Django, Prepare a Coffin (Italian: Preparati la bara!), 1968.
Directed by Ferinando Baldi.
Starring Terence Hill, Horst Frank, George Eastman, Jose Torres and Pinuccio Ardia.
A mysterious gunfighter named Django is employed by a local crooked political boss as a hangman to execute innocent locals framed by the boss, who wants their land.
In the wake of Django Unchained’s success earlier this year Arrow Video releases Django, Prepare a Coffin (aka Preparati la bara!, Get the Coffin Ready, Viva Django and more), one of the dozens of ‘Django’ westerns, featuring the titular character. Here, played by the Desperate Dan-chinned Terence Hill, Django is an enigmatic travelling hangman, black-cloaked and stubbled, and wronged by opportunistic politician David Barry (Horst Frank, a malicious and elongated Augustus Gloop) who caused the death of his wife.
In an enticing play on the Blondie and Tuco subplot from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Django saves the lives of a series of men put to death by Barry in a bid to take their land; a group of phantoms with whom he can join forces and take revenge for his wife’s death and his betrayal.
Looking at the press release attached to my screener it feels a little like even the distributors haven’t the courage of their conviction in re-releasing Prepare a Coffin, a central point of promotion being that music from the film was sampled in Gnarls Barkley’s ‘Crazy’ in 2006 (and it’s true that in during the film’s lags you find yourself producing a mashup in your head). But there’s still a decent amount of charm here. Terence Hill is surprisingly watchable considering quite how little he does – and I’m not suggesting he’s a ‘look at that performance, he’s doing nothing’ kind of actor, in the vein of Ryan Gosling or Robert De Niro, this guy is actually doing nothing much at all – and the supporting performances, perhaps because they’re bogged down by a bland script (and dubbed anyway), are up and down. The direction too isn’t brilliant, tied very much to putting together the pointlessly overcomplicated narrative, but there remain some nice grace notes (deciding not to massacre a building because “there’s someone inside who’s more interesting alive”, Django’s banter with a hard-drinking parrot on his shoulder) and a couple of pretty exciting action scenes. An opening fight scene is shot and cut really efficiently, replete with proper BIFF! BAFF! BOSH! sound effects, and a climactic saloon siege is loud and fun, and looks great (when do firelit faces and wood, that whiskey-coloured cowboy glow, not look good?)
Later on Prepare a Coffin becomes even more post-Dollars Trilogy, particularly the climactic graveyard scene, which lifts boldly from both The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and the first Django, with a ridiculous but shamelessly entertaining deus ex massive machine gun.
The picture transfer for this Blu-ray is pretty solid and the sets, colours and costumes are one of the main reasons to see the film. The sound on the other hand, is shabby, even for an exhumed underground film. But this doesn’t bother one all that much. The film has its moments, and despite being a little too caught-up in a tedious plot there are enough extravagant crash zooms and jarring edits to make it worth a look.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★