Throwback Thursday – Django (1966)

Between this blog and my previous one, Professor Damian’s Public Domain Treasure Chest, I’ve been writing about movies for quite a while now. Because of that, there are a lot of posts that have simply gotten lost to the mists of time. So, I figured I’d use the idea of “Throwback Thursday” to spotlight some of those older posts, re-presenting them pretty much exactly as they first appeared except for updating links where necessary or possible, and doing just a bit of re-formatting to help them fit better into the style of this blog. Hope you enjoy these looks back.

Looking back to the early days of this blog – February 13, 2013 to be exact, and one of what appears to still be one of the most popular posts here. Not too surprising, I suppose, considering the popularity Tarantino and of Django Unchained. This post, however, takes a look at the original movie upon which QT’s movie was based (well, after which the main character of the movie was named), and at the negative effects that can sometimes come from a bad dubbing job.

As always, I’ve not made any changes to the original post, though in this case I really would like to have done some editing.

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Rechained By Dubbing – Django (1966)

***SPOILER WARNING*** In this post, I’m going to be discussing differences between the dubbed and subtitled versions of Sergio Corbucci‘s 1966 film Django, and specifically the ending of the movie, so if you haven’t seen it (and I highly recommend that you do) you might want to turn back now. You have been warned! ***END WARNING***

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Okay, I’m going to just go ahead and get this part out of the way. I absolutely loved last year’s Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino‘s “ode” to the spaghetti western genre. Despite its flaws, obvious and otherwise – yes, I know, some say it’s too long, but to them I’d ask what specifically would you cut, and yes, we can all agree that QT’s “Australian” accent is a joke, but to me he’s earned the indulgence, and yes… and yes… – in the end, it’s exactly what it sets out to be: one film maker’s tribute to an influential genre that he obviously loves, and an entertaining afternoon or evening at the theater for the rest of us, and in the end, that’s enough for me.

But the biggest thing that I like about QT’s movie is that it has brought new attention to a genre of movies that I find is largely unfamiliar to a vast swath of today’s younger movie-going audience, the aforementioned “spaghetti western”, and the fact that it extends beyond just Clint Eastwood and Sergio Leone. As a matter of fact, it’s because of Tarantino’s movie that my favorite place to watch films here in Nashville, the Belcourt Theater, was able to show a retrospective of films by one of the other great directors of the genre, Sergio Corbucci, which included his 1966 masterpiece, the original Django.

Now I could go into a lot of detail about Corbucci’s film and why I think it’s so good, but that’s another post for another time. Instead, today I simply want to look at one part of the movie, specifically the end of it, and to highlight what may be one of the greatest travesties of re-dubbed films ever.

You see, there are actually two versions of the film in circulation at the moment, one, the first one that I saw, is an Italiian language version with subtitles. The other, and the most commonly-found version on places like YouTube (as a matter of fact, the entire dubbed version is available there for streaming if you so desire), is the English language dubbed version.

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Sometimes words like “compensating” don’t need any translation.

Now, you might think that in the process of dubbing a movie into another language the people responsible would try to stick as closely as possible to the original, and I’m sure in many cases that is true, and probably more so today than in the past. But there are other things which also have to be considered when movies are being dubbed. First there is the problem that both subtitlers and dubbers face – idiomatic language. There are simply some times that a direct translation, either because of cultural references or because the words have no direct correlation, just doesn’t make sense. (I was recently watching a subtitled version of a Japanese movie that attempted to use supertitles as footnotes to these kind of translation issues, but to be honest, that was truly distracting.) The other issue is mouth movements. One of the most often-heard complaints, especially back when I was growing up, about watching foreign movies was that the lip movement were so far out of sync with the words being said that it ended up being either incredibly distracting or downright humorous, and that’s why so many people said they simply couldn’t watch “furren” movies.

Now, it’s possible that if asked, the translators of the dubbed version of Django might claim either one of these to be the case in the defense of many of their choices throughout the film, and they may be legitimate claims. However, when it comes to the ending… Well, I’ll tell you what, before we go any further, why don’t we have a look at that ending? The part I’m specifically going to be focusing on is from about 4:00 to 6:20 in this clip, but go ahead and watch the whole thing if you really want the set-up.

Ok, so we have our protagonist at his seemingly most defenseless, his hands broken, trying to get off one last good shot, and being taunted by his greatest adversary, Major Jackson. And his cry of “Can you hear me ?!” is appropriate to the preceding lines about “You should start your praying.” and “I can’t hear you!”, which is fine as far as it goes.

