Django, Prepare A Coffin
Director: Ferdinando Baldi
Writers: Ferdinando Baldi, Franco Rossetti
Stars: Terence Hill, Horst Frank and George Eastman
Released 14th January 2013
2013 marks the UK Arrow Video DVD debut of Ferdinando Baldi’s Django, Prepare A Coffin (originally entitled Preparati la bara! upon its Italian release in 1968). The release of this long lost and previously unavailable partial sequel (or perhaps prequel) to Sergio Corbucci’s 1966 Spaghetti Western classic Django also obviously coincides with the issue of Quentin Tarantino’s new (unconnected and lengthy)a Southern/slavery movie in cinemas, Django Unchained. Ian Johnston reviews it for us.
Corbucci’s outlandish, violent and sadistic Spaghetti Western picture, which starred the young, black clad and stubble sporting Franco Nero as the coffin dragging (concealing a very large machine gun) gunslinger Django, was a huge box office hit around the globe in the 60s (though banned for decades in the UK due to the level of violence it depicted), rivalling the success of Sergio Leone’s groundbreaking Dollars/Clint Eastwood movies. Django was particularly popular in Jamaica: in the hit 1972 Perry Henzell film The Harder They Come, the gangster hero goes to see Nero’s Django machine gunning hordes of Major Jackson’s Ku-Klux-Klan men down at the Kingston Rialto. Franco Nero even has a knowing cameo appearance in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, the latest addition to the Django cycle of films.
According to Sir Christopher Frayling’s magnificent near definitive book on the subject, Spaghetti Westerns: Cowboys and Europeans from Karl May to Sergio Leone, after Corbucci’s Django and the before the final 1974 picture Django Always Draws Second, twenty different unrelated films featuring a Django character were released in Italy. The number of pictures climbs to over thirty, if all the movies that were retiled to cash in on the Django fad are included. These movies consist of such titles as Django Shoots First (1966), Son of Django (1967), Django the Condemned (1967), A Few Dollars For Django (1968), Don’t Wait for Django, Shoot! (1968), Django the Bastard (1969), Django Does Not Forgive (1969), Nude Django (1971) and, of course, Django, Prepare A Coffin.
Ferdinando Baldi’s Django, Prepare A Coffin is a great deal closer to Sergio Corbucci’s Django than most of the other Django flicks, primarily because it was written by Franco Rossetti, who had worked on the original 1966 Spaghetti Western. Django, Prepare A Coffin stars the youthful Terence Hill (real name Mario Girotti, who achieved international fame in the They Call Me Trinity series of movies and in the 1973, Sergio Leone produced, comedy western My Name Is Nobody) as the wandering gunman Django. Hill is dressed in a very similar black costume to Franco Nero, nearly suffers as much physical violence, is just as quick on the draw and thankfully keeps his more famous comedic talents in check.
Django has the misfortune to come into contact with David Barry (Horst Frank), a crooked senator who has his sights set on higher office as governor of the state. As Barry tells Django openly, after the gunfighter has helped his ‘friend’ out in a fight, he will use any means at his disposal to fulfil his political ambitions and asks his gunfighter friend to join him. Django replies that he just wants a quite life in California. This does not come to pass. Barry’s gang, led by the ruthless Lucas (George Eastman, born Luigi Montefiori), rob a gold shipment Django is riding shotgun on, leaving him for dead and killing his wife, Lucy. Miraculously, Django survives being shot three times, buries Lucy and his former self and emerges dressed in black, hungry for revenge against Barry and the Lucas gang.
Five years pass. Hiding in plain view, Django is unknowingly hired as executioner by a corrupt local politician who is framing innocent men, and sending them to hang in a fiendish scheme to take hold of their land. Unfortunately for the politician Barry, Django has other ideas. He fakes the deaths of the condemned men and then assembles them into a fighting force who will aid him take down Barry, Lucas and his band, the men who had a hand in the death of Django’s wife years before.
Django, Prepare a Coffin might not rank as one of the very best Spaghetti Westerns – it does not reach the artistic heights achieved by the Leone pictures, Damiano Damiani’s A Bullet For The General (1966), Sergio Corbucci’s The Big Silence (1968), Sergio Sollima’s The Big Gundown (1966), or the original Django but it certainly maintains its levels of intrigue, action and suspense for all of its 88 minutes running time. Terence Hill gives a good impersonation of Franco Nero (which was just what was required, as Nero had defected to Hollywood), and Horst Frank is the perfect cold, odious politician villain (it is easy to see why these Spaghetti Westerns were so popular in ‘developing’ counties).
The template for Ferdinando Baldi’s Django, Prepare A Coffin is all too obviously Leone’s The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (from the opening credits to the showdown in a graveyard/cemetery: also mirroring Django 1966), but Rossetti’s script gives some good pointed twists to what could have been a fairly standard revenge scenario, Enzo Barboni’s cinematography highlights the unremittingly grim nature of the western environment, while the Gianfranco Reverberi electric guitar driven score is a superb Spaghetti Western soundtrack – complete with a memorable opening credit tune, ‘You Better Smile’, sung by Nicola di Bari (apparently sampled on the Gnarls Barkley hit,’Crazy’). Viva the Spaghetti Western, viva Django!
The Django, Prepare a Coffin UK DVD release comes complete with the original trailer, reversible sleeve artwork and a collector’s booklet by Spaghetti Western expert Howard Hughes.
All words by Ian Johnston. More reviews by Ian on Louder Than War can be read here.