Corbucci's spaghetti-westerns, and it is this film that placed him on the map of other famous directors of his time, such as Sergio Leone.

Another film that should be mentioned is The Great Silence (1968), which is a film about a mute gunslinger and set in a snowy landscape and storyline that draws distinct lines towards Tarantino’s film The Hateful Eight. It tackles the issues of frontier justice and the corrupt justice of peace enforced by the law. Corbucci's work and style are shown the best within this film while also giving the violence that is expected in most Corbucci films. Unlike some of his western films, Corbucci chooses to give an even darker theme, and from the beginning to the end, that feeling of bleakness and pessimism remains.


The documentary is a great example of Tarantino's passion and knowledge of film history, yet the documentary is not something that could strongly suggest for viewers to watch. This movie was piggybacking on Tarantino's commentary and the not so frequent comments by Corbucci's friends. Even though his knowledge was insightful, Tarantino becomes the centre of attention, moving the focus away from Corbucci. The film tries to include as many recorded interviews from the Corbucci, but it doesn't make the documentary a documentary rather a behind-the-scene footage for a Tarantino movie.

However, watching the documentary brought out a new fascination about the work by Sergio Corbucci. Long-time fans of Tarantino would always love any bestowment of knowledge from the director, and this documentary is no exception to that. The ultra-violence, the dark humour and the witty story design are the traits that make Tarantino's films so entertaining to watch, yet like all great creators, their work is never the first of its kind. Tarantino's source is Corbucci, and through this documentary, you will see the lore and the operatic style of Corbucci listed out.

But seeing this documentary should be supplementary, and assuming that the audience is already acquainted with Tarantino’s works, they should then watch Corbucci's films. It is also a running joke within the documentary that Corbucci is always number two to Sergio Leone, in terms of spaghetti-westerns, that may be true this documentary will lead you into believing in the works by Corbucci. Through Tarantino's passionate retelling of Sergio Corbucci's life and work brings a desire to see what Tarantino sees in Corbucci's films.