Some years ago I made the big mistake once of looking up how many Django films were made after Sergio Corbucci’s 1966 original and I think I had a headache for the better part of half a week from sifting through all those titles and trying to figure out if there was an actual sequel made or if any were worth tracking down for the bucket list. Eh, I survived that project by tapping out and concentrating on stuff that was less mentally taxing.
The same can’t be said for most of the folks who violently buy the farm in Ferdinando Baldi’s 1968 film, Django Prepare A Coffin (aka Preparati la bara!), a pretty good kinda-sorta sequel/prequel that’s nowhere as brutal or unsettling as the first film, but certainly has its interesting and amusing moments. Arrow Video has a fine and dandy restored version that’s been out for a bit, but I’m finally getting to some of the deep backlog stuff in my library, so here you go.
Filling in for Franco Nero is the great Terence Hill (aka Mario Girotti) and he does a pretty darn good job playing Franco Nero being Django. The script he’s saddled with (pun intended) is a bit of a mess, though. Then again, you’re very likely not watching this for the importance of the script, right? Right. That out of the way, the film still works well as a good way to kill 92 minutes and leave you with what should resemble a wry grin or its equivalent.
This time out, Django goes up against David Barry (Horst Frank), a corrupt gold-hungry politician with a bad haircut and worse temper after his wife is killed during the robbery of a huge gold shipment. Interestingly enough, Django’s wife is killed in the first film as well, so this seems to be a case of this film being more of a “spiritual” sequel or quasi-prequel at best (my headache is coming back trying to figure that out). Anyway, Django is also shot multiple times and presumed dead, but turns up five years later working as a traveling hangman working for from afar by Lucas (George Eastman), one of Barry’s cohorts and a pretty heinous goon on his own.
The thing is, he’s not really hanging anyone. He’s been setting up a rigged harness and letting prisoners in on the ruse so he can free them later and sock them away for a bit of oddball vengeance that involves his small army of dead men terrorizing Barry’s partners in crime. As you’d expect, some of the freed men don’t want to be cooped up with a gang of unwashed chili chompers at all. They want to cut out and go home to their families, which isn’t the best idea because it would mean exposing them and the former condemned to a quicker more permanent demise. Django takes care of three ungrateful guys with his shootin’ skills and the rest fall in line right away. Sort of.
His big plan is to steal a whopping amount of gold shipments from Barry’s men before they get to them and sock it all away somewhere safe. However, one of his rescues decides to go rogue and sets up a theft of his own while Django is occupied elsewhere. Oops. The rest of the film plays out mostly as expected. Django gets caught by Lucas’ men, exposed as alive to a cranky Barry and tortured, but he gets out of that with guns, kerosene and fire. Barry sends a mob of men after him and the stolen gold, but Django gets the better of them in a finale that echoes the ending of Corbucci’s original.
While it’s a decent and action-packed enough film, it’s somewhat lacking in something I can’t quite put my finger on. Maybe it’s that the original set such a high bar in terms if its exploitative elements that this followup seems too tame despite the high body count? I guess that’s it. Granted, it’s certainly got a cruel streak tempered by some light comic moments (you gotta love that parrot!). But everything seems too formulaic in that “let’s copy some stuff that worked in the first one” manner. Then again, this isn’t a film you’d want to over-scrutinize (he says, over-scrutinizing the film).
As for special features, you get a trailer and Django Explained, a new interview with Spaghetti Western expert and author Kevin Grant. He explains a bit about all those different Djangos and how the name more or less guaranteed box office success overseas even if the films had nothing to do with the character. Which is amusing at the end of the day because this review really doesn’t have much to say about the overall okay-ness of this film. I’d call that an evening out of things
Score: C+ (75%)
Review copy provided by the publisher