Arrow Heads Vol. 36: DJANGO, PREPARE A COFFIN: A Mostly Legit DJANGO Sequel!

Arrow Heads — Arrow Video humbly describes themselves as merely a “Distributor of classic, world, cult and horror cinema on DVD & Blu-ray”. But we film geeks know them as the Britain-based bastion of the brutal and bizarre, boasting gorgeous Blu-ray releases with high quality artwork and packaging and bursting with extras, often of their own making. This column is devoted to discussing their weird and wonderful output.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: A baseless, power hungry, craven, egotistical narcissist with a shockingly awful blonde combover seizes political power via ill gotten gains and more than a few betrayals along the way… and he must be stopped. But enough about Django, Prepare A Coffin, everybody…

Yes, what we’ve got here with Django, Prepare A Coffin is one of about 60 sequels, spin-offs, remakes, or related-in-name-only offshoots of the wildly popular Italian western Django (1966), starring Franco Nero, Directed by Sergio Corbucci, and written by Franco Rossetti (among others). It’s even worth noting that the original film was shot by Enzo Barboni, if for no other reason than that Django, Prepare A Coffin was shot by the same man. Coffin is a strong candidate for one of the most legit spin-offs of Django in that the original writer, producer (Manolo Bolognini), and cinematographer all re-teamed for this film, which was also intended to star original gunslinger Franco Nero. Nero was called off to Hollywood and was replaced here with the surprisingly effective and equally piercingly-blue-eyed Terence Hill, who could definitely pass for Nero in a pinch. Hill parlayed his success here by being cast as another gunslinging hero in a series of Westerns following a character named Trinity.

So prolific and prone to copycatting was the age of the Spaghetti Western that half the fun of discussing the films today is finding out where they came from, what their connections are to other titles, and how they stack up against one another. Having long been a fan of the original Django and following Franco Nero’s career as a result, I’m prone to seeking out any film that got slapped with a “Django” in the title, and was thrilled to get a chance to see one of these specimen on an honest to goodness Blu-ray released by Arrow Video, complete with a killer little bonus feature called “Django Explained” which plays the exact game I’ve been playing in this review up until now.

But how is the movie itself? It’s a totally satisfying and largely unremarkable Italian western. There are cannonball sized holes in the story. Not the least of which is that Django is shot multiple times early on when his wife is killed and he is betrayed by our resident comb-over sporting villain David Barry (Horst Frank) and appears unaffected by these wounds in later scenes. But things like that don’t quite matter if forward momentum leads to a satisfying yarn, and Prepare A Coffin does exactly that. Filled with little flourishes of violence and thrilling action enough to raise it above the median of these types of films, you’ve got a full speed carriage chase, some bar fights, and you better believe that Django’s signature machine gun is going to make an appearance.

Almost more of a re-imagining than a sequel, this Django is a hangman by trade, and he hatches a scheme to rescue several of his victims and secretly raise them up as an army of the “dead” to exact revenge on the villainous politician. It’s pretty righteous. His hands are kind of sort of damaged the way they were in the first film as well. Other parallels such as coffins, machine guns, and cemeteries, not to mention a very similar costume, are all there as well.

Regardless, Prepare A Coffin is brisk, satisfying, and a fascinating little history lesson all in one attractive high definition package. If you’re a fan of the original Django, the Trinity films, or even of Coffin director Ferdinando Baldi (Comin’ At Ya!), you owe it to yourself to check out Django, Prepare A Coffin. It rises just far enough above the pack to warrant a viewing, and it’ll never slow down enough to make you regret your decision.

The Package

As mentioned, Arrow presents a crisp and colorful scan of this Italian shoot-em-up. The high definition treatment is likely the biggest reason to see this specific release. There’s a great featurette catching you up to speed on the Django phenomenon hosted by Italian Western expert and author Kevin Grant, and a SUPER spoilery trailer for the movie itself. That’s all you get with this lean and efficient package, but fans should definitely seek it out.

And I’m Out.

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