DJANGO, PREPARE A COFFIN (1968) Blu-ray/DVD combo
Director: Ferdinando Baldi
Arrow Video USA

The man in black is back in DJANGO, PREPARE A COFFIN in a semi-official follow-up to the surprise spaghetti western hit, on Blu-ray/DVD combo from Arrow Video USA.

After his wife is murdered and he is gravely injured during an gold transport in an ambush organized by corrupt politician David Barry (EYE IN THE LABYRINTH's Horst Frank), Django (a pre-Trinity Terence Hill) reestablishes himself as a hangman on the other side of the country while Barry moves onto a subsequent series of gold hijacks organized by Barry and executed by Lucas (George Eastman, ANTHROPOPHAGUS) and his gang. From the men innocently condemned for the hijacks, Django fakes their deaths using a special harness and has been building up an army of wronged men to expose the Lucas gang and whoever is behind them. When he learns that the Mercedes (Barbara Simon), the wife of condemned Garcia (José Torres, DEATH RIDES A HORSE), is also going to be hanged as an accomplice, Django sends his men to capture the Lucas gang during their ambush while he rescues the woman. Garcia, however, convinces the men that they would be better off with the gold than in attaining justice; and Django soon finds himself at the mercy of Lucas and Barry who want him to lead them to men and the gold.

An actual semi-sequel to1966 Sergio Corbucci film rather than one of the many Italian spin-offs to come (not to mention the many other spaghetti westerns two which the Germans appended the Django name), DJANGO, PREPARE A COFFIN (also known as VIVA DJANGO!) is entertaining even as it recombines elements from the original – notably Django’s wardrobe, coffins, a cemetery shootout, bullwhips, the motivation for his revenge, and of course the Gatling gun he busts out in the cemetery just when the bad guys think they have him severely outmanned – in a rather uninspired new plot. Frank never plays the good guy in these films, so Django seems more foolish than stoically honorable in trusting the guy in the first place. Hill is engaging enough and Eastman is always more fun as a bad guy, but it is certainly the lesser Django film and the lesser of the spaghetti westerns Arrow has brought to Blu-ray. The film's animated title sequence owes more to the Leone westerns than to the Corbucci original. The supporting cast also includes Luciano Rossi (DEATH SMILES ON MURDER) as one of the "hanged" men and WEREWOLF WOMAN's Andrea Scotti as one of Lucas' men.

Unreleased theatrically in the United States, DJANGO PREPARE A COFFIN had its first legitimate English-friendly home video release from Arrow Video in the UK on their ArrowDrome DVD line in a barebones anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen transfer in 2012. Less than a year after that, the film underwent a high definition restoration by L'Immagine Ritrovata in Bologna and Arrow licensed it for a Region B Blu-ray edition which was quite the improvement over the older transfer although it appears some digital filtering is baked into the restoration (which looks crisper in close-ups than long shots) and the image still looks a tad yellow-tinged, making Frank's hair almost the same color as his skin and giving a slightly sallow look to the Mexican characters. English and Italian audio options are offered in LPCM 1.0 mono and optional English subtitles are offered for Italian audio and SDH for the deaf and hard of hearing on the English audio.

Apart from the film's trailer (3:04), the sole extra is "Django Explained" (8:32), an interview with spaghetti western expert and author Kevin Grant which is short but quite informative. Grant briefly covers the ways in which DJANGO, PREPARE A COFFIN was indeed intended as an official follow-up to DJANGO, sharing the writer/producer Franco Rossetti (THE UNHOLY FOUR) and DP/later spaghetti western director Enzo Barboni. The role was indeed offered to Franco Nero who had gone off to Hollywood to do CAMELOT, and Grant makes a convincing case for the secondary choice of Hill as the more somber Django than his later western and comic action film persona. Grant also reveals that Nero was also offered the role of Trinity before it was offered to Hill who would achieve fame with the film series. Not included for review is the illustrated collector’s booklet by critic and spaghetti western expert Howard Hughes included with the first pressing only. (Eric Cotenas)