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by Eric Kohn
December 25, 2012 1:32 PM
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The 'Django Unchained' Cheat Sheet: 10 Things That Will Help You Understand Tarantino's Referential Bloodfest

"Django Unchained." TWC
On the surface, Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" is nothing more than a bloody revisionist Western. As always with Tarantino, however, there's a lot more going on beneath the surface that connects the movie to its precedents in film history as well as Tarantino's own unique career. While some viewers may want to go into this one cold, others may want more context in order to sift through yet another dense text from the master of cinematic homage.

Here are 10 items to help demystify "Django Unchained." If you know your stuff, feel free to share more nuggets of trivia in the comments.

Warning: this article contains mild spoilers.

The original "Django" isn't the only spaghetti Western referenced here. That 1966 movie is only one of several off-kilter examples of the genre directed by Sergio Corbucci; according to this article about Corbucci's films that Tarantino wrote for The New York Times, the filmmaker was also a fan of Corbucci's far more serious "The Great Silence," from 1968. Unlike the dusty landscapes that populate most Westerns, "The Great Silence" takes place in the wake of a blizzard that swept Utah in 1899, and so a blindingly white backdrop populates most scenes. In tribute, during a montage sequence in "Django Unchained" where the titular freed slave and bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) spend several months teaming up to take down various wanted men, they're seen riding around in a wintery setting.

Christoph Waltz is Tarantino's Klaus Kinski. The late German actor Kinski starred in a number of spaghetti Westerns, including "The Great Silence," which makes the presence of a German bounty hunter in the Old West of "Django Unchained" less random than it would otherwise seem.

Not every Corbucci reference is so overt. The movie is littered with Easter eggs acknowledging the filmmaker's oeuvre, some of which are extremely subtle. The saloon that Django and Dr. King visit in the first town they ride into is titled "Minnesota Clay," the name of a 1966 Corbucci Western starring Cameron Mitchell in the title role.

Mandingo fighting isn't a real thing, but it is a real film. When Django and Dr. King go to the Candyland ranch, they pretend to be experts in Mandingo fighting, which in Tarantino's world is a bloody sport. In fact, the word refers to Richard Fleisher's 1975 film about a plantation that trains slaves to fight each other.

Still, if you see one movie to prepare for "Django Unchained," make it the original "Django." The opening song (below) that plays over the credits for "Django Unchained" is directly lifted from Corbucci's "Django," which opens with the eponymous gunslinger dragging a coffin into town (blink and you'll miss another "Django" reference with the appearance of a coffin near the end of the movie). Even the typeface of the credits for "Django Unchained" culls from the original "Django." Finally, "Django" superstar Franco Nero shows up in a memorable cameo during the first scene at the Candyland plantation (when Leonardo DiCaprio's character makes his initial appearance). It's not much of a performance, but he does get to blatantly acknowledge his persona in an amusing exchange with Jamie Foxx.

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28 Comments

  • ANGEL | February 7, 2013 12:29 PMReply

    estoy buscando las gafas que lleva django en la pelicula pero no las encuentro por ningun lado , agradeceria si alguien me pudieraindicar algun sitio donde compralas (vivo en alicante ).... gracvias por adelantado

  • ChandlerC | January 19, 2013 4:14 PMReply

    A little correction to Frank Neros cameo. In fact it doesn't take play on the Candyland farm, isntead in the Cleopatra club. Still it's the first meeting with Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie.

  • nick | January 1, 2013 4:29 PMReply

    He also pays homage to kubrics infamous stare that in which he's had alex andjohnny do from clockwork and the shining done greatly by samuel l jackson not to mention beethoven makes cristoph waltz crazy and leads him to kill di caprio that's homage right there to kubric the first real demented mind in cinema

  • Dan S. | March 25, 2013 11:13 AM

    An additional homage or reference to Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut can be found in Django. When the slave/ fighter/runaway is up int he tree and Candie is trying to get him to fight and says reimburse and then Dr. King Shultz stands up and says I will reimburse him...this seemed eerily familiar to Tom Cruise/Bill Harford at Somerton/ Elite People Orgie Scene where Mandy says I will redeem him....in both scenes it a flash cut to a close-up of the characters....did anyone else notice this?

  • ChandlerC | January 19, 2013 4:09 PM

    @PISSED OFF: Wow, stay calm. Of course spoilers are bad, but since when you have to call peope 'bitch cock sucker' or 'asshole' directly for something like that?

  • nurck | January 15, 2013 3:32 AM

    wooa i didnt realize that

  • pissed off | January 6, 2013 1:58 PM

    your a son of a bitch cock sucker. Use spoiler warnings next time asshole.

  • IP OP | December 30, 2012 9:30 AMReply

    DO NOT be taken in by the 'authorized', decades STALE
    PC 'outrageousness' of 'TEAR--ANT-----TEEN -------KNOW'
    --it's a phoney.

    In Globalist ---RED China handover 2013?
    ----------'MANDINGO' meets 'BLAZING SADDLES'
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  • villemar | December 31, 2012 2:34 PM

    English, Motherfucker, do you speak it??

  • lakawak | December 26, 2012 10:48 PMReply

    All you need to know is that there are plenty of Tarantino fanboys who have already masturbated twice, while declaring this the best movie of the year even though they haven't seen it.

  • Tani | December 28, 2012 5:35 PM

    Why diminish a director's fanbase in such a way? Are fans of Kubrick and Hitchcock pathetic "fanboys"? Granted, the fanboy phenomenon does exist, but it must bother some people that Tarantino's cred exists beyond just teenagers and questionable critics.

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  • Chris | December 26, 2012 4:14 PMReply

    That was a South African accent, not Australian.

  • Eric | December 26, 2012 5:52 PM

    Wrong: http://m.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/movies/tarantino-goes-aussie-in-spaghetti-western-django-unchained/story-e6frf9h6-1226537770785

    But, to be fair, Tarantino's fake Aussie accent is far from perfect so the mistake is understandable.

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  • Monique a Williams | December 25, 2012 4:57 PMReply

    Glad I saw the film earlier! Spoilers!!

  • Nick Name | December 25, 2012 4:28 PMReply

    By the time I'll get to seeing this film, I'll have forgotten these minor spoilers.

  • Bob Giovanelli | December 25, 2012 3:28 PMReply

    Couldn't an article about this film, that admits it has mild spoilers in it...wait until, oh, let's say...a week from now? This is the myopia of industry people and reviewers who want to talk about it as it's "old news" to them...when the film is only opening today! Why would the majority of us read this now before we have a chance to see it?

  • Justin Case | December 27, 2012 7:11 AM

    "Why would the majority of us read this now before we have a chance to see it?"

    Why did you? Couldn't you wait until, oh, let's say... a week from now?

  • Jeff H Kaufman | December 25, 2012 2:38 PMReply

    Let's not forget the wanted posters for Edwin S. Porter and other famous film luminaries

  • Liam James | December 26, 2012 11:08 PM

    What about the 1960's music montage when Django and the doctor become friends? Is that a throwback to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and all of the seemingly random montage's that came about in that buddy western?