Cast: Franco Nero
Extras: Introduction, Trailers, Interviews, Documentary, Bonus Movie
Starting in the early 60s, a film genre manifested itself in Italy that is since known as "Spaghetti Westerns". One of the superstars to come out of this genre is Clint Eastwood, the nameless star in a number of Sergio Leone's films. After the success of "A Fistful Of Dollars" many Italian filmmakers decided to follow the trend and aside from Leone's now classic movies, "Django" has remained one of the most memorable and lasting entries of the genre. Blue Underground has now released the film on Blu-Ray Disc, giving fans the chance to see the movie in full high definition glory.
What Clint Eastwood became to American audiences, Franco Nero became to European movie-goers after the release of the first "Django" film, which spawned a long string of sequels. Nero perfectly personifies the lonesome taciturn gunfighter with a heart, always on the move, and seemingly invulnerable. Quite obviously, Django is a direct copy of Eastwood's Man With No Name in Sergio Leone's films, but in all fairness, Django is the best of the plethora of copies. Django is a gunfighter and he appears out of nowhere it seems. Dragging his coffin he comes to lone time close to the Mexican border where to factions square off against each other. Major Jackson is the leader of a fanatic group of white men who make it a sport to kill Mexican peasants. Like Ku-Klux-Klan members, the racist bigots wear masks and hoods – albeit in a bright red – and raid the town with frequent regularity. On the other side, there is the group of Jose Bodalo's Mexican bandits, faring their own little war against Jackson's men while plundering the town with regularity themselves. Django is determined to put an end to it, and in a spectacular shoot-out he takes out most of the Major's men with the Gatling gun he hides in his coffin. Immediately the Mexicans are interested in such a powerful piece of artillery, and Django aligns himself with them to break into the colonel's headquarter and steal their gold. With guns blazing, they infiltrate the little fort, take the gold and return. But ultimately it is not gold that Django wants, but revenge. From his past, a memory keeps eating away at him, and before he can find his peace, Django has to make sure the man responsible for his doomed existence pays in blood. The question is, who is that man? Franco Nero has the same enigmatic charm, Clint Eastwood showed in his early westerns, although the character is more tangible and gives away much more of his nature, talking quite a bit, thus breaking part of the mystery surrounding the man. Moving slowly and precisely, talking in short sentences, with cold eyes glued on his opponent, Django makes a great protagonist. This is even more notable, as the viewer doesn't really know whether Django is good or bad for the most part of the movie. He obviously has a good streak in him, as we see in the film's opening when he saves a damsel in distress, but at the same time he is snappy and unwilling to share his thoughts with anyone. To all appearances he is also a friend of the Mexican bandit leader. It is only in the film's final, climactic minutes that we learn which side Django is really on. His somber appearance adds to the mysticism that shrouds the character. Dragging a coffin behind and completely cloaked in black, Django oftentimes appears more like an undertaker than a gunslinger. Franco Nero's portrayal of Django is what the film needed to come across believable. The film itself uses the same basic storyline as "A Fistful Of Dollars", but at the same time is oftentimes as surprising and inventive as any other spaghetti western. Although the film has not as involving, stylish and delicate a script as "Fistful Of Dollars" or its sequels had, "Django" has a different purpose. It replaces the witty, ironic cynism of Sergio Leone's films with a much stronger melodramatic, fatalistic feel, and breaks many taboos, portraying most characters as purposely overdrawn stereotypes. "Django" is also extremely violent, and the film had been banned in a number of countries, including the UK for the longest time. The film never misses an opportunity to see to people being shot in the backs, heads and even the eyes in a rather graphic manner. It all adds up to a movie that distinguishes itself very well and leaves a mark in people's minds.
Blue Underground has faithfully restored "Django" and is presenting it in a great-looking 1080p high definition transfer. However, being a rather low budget movie concessions have to be made, of course, and throughout the film you will notice a number of shots that exhibit a certain graininess. Let us just remind ourselves for a minute, that in those days, movies were still shot on film, and that film does have grain. Though it seems to be frowned upon in today's sterile digital world, film grain adds character to a movie, like sesame seeds add character to a bread. I would have been disappointed if Blue Underground had scrubbed the movie of all grain, turning it into an ultra-clean presentation with little detail. I am happy and thankful that instead, the studio remain faithful to its mission to bring these films to your homes in the best possible way without destroying the original look of the movie or the artistic intentions of the filmmakers.
Having said all that, I also have to point out however, that "Django" does look remarkable in high definition. The image detail is staggering at times, rendering an image with vivid textures that are rich in detail and color. Black levels are solid and give the image great visual depth, helping to bring this gritty movie to life.
The disc contains a DTS HD Master Audio track in mono for both the original Italian language track and the English dub of the film. The audio is of generally good quality, but a little bit of distortion, stemming from the original audio elements, is noticeable in a number of scenes, especially when the music adds up to a crescendo of screaming strings during some of the more tense scenes. Nonetheless, dialogues are always understandable, but in a number of instances inconsistently mixed, adding ambiance in the middle of a sentence, stripping it in the latter half of it.
The disc contains a number of nice bonus materials, such as an introduction by Franco Nero, as well as the Interview featurette "Django: The One And Only," featuring actor Franco Nero and assistant director Ruggero Deodato.
Also included is the 1968 documentary "Western, Italian Style" covering the Spaghetti Western phenomenon of the time. The featurette contains glimpses at other films of the era as well as interviews with some of the directors of these movies.
As a real treat, Blue Underground has also included the 2002 film "The LAst Pistolero" on the disc, featuring Franco Nero also.
I love "Django" and seeing it here again in glorious high definition reminds me, how wonderfully made some of these movies were. With a very different tone than American Westerns of the time, these films are not only much more violent, they also touch upon subjects much more voraciously and not nearly as romantically timid as their Western counterparts did. Clearly, this is a disc that should go in your Blu-Ray Collection if you're a fan of this genre – and who isn't?