Leonardo Dicaprio
Credit: Andrew Cooper

Cinematic inspiration is a two-way street. Akira Kurosawa loved Westerns and John Ford, and you can see that influence in his films Seven Samurai and Yojimbo. Then, like an English sentence that gets Google Translated into Japanese and back again, those films served as the basis for two Wild West remakes, John Sturges’ The Magnificent Seven and Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars. Quentin Tarantino, modern filmdom’s great mixmaster, puts this process of pop culture cross-pollination into overdrive. His Django Unchained (2012, 2 hrs., 45 mins., R), available April 16 on DVD and Blu-ray, drew from a number of disparate sources, and none so deeply as the oeuvre of spaghetti Western master Sergio Corbucci. Corbucci’s film Django (1966, 1 hr., 31 mins., Not Rated) is perfect fodder for Tarantino: a hyperviolent, visually inventive, slyly intelligent reinterpretation of genre tropes taken to their extreme. Django, played by Italian actor Franco Nero, is a drifter perpetually dragging a coffin containing an enormous machine gun. He comes to town and runs afoul of a band of racist hooded thugs, and confrontations escalate to an unforgettable cemetery climax. Tarantino didn’t borrow just Django’s name for his ex-slave bounty hunter (Jamie Foxx), he also borrowed his stoic cool and Corbucci’s own antiracist sensibilities, bringing them to the fore through his protagonist’s quest to save his love Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) from brutal Southern slave owners. Django Unchained is more of a hero’s journey than Django — especially factoring in Christoph Waltz’s Yoda-like mentor figure — and it’s far longer and more rambling. But the director has a way of collapsing movie history to a single point, and when Nero himself pops up to look his cinematic successor in the eye, it’s as close to time travel as you can get. Disappointingly, there aren’t many EXTRAS on the home release, let alone a much-desired director’s commentary. Django: A-, Django Unchained: B+