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DVD Review: ‘Django, Prepare a Coffin’

★★★☆☆

Those who simply can’t wait for Hollywood renegade (and ‘butt shut-downer’) Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained (2012) to hit cinemas later this week – or baulk at the bladder-straining runtime – need fear not. They can now get their fix of the iconic, if somewhat changeable gunslinger with the first DVD release of Ferdinando Baldi’s Django, Prepare a Coffin (Preparati la bara!, 1968). One of the numerous unofficial sequels (there had already been around a dozen) to Sergio Corbucci’s original, Django (1966), Baldi’s film starred Terrence Hill as the eponymous protagonist in a quest for vengeance.

On a routine courier mission transporting some gold across the Sierra, the stagecoach that Django is driving is attacked by a gang of bandits led by Lucas (George Eastman) at the behest of politician, David Barry (Horst Frank). They make off with the gold, kill Django’s wife and leave the man himself for dead. Five years later, he is working as an anonymous hangman for the local government searching for answers in the bottom of a liquor bottle.

It’s soon revealed, however, that Django is not in fact hanging the men; he is faking their deaths and creating his own secret troop. What’s more, each of these men has been wronged and framed by Lucas’ gang and are out for revenge. Django, Prepare a Coffin is regarded as being remarkably close to its inspiration, and Terrence Hill’s portrayal certainly seems modelled on the performance of the original’s Franco Nero – reticent and quick on the draw but ultimately a good man whose only aim is to avenge his wife. There’s actually a distinct lack of killing actually. His eyes are never widened by the thought of gold as, regrettably, does happen to be a problem for his not-so-loyal followers.

There are lighter moments, provided largely by the eccentric old Horace (Pinuccio Ardia) but on the whole this is a deadly affair. Whilst never quite managing to reach the trigger-happy excesses of the original film, there enough double-crosses, hold-ups, and shoot-outs to keep fans of the genre happy. There is even an inspired appearance by the famous Gatling gun from the original which turns up in a very familiar looking graveyard finale.

When compared to the real greats of the spaghetti western movement, or to the original, Django Prepare a Coffin does not really come close, but Terrence Hill has a good go at embodying the character and both Horst and Eastman are suitably unlikeable as the villainous support. It may not add an awful lot new to the genre but for knowingly conventional fare, it’s good fun.

Ben Nicholson