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October 1, 2013

Movie Review: Django Prepare A Coffin (Blu-ray, 1968)

Review By: Rob Sibley

For one of the first times I decided to give a film a blind watch without knowing anything about it. I'm a huge Spagetti Western fan and I've seen dozens of films titled Django and besides some gems such as "Django Kill... If you live shoot" most of them are pale imitations of Sergio Corbucci's classic 1966 Django. Everyone from Takashi Miike to Tarantino has tackled a Django picture.

So judging a book from it's cover I noticed this particular film starred Terence Hill of the Trinity films fame and the many flicks he made with Budd Spencer. He's a solid actor but sure has starred in a number of clunkers.

Second it was directed by Ferdinando Baldi who whelmed two films I really enjoyed. The solid Western Texas Goodbye with Franco Nero and the sleazy gem Terror Express. The composer on this picture was Gianfranco Reverberi who scored the fantastic Edqige Fenech flick, A Policewoman on the Porno Squad. Last but not least Arrow Video was releasing the film, on Blu-ray no less so I went into this with high hopes. Was I satisfied with the final results?

The answer is an enthusiastic yes! Much to my surprise Django: Prepare a coffin wasn't just another mindless cash in on the Django name. It actually serves as a prequel to Corbucci's Django! As a Spagetti Western fan I was thrilled to finally see what made Django... Django!

What about the plot?  Django is a wandering gunslinger, hired as executioner to a corrupt local politician who is framing innocent men, sending them to hang in an evil scheme to take hold of their land. But Django has other ideas and, cleverly faking the deaths of the condemned men, he assembles them into a loyal gang who’ll help him take down the boss, a man who had a hand in the death of Django’s wife years before.

Okay that's not an original plot, but what made many of these Spaghetti Westerns so amazing wasn't the plot. It was always the mood, the execution, the atmosphere and the violence. American westerns always played it safe in my books. Italian Westerns on the other hand had no problem being subversive.

Django: Prepare a coffin isn't sadistic or surreal like "Django Kill" and it's a bit more polished then the original Django. But the vast production values, top notch acting and exciting action help the film become more then your typical Italian Western.What's interesting about the film is it looks like it had about double the budget of original Django film. The action set pieces are rather grand, actually on par with the action of the American westerns of the time. Also of note the film actually features a bit of Karate! That's right folks within the first 10 minutes Django goes all Billy Jack on a few drunken saloon patrons. I guess the influence of Bruce Lee was already being felt in Italian cinema.

Terence Hill is right at home in the role of Django and it's surprising how much he looks like Franco Nero in this. But while Franco's Django was more a battle weary character, this incarnation of Django is ready to fly into action at a moments notice. But it fits the character perfectly considering this is a prequel. Featuring a younger (slightly) more aggressive take on the legendary character.

Italian character actor George Eastman aka Luigi Montefiori is fantastic as the films central villain. Eastman is a hulking figure who admits that perfect sleazy aura for the role. Eastman is probably one of Italy's most proflic actors starring in everything from low budget splatter like Anthropophagus to more acclaimed films like Mario Bava's Rabid Dogs. He's also a succesful writer, haven written the excellent Italian TV mini series "Uno Bianca" directed by Michele Soavi (Cemetery Man).

You really can't go wrong with this film, it's a stellar production on all fronts.

Arrow Video brings the film to Region B Blu-ray for the first time.

The transfer and audio are nothing short of stunning, maybe one of the best transfers I've ever seen for a Spaghetti Western. This is not surprising considering this little factoid "Django, Prepare a Coffin! was restored at L 'Immagine Ritrovata in Bologna. The film was transferred at 2K resolution with Arriscan from a 35mm interpositive print. Prepare a Coffin! was digitally restored in high definition and then digitally colour corrected with Film Master by Nucoda. The sound was digitalised using the Chace Optical Sound Processor from the original soundtrack negative."

That really tells you everything you need to know, it's a crystal clear presentation and probably the best the film ever looked.

The only extra on the disk is an 8 minute featurette titled "Django Explained". It attempts to delve into the history of the Django pictures. But considering that over 60 of them were made, this featurette should have been inflated to a feature length documentary size. But still it's worth the watch.

As per usual with Arrow releases you get a collectible booklet and reversible cover art.

If you are a Spaghetti Western fan with an all region Blu-ray player then you should see out Django Prepare a Coffin. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

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