Christoph Waltz, as Dr. King Schultz, and Jamie Foxx, as Django, in a scene from <i>Django Unchained</i>.

Christoph Waltz, as Dr. King Schultz, and Jamie Foxx, as Django, in a scene from Django Unchained.

The first official images from Quentin Tarantino's forthcoming feature Django Unchained have been released, fanning the flames of film-geek excitement well ahead of its December 25 debut in the US.

The movie - Tarantino's first since Inglourious Basterds in 2009 - is slated for a January 24 release in Australia.

Two production stills have been released by Sony Pictures. In one, Christoph Waltz (who won a best supporting actor Oscar for his role as a Jew-hunting Nazi in Inglourious Basterds) and Jamie Foxx (who won the best actor Oscar for his role as Ray Charles in Ray) stroll through a classic 19th century Western town.

Leonardo DiCaprio plays Calvin Candie in Tarantino's new film.

Leonardo DiCaprio plays Calvin Candie in Tarantino's new film.

Presumably they're on their way to the Deep South - Tarantino has referred to the film as a "Southern" rather than a "Western" because of its setting.

Waltz plays Dr King Schultz, a German-born dentist turned bounty hunter; Foxx is Django, a freed slave who becomes his deputy. Schultz thinks he's in charge, but finds himself helping Django in his bid to free his wife from evil plantation owner Calvin Candie.

Candie is played by Leonardo DiCaprio, who is shown in the second image.

Melanie Laurent plays the vengeful Shosanna Dreyfus in Tarantino's 2009 film <i>Inglourious Basterds</i>. Click for more photos

Quentin Tarantino: a career in pictures

Melanie Laurent plays the vengeful Shosanna Dreyfus in Tarantino's 2009 film Inglourious Basterds.

  • Melanie Laurent plays the vengeful Shosanna Dreyfus in Tarantino's 2009 film <i>Inglourious Basterds</i>.
  • Brad Pitt as Lt. Aldo Raine, the leader of a squad of US soldiers during World War II, in <i>Inglourious Basterds</i>.
  • Christoph Waltz delivered a brilliant performance as villainous SS officer Col. Hans Landa in <i>Inglourious Basterds</i>.
  • Quentin Tarantino, pictured with Diane Kruger and Brad Pitt, at Cannes for the screening of <i>Inglourious Basterds</i> in 2009.
  • Kurt Russell in Tarantino's 2007 film <i>Death Proof</i>.
  • Rose McGowan and Kurt Russell in a scene from <i>Death Proof</i>.
  • Lucy Liu and Uma Thurman in one of the final scenes from <i>Kill Bill Vol. 1</i>.
  • Daryl Hannah as Elle Driver in Tarantino's <i>Kill Bill</i> films.
  • Pam Grier took on the title role in Tarantino's third feature film <i>Jackie Brown</i>, from 1997.
  • Tarantino's second feature film, 1994's <i>Pulp Fiction</i>, starring John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson, became an instant classic.
  • Quentin Tarantino's first feature film, <i>Reservoir Dogs</i> from 1992.

In classic Tarantino style, the film promises to be a violent genre mash-up, part blaxploitation film, part revenge fantasy. There are echoes of the 1966 spaghetti western Django, with Franco Nero as the gunslinger anti-hero, a role he reprised for director Sergio Corbucci in 1987 (the character was also played by many others over the years, including Terence Hill in 1968).

The original - which features an ear severing that was the inspiration for the infamous torture scene in Reservoir Dogs - was deemed so violent in its day that the British censors refused to grant it a classification until 1993.

Django Unchained promises another wish-fulfilment rewriting of history after Inglourious Basterds, which recast Jews as violently righteous victors over Hitler and his henchmen. Django Unchained is set two years before the American Civil War. Note that cheeky "Dr King" reference in Waltz's character's name.

Tarantino's version of events may be more dream than history, but his mash-up vision promises to make for compelling viewing.