However, if you watch the Italian version, you find out that the dubbing really diverges from the original in a way that not only lessens the impact of the scene, but also removes the ironic humor from it, a factor which goes a long way to making the entire film such a joy to watch. You see, in that scene the original version, which does have Jackson taunting Django about saying his final prayers, doesn’t have the inanities about his burial suit. Instead, Jackson emphasizes each shot by invoking a part of the holy trinity. So we wind up with “In the name of the father…” >BANG< “and the Son…” >BANG< “and the Holy Ghost” >BANG< to which Django then adds the capper, as during his final salvo which takes down the major and his men he shouts  “AMEN!!!

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“What did he say?” I don’t know. do you know what he said?” “I got no idea.” “Hell, it all sounds Greek to me.”

Now some might argue that the change was made due to sensitivity to the religious imagery which it invokes, but considering that that imagery is not only a recurring thread throughout the movie, but at times already a large part of its humor, I can’t see that as a reasonable defense. Nor do the other two arguments I mentioned above work, as there is no problem with the language translating, and the original lines actually fit the mouth movements perfectly.

No, this simply seems to be a case of “change for change’s sake”, and it’s  one that, when I actually saw it while watching the dubbed version on the recent blu-ray release (both versions are on the disk, and I have to say they look gorgeous and it gets my highest recommendation) made me want to throw the box directly through the TV. Fortunately, I restrained myself, but really it was that bad a moment.

In the end, though, what it comes down to is this: if you have the option, you should definitely check out the subtitled version instead of the dubbed one, But if the latter is the only option available, then go ahead and watch that, with the caveat that there definitely is something “lost in translation” because despite those flaws, the strengths of the movie still largely come through.

So how about you? Have you seen either version? If so, which one and what did you think about it? And what are your thoughts in general about the argument concerning subtitles versus dubbing? I’d love to hear your comments, pro or con for either side. Just click on the comment button below and share your thoughts. Or head on over to the Facebook page and join in the discussion there.

Oh, and while you’re at it, why not click one of the share buttons below and bring your friends into the discussion too? The more the merrier! (Just please keep any comments civil, and respect your fellow commenters. After all, there’s no reason for gunfire here.)

And as always, until next time, happy viewing!

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Hope you enjoyed this blast from the past.

 

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I’m Declaring Today To Be A New Holiday – Blaxploitation Friday

bx1To say that I am not a fan of Black Friday could really be the definition of the word “understatement”. I’m not going to get into all the reasons for that here, because if you feel the same way I do, then you already understand most of them, and if you’re a huge fan of the day who was out there at 2am waiting for the stores to open, well… as always, if that’s your thing, more power to ya.

Anyway, I was thinking about the day and about the exploitation movie piece that I’m working on, and the thought occurred to me, why not combine the two and celebrate something I can get behind?

Therefore, I am declaring today Blaxploitation Friday.

Now I know there are probably quite a few of you out there who may not be familiar with the term “Blaxploitation”, especially those of you who were born in the late 80s and after. Again, I’m not going to go into a lot of the background and detail of the genre. Instead for now I’ll simply say that it was an offshoot or subgenre of the exploitation films that were popular during the 70s.

bx2aThe Blaxploitation movies themselves were initially made specifically for urban audiences, but after a while, they moved beyond that and gained at least a certain amount of appeal with a broader audience, reaching beyond racial and ethnic lines. One thing that I will note for my younger audience is that this occurred during a time before the huge megaplexes when different neighborhoods would have their own local theaters in which they would show movies that they felt would appeal to the audiences that were close to them, as opposed to today when it seems like almost every movie is made in a way that it needs to reach as broad an audience as possible. Of course, that’s a generalization, and there are still certain movies that are made in order to appeal to a specific demographic, but today those are more the exception than the rule.

I could go into a lot more detail about the history and thought behind the blaxploitation movies and movement, but I think I’ll save that for another time. Instead,for today, forthose of you who are curious or who want to know more before diving into some of the trailers that I’ve selected to help you with your Blaxploitation Friday celebration, I’ll invite you to check out this documentary which features Quentin Tarantino, Samuel Jackson, critic Elvis Mitchell, Melvin Van Peebles, Pam Grier, Fred Williamson, and many others, which points out that despite the perhaps perceived negative connotation of the phrases “exploitation” and “blaxploitation”, these films were actually largely seen by their intended audience as empowering and positive, not only against the oppression of the times, and as part of the black power movement, but also against the negativity and ambitiousness of many of the “mainstream” movies coming out of Hollywood at the time. Also it spends a lot of time discussing the reaction of people, both black and white, at the time, and brings it forward to today.

