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Hanging for Django(1969)
The rich and evil Mr. Fargo runs an immoral business of illegally smuggling poor Mexicans across the Texan border. Once he cashes the little amounts of money these people have, he sadistically dumps them into a ravine. The large list of notorious outlaws that he works with lure two different bounty hunters to town: Johnny Brandon and Everett "Preacherman" Murdock.
For more about Hanging for Django and the Hanging for Django Blu-ray release, see Hanging for Django Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on November 6, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Starring: William Berger, Anthony Steffen, Nicoletta Machiavelli
Director: Sergio Garrone
» See full cast & crew
Hanging for Django Blu-ray Review
More like, "Hanging Around Waiting for Django to Show Up."
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, November 6, 2013
One of the truly great spaghetti westerns, Sergio Corbucci's 1966 shoot-em-up, Django, was wildly popular and spawned endless imitators, including at least thirty-one unofficial sequels. Most of these are "Django" films in name only; in several, the eponymous gunslinger—originally played by Franco Nero—doesn't even so much as appear. Such is the case with the misleadingly titled Hanging for Django, a movie that not only lacks Django, but doesn't have a hanging either. (To be fair, the Italian title, Una lunga fila di croci—or, A Long Line of Crosses—is far more appropriate considering the ridiculous number of onscreen kills.) But no matter. A Django film is arguably less characterized by Django himself than by a certain attitude and tone—violent, cynical, ruthless—presaging the nihilism of Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch.
Hanging for Django strikes the right mood and features nearly non-stop bloodshed, but it's nonetheless a tedious southwestern adventure, poorly scripted and directed by Sergio Garrone, a cut-rate journeyman filmmaker who made a few westerns and then transitioned into seedy z-grade Nazisploitation fare like SS Experiment Love Camp and SS Camp 5: Women's Hell. Basically—following the cinematic fashions of the times—he went from ripping off Leone and Corbucci to perverting the arthouse anti-fascist horrors of Pasolini and Cavani. Depending on how generous you're feeling, Hanging for Django might be described as either one of Garrone's less-extreme films or one of his most boring. Regardless, it's forgettable—an overcooked spaghetti western with too much sauce and not enough dramatic meat.
Just to reiterate: there's no Django here. Instead, we follow a vaguely Django-ish bounty hunter named Brandon (Anthony Steffen) who's driven more by his conscience and desire for social change than greed. His particular cause is the treatment of Mexican immigrants, whom rich American land barons are smuggling across the Texas border, exploiting for cheap labor, and then killing to recoup their wages. One of these slavers is Fargo (Riccardo Garrone), a hawk-eyed taskmaster with a thin, nearly John Waters-esque mustache, who drives his workers until they can't work anymore and then dumps them in the Rio Grande to drown. Fargo pulls the strings, but his orders are executed by his gang of underlings, the worst of the worst bandits in the southwest. If taken down, they could net a $20,000 bounty, but Brandon is more concerned with meting out his unflinching brand of dead-or-alive justice. Along the way, he teams up with Everett Murdoch (William Berger), a dressed-in-black preacher-turned-assassin who wields a comically ridiculous seven-barreled shotgun, has dead-aim with throwing knives, and agrees to come along in exchange for a 50/50 split of the profits.
What follows is a dry, confusingly plotted series of spaghetti western twists and tropes and continuity errors—backs are stabbed, loves are lost, and "Preacherman" fires way too many slugs out of that seven-barreled shottie without reloading. The story has next to no impact; it feels cobbled together, almost improvised, with no regard for pacing, tension, or release. The character development is disappointing too; you might expect Brandon and Everett to have a satisfying friction, butting heads as they bust caps, but their interactions—even when they have their inevitable falling out—are flavorless and routine. The same goes for the violence. There's a lot of it, yes—I'd wager more bullets are fired than words spoken in the film—but without any substantive character drama behind them, the shootouts grow tedious. They're largely bloodless too; Everett will fire off his shotgun, complete with tinny sound effect, and his target will simply crumple over or fall backwards. Nothing especially gruesome here.
