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Anchor Bay presents
Django / Django Strikes Again (Django 2: il grande ritorno) (1966/1987)

"I gotta kill Jackson; until he's dead there's not going to be peace for any of us."
- Django (Franco Nero)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: December 10, 2000

Stars: Franco Nero, Eduardo Fajardo, Christopher Connelly, Donald Pleasence
Other Stars: Loredano Nusciak, Angel Alvarez, Jose Budalo, Licia Lee Lyon, William Berger, Robert Posse, Alessando di Chio, Rodrigo Obregon, Micky Bill Moore
Director: Sergio Corbucci/Ted Archer (Nello Rossati)

Manufacturer: Crest National
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, torture, child enslavement and prostitution)
Run Time: 03h:06m:36s
Release Date: November 23, 1999
UPC: 013131093599
Genre: western


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- BB-B C+

DVD Review

When the Spaghetti Western first took shape under the direction of Sergio Leone with 1964's A Fistful of Dollars, it didn't take a genius to see that the knockoffs and the duplicates would follow soon behind. But who would have thought that one of the knockoffs would itself produce a full subgenre of the Italian western, with over 50 films to its credit?

Such was the case with the 1966 classic Django, directed by Sergio Corbucci and featuring Franco Nero in his first starring role. The title character (it's never quite clear if Django is a first or last or only name) makes his first appearance as a highly iconic stoic gunfighter, dragging a coffin behind him. In this initial outing, Django gets caught between Major Jackson (Eduardo Fajardo), an unreconstructed Confederate leading a red-clad version of the KKK and an unruly group of marauding Mexicans. Django is equipped with a secret weapon that gives him a serious advantage over all the other characters, who sport only revolvers or rifles. He uses this weapon to even the odds between Jackson's soldiers and red-wearing racists and the Mexicans, as well as to further a complicated plot to make off with Jackson's gold.

This is a highly entertaining albeit highly cynical view of the West through European eyes, with ample enough gunplay and gratuitous violence to satisfy most High Body Count devotees. Django himself is a peaceable man who wants nothing more than to bury the old gunslinging Django, but no matter where he turns his guns are needed. The action culminates in a harrowing climax that is hard to take in the extreme violence done to Django; Corbucci doesn't pull any punches here. The jangly electric guitar themes emphasize the parallels to Leone's films by cleverly mimicking Morricone's soundtracks.

Although dozens of 'Django' films followed in the next few years, none of them had Nero, and many only borrowed the name and nothing more (or just stole it for use in the title without having anything at all to do with this character). However, in 1987 Franco Nero and Nello Rossati (under the name Ted Archer), while shooting another film in Colombia, came up with the idea of a Django sequel, set on the waters of South America instead of the American West. This became Django Strikes Again. Here, Django has gone so far in his quest for peace as to bury his weapon and joined and joined a monastery as Brother Ignatius. However, a woman comes to him to tell him that she is dying and that their daughter Morizal needs him to take care of her. Before he can get Morizal, however, she and other children from her village are seized by a ship of slavers headed by the Austrian martinet Orlowsky (Christopher Connelly). When Django tries to rescue her, he is himself captured and sent to the sulfur mines, where he meets Gunn (Donald Pleasence), a Scottish entomologist enslaved by Orlowsky for failing to find him a black butterfly. Of course, Django can't be held captive for long, and soon a bloody retribution falls upon the slavers.

While the character's motivations and weaponry remain the same remain the same (though he no longer drags the coffin), the story is different enough from the original that one can watch both films in quick succession as I did without a sense of deja vu. The sequel stands on its own well enough that one need not be familiar with the character from the first film. Rossati's direction is stylistically interesting; he makes a series of commenting pans that are magnificent pieces of juxtaposition. The early scene where the camera travels from Orlowsky, dressed in immaculate white and mounting butterflies, down to the lower levels of the ship where the slaves are held in abject misery, is a very striking example of this tendency. To a certain extent the film is contaminated with Schwarzeneggeresque one-liners as he dispatches bad guys, but this is restrained enough to not be overtly irritating. Unfortunately, the guitar themes of the earlier film are replaced with more standard-issue music, but it does the job well enough. This DVD version reinstates an amusing five-and-one-half minute prologue featuring two aging gunslingers trying to remember the name of the man with the [secret weapon deleted for spoiler purposes].

Anyone who likes the Eastwood 'Dollars' trilogy would almost certainly be pleased by these effective and briskly-paced films.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The source on Django is unfortunately a badly faded Eastmancolor print; on the exterior scenes in particular it often seems as if the film is shot in black, white and red all over, as the joke goes. The title sequence with its red lettering is badly oversaturated and nearly unreadable. Blues and yellows are nearly vanished from the print. The interiors are much better, with color and shadows intact or nearly so. No frame damage is visible on either film.

The newly attached prologue to Django Strikes Again is rather blurry and indistinct. However, as soon as we reach the film proper it's a whole different world. Colors are good and blacks are excellent, with deep, dark shadows through much of the picture. Both films are presented in anamorphic widescreen 1.66:1. The grade is an average of the two films; the first is about a C- and the second is about a B+.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishno
DS 2.0English, Italianyes


Audio Transfer Review: Django features a serviceable English mono track. The dubbing is a little questionable; it's clear that the producers sought to have Nero sound like Clint Eastwood. It is quite free of hiss and noise, and the dialogue and music are both quite clear. Django Strikes Again has both an English and an Italian Dolby Surround track, each lacking in hiss. However, several of the voices (not Nero's) have a strange crackly distorted sound to them. The music comes through fine, leading me to think that this may be an issue with the source materials for the dub. There is some decent directionality to the mix, and good use of the surrounds for music. Bass is excellent throughout, despite the lack of an LFE track. The Italian track is of limited usefulness, however, since there are no English subtitles provided after the prologue concludes.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 38 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English (briefly) with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
2 Original Trailer(s)
Production Notes
2 Featurette(s)
Packaging: other
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Django shoot 'em up game
Extras Review: Anchor Bay includes a subtantial 20-page booklet which gives some background on the making of these films, as well as synopses and credits for many of the 50+ 'Django' films which were churned out since 1966. The booklet is on heavy stock and is copiously illustrated, primarily with poster art.

Each disc contains a brief (06m:55s and 03m:07s, respectively) interview with Franco Nero regarding the making of the films. These tend to cover much the same ground as the booklet and the talent bios, making them rather redundant. The first disc includes a bio and selected filmography for Corbucci and Nero; the second includes the same tidbits for Nero and also a bio and selected filmography for Donald Pleasence. A faded trailer for each of the films is included, and the first disc includes a clumsy gunfight game that will not prove challenging in the least to video game players.

As noted above, there are no subtitles on either film except on the prologue to the sequel, for which no English dub was ever prepared. This makes the Italian language track of interest only to Italian speakers. This is a bizarre omission indeed.

Extras Grade: C+

 

Final Comments

A nifty double feature of a single iconic figure, glimpsed at a 20+ year interval. The video and audio are unfortunately lacking, and not a lot is provided in the way of extras, but it's still worth a look for fans of Spaghetti Westerns.

 


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