One further thing I will note, however is that if you are at all a fan of soul and/or funk music, I highly recommend checking out the soundtracks to some of these movies, which are a great source of that 70s sound.

Okay, from here on out, I’m just going to let the trailers do the talking. I do feel like I should note ahead of time that these movies and their trailers are definitely a product of their time, and should be considered NSFW, nor should those of you who are offended by politically incorrect dialogue or images watch them. There is a reason that these were called “exploitation” films, and those reasons are very much on display here. You have been warned.

So, with that said, let’s take a look at some trailers, shall we?

 

 

 

Quentin Tarantino And Friends Explain Ultra-Panavision

Not long ago I posted about Quentin Tarantino’s plans to mount a 70mm “roadshow version” of his upcoming film The Hateful Eight.

Now he’s put together a video featurette with some of his stars and some of the people behind the movie showcasing and explaining the decisions and processes that they went through in creating this version of the movie. Of you’re at all intrigued by tthis kind of thing it’s well worth watching.

Haters Gonna Hate – Here’s The New Trailer For QT’s The Hateful Eight

8pAh, Christmas.

Usually you have to spend Christmas Day with people that you at least have to pretend that you love. Or at least like. Or are willing to tolerate.

That’s one of my theories about why theaters tend to be packed on the day. Because once the presents are unwrapped and the dishes are cleared and people are actually confronted with the question “So what are we going to do now? Just sit around and talk to each other?” Someone is going to have the bright idea “Hey, why don’t we all go see a movie?”

And everyone’s going to agree because nobody really wants to spend that much time together. Of course then comes the inevitable next question.

“What are we going to go see?”

Fortunately, this year Quentin Tarantino’s got you covered with eight people you can just go ahead and outright hate. Yep, the movie’s The Hateful Eight, and here’s the trailer:

Of course, no one in my own personal family should take the above characterization personally, because we all just love every moment that we get to spend together. And I’m sure that applies to your family, too.

 

QT Wants To Give You A Little Hate For Christmas – Here’s The First Official Trailer For The Hateful Eight (2015)

h8tWhen an early version of the script leaked online, Quentin Tarantino almost decided to cancel his plans to make The Hateful Eight.

I think we can all agree from looking at this trailer that that would have been a bad decision.

Personally, I don’t think Christmas can get here soon enough.

But hey, don’t take my word for it, just take a look for yourselves:

Yeah, I think a ticket to see that will look pretty nice under the tree.

Playing Can Be A Hell Of A Lot Of Fun – Why Don’t You Play In Hell (2013)

play2If you imagine a Quentin Tarantino movie yanked through the kind of Chinese film-making filter that gave us some of the more off-kilter Shaw Brothers movies then add on a layer of Godfather-wannabe Japanese Yakuza film stylings, toss some Three Stooges slapstick on top and finally drench the entire thing with a lot of mostly CGI blood, you might come somewhere close to Sion Sono‘s Why Don’t You Play In Hell?

But you’d still only be close.

If you read the above and think “Sounds like kind of a hot mess of a movie”, then I have to admit that yeah, it is. But it’s also quite a fun mess.

I could probably spend as long trying to outline the plot of the film to you as it takes to watch it, and even then I’d probably be doing both you and the movie a disservice, because the plot here is certainly not wholly irrelevant, but definitely secondary to the tone of the thing which -beyond what I wrote in the opening paragraph – I suspect is impossible to convey through writing. This is one of those movies akin to Hausu or The Room that really has to be experienced rather than described, and preferably experienced in a theater full of people who are there ready to simply go along for the ride and have a good time, and like those two movies, I predict that WDYPIH is going to have quite the afterlife on the midnight movie circuit.

play1At least I hope I’m right on that, because it’s certainly a film that deserves a chance to be found by a core audience of cult-movie followers rather than to simply wind up on a few shelves and be largely forgotten in the long run.