Besides a badly edited cockfight, the pro-Mexico undercurrent, and a few weird, unnecessary sepia-toned flashbacks to Fargo's past, there's not much about Hanging for Django that stands out. This is your average low-budget spaghetti western—a cheaply churned out entertainment that probably played on the bottom half of a bill with a much better film. Of course, fans of the genre may get a brief kick out of seeing a few familiar faces. Austrian actor William Berger (Keoma, Sabata) is the film's most compelling presence as the charlatan Preacherman, but Anthony Steffen—who would actually play Django later the same year in Django the Bastard—is decent too. Look out for exploitation actress Mariangela Giordano (La bimba di Satana) and the slightly more upscale Nicoletta Machiavelli (Navajo Joe) in bit parts, but be prepared to be confused as to why they're so underutilized.
Hanging for Django Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Blu-ray case boasts a "New transfer from original 35mm negative, digitally restored," but the results are disappointing to say the least. For one, the film is inexplicably presented in interlaced 1080i/AVC, which is a bad, bad choice for a movie with a lot of quick pans and zooms. At times, the image noticeably stutters as the camera whips to and fro, and there are even some combing artifacts visible to the naked eye. There has also been a significant amount of digital noise reduction applied to the picture; film grain has been wiped out—although, sometimes, you can still see the movement of the grain, but not the grain itself—leaving faces a little too waxy. It's not the worst case of DNR I've seen, but it definitely seems like an unnecessary alteration. On the plus side, the print does look fairly clean. There are some minor scratches and occasional specks, but nothing distracting. Does the film benefit from a high definition transfer? Sure. I've never seen the film on DVD, but the Blu-ray has an appreciable lift in clarity from typical standard definition sources. That's not to say the picture is sharp. Like a lot of spaghetti westerns—where rapid filmmaking was more important than careful filmmaking—focus is often inaccurate, even in many closeups. When the image is in focus, you do notice high definition detail but also notice how the picture would've been sharper without so much DNR. Anyway, problematic seems to be the word to use here.
Hanging for Django Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The audio doesn't fare much better, if any. The disc includes two tracks, the "original" Italian—the sound for most spaghetti westerns was dubbed entirely in post—and an English mix. Both are presented in lossy Dolby Digital 2.0, and both have significant issues. The Italian track is brighter and brasher, with an often harsh high-end, while the English mix has a muddied, mid-heavy sound that lacks clarity. Additionally, regardless of which track you choose, you'll be subjected to a near-constant hiss that's loud enough to be a distraction. The mixes are at their best when highlighting Vasco Vassilli's score, which hits all the usual spaghetti western notes—plaintive harmonica, lazily strummed guitar, piercing trumpet solos. Sounds effects are as tinny as you'd expect from the genre, and while the dialogue can be either too hot or too muddled depending on which track you go with, it's at least reasonably easy to understand what the characters are saying. The disc includes optional English subtitles.
Hanging for Django Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Hanging for Django Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Given the resurgence of interest in the character after Tarantino's Django Unchained, it's not particularly surprising that we're seeing some of the unofficial Django sequels and knock-offs appear on Blu-ray. Hanging for Django is an odd choice, though. Not only does it not feature Django—or a hanging, both contrary to its title—it's an all-around boring spaghetti western, drama-wise and visually. Yes, there's a gunfight in every other scene, but the action quickly becomes rote. Raro Video's Blu-ray release is equally disappointing, with a DNR'd 1080i transfer—yes, i as in interlaced, in 2013, for reasons inexplicable—and two lossy audio tracks with issues of their own. Unless you're some sort of Django completist, I wouldn't bother with this one.
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Hanging for Django Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Sergio Garrone's Hanging for Django Detailed - September 23, 2013
Raro Video has officially announced and detailed its upcoming Blu-ray release of Italian director Sergio Garrone's western Una lunga fila di croci a.k.a Hanging for Django (1969), starring Anthony Steffen, William Berger, Mario Brega, and Nicoletta Machiavelli. ...
• Hanging for Django Prepped for Blu-ray - April 9, 2013
Independent distributors Raro Video USA have revealed that they are planning to bring to Blu-ray Italian director Sergio Garrone's western Una lunga fila di croci a.k.a Hanging for Django (1969), starring Anthony Steffen, William Berger, Mario Brega, and Nicoletta ...
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