For those of you still sitting there reading this instead of simply rushing to your nearest arthouse cinema – if you’re lucky enough to have one like the Belcourt Theater here in Nashville where the film is getting a weekend-long run – to see it for yourself and asking “Okay, but really, what’s it about?’, I’ll give you Drafthouse Film’s official plot synopsis:

There’s a war going on, but that won’t stop the inexperienced but eager wannabe film crew The F@ck Bombers from following their dreams of making the ultimate action epic. Ten years ago, yakuza mid-boss Ikegami led an assault against rival don Muto. Now, on the eve of his revenge, all Muto wants to do is complete his masterpiece, a feature film with his daughter in the starring role, before his wife is released from prison. And The F@ck Bombers are standing by with the chance of a lifetime: to film a real, live yakuza battle to the death…on 35mm!

play3Okay, yeah, sure, as a straightforward plot description that fits the bill as well as anything, and tells you just enough going in that you may not get lost as to what is going on, but it does absolutely nothing to convey either the tone of the flick or the sensory assault of the images that it brings to the screen.

It doesn’t mention the spectacular slide that an eight-year-old makes through a blood-flooded (seriously, the blood here appears to be somewhere around a couple of inches deep) living room into a kitchen filled with mostly dead yakuza (don’t worry, she’s not traumatized by this slide, and it’s later revealed that she goes on to entertain the only mobster left living in the kitchen with a cute little dance accompanied by the singing of the jingle for the tooothpaste commercial she has made.

play4It doesn’t mention the possibly Exorcist-green-pea-soup-inspired vomit torrent that reveals a message from the movie gods.

It doesn’t mention the psychedelic cocaine-induced vision which transforms the mob boss’s daughter’s slicing and dicing of multiple foes into a rainbow of color amidst a field of flowers.

(Nor, for that matter, does it mention her subsequent decimation of ten mobsters who have surrounded her with one balletic swoosh of her sword.)

play5It doesn’t mention… well, let’s just say there’s an awful lot of images that it doesn’t mention and that I won’t either, because they really should be left as surprises for the viewer.

Nor does it mention another aspect of this film that is central to it, and that keeps all of the outre imagery from being purely weirdness for weirdness’ sake.

It doesn’t mention that in the end, this is a movie about love.

Yeah, you read that right… at its core this movie is a love story. Love, passion, and the way that they can turn to obsession, are really what drives everything else in this movie.

play7It’s love for her husband and child that drives Muto’s wife to spend ten years in prison when she easily could have escaped. It’s love that motivates the gang boss to pull out all the stops to complete his film in the ten days that remain before his wife is released. It’s a passion for film making that keeps the F@ck Brothers together for ten years and ultimately drives them to team up with the gang bosses to get their film made. Its his obsession with Muto’s daughter Mitsuko that causes the rival gang boss to agree to participate in Muto’s movie.

play6And it’s an obvious love for cinema that has driven Sion Sono himself to make this film in the first place.

No, Why Don’t You Play In Hell? is not a film for everyone. As a matter of fact, if you’re the kind of person who really only wants to see the latest multiplex blockbuster or chick flick or even low-key indy film, I’d advise you to simply stay away and not waste your time or money because you’re probably not going to like this film. If, on the other hand, you’re of the more adventurous sort who wants something different, who has, yes, a love for the strange and more out-there fare that usually has to be sought out and comes along every so often, then I predict that you, too will find the fun that’s to be had from a little playtime in hell.

 

Tarantino Turns Eight And Gets Hateful And Apparently Big, Too – Here’s The Brand New Poster For The Hateful Eight (2015)

So apparently Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight is a happening thing after all. Those who have been keeping up with the off-screen drama surrounding this film will know that when the initial script for it was leaked online, QT initially said he just wasn’t going to make the film after all. No I haven’t read the leaked script, and I won’t because a) I know how much Tarantino’s films change from the script stage to what we eventually see, and b) I don’t want the experience of seeing a new film to be soiled like that.

There are also two other things to note so far about this flick. First, Entertainment Weekly is reporting that Kurt Russell is going to be involved in the project in some way (I consider that another positive move) and second, if you look at the poster, it says the film will be shot in “Super CinemaScope” which is another way of saying 70mm. It would also indicate the possibility that the movie will be shot on film, instead of digitally, which, while I’d love to see that happen, makes me wonder how many of us will have any chance at all to actually see it in that format.

Nonetheless, you can already just go ahead and – assuming it actually comes together, mark this down on my list of most anticipated films of next year.

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