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Hanging For Django

Raro Video // Unrated // October 29, 2013
List Price: $24.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted October 13, 2013 | E-mail the Author
Mr. Fargo (Riccardo Garrone) has amassed a fortune for himself by smuggling some of the most impoverished
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peasants in Mexico across the border. If Fargo and his men make it into the U.S. undetected, their cargo is sold for slave labor at a hundred dollars a head. If there's even the slightest fear of being detected, Fargo has his men ruthlessly slaughter these poor bastards and dump their bodies into the river below. The job description involves butchering dozens upon dozens of people, so it kind of goes without saying that the thugs Fargo hires to carry out his dirty work have the rapsheets to match. When bounty hunters Johnny Brandon (Anthony Steffen) and Everett Murdock (William Berger) stomp into Nogales, they have no idea who Fargo is or what he's been up to; they're just looking for a small army of wanted men and the payday that goes along with it. A dark secret like Fargo's can't stay buried for long, though, and where one bounty hunter sees the cruelest of injustices, the other just sees dollar signs...

That's a hell of a premise, not that you'd really know it from suffering through Hanging for Django. A joke is cracked in a featurette elsewhere on this Blu-ray disc about director Sergio Garrone churning out three Spaghetti westerns a week, and the storytelling and production are all so slapdash throughout Hanging for Django that I could kind of buy that. This 1969 Spaghetti western can barely be bothered to make it clear what's going on, exactly, finding anything resembling plot to just get in the way of the next bout of gunplay.

There's a shootout in at least every other scene in Hanging for Django. I'd struggle to name a balls-out American action flick from the past few years with this much gunfire exchanged, and its body count has to be somewhere in the triple-digits. Even then, the violence is pretty much just a dude fanning a pistol towards guys in ragged clothing who tumble to the ground. There's nothing visceral, disturbing, or even all that exciting about it. There aren't any memorable setpieces like the train assaults in A Bullet for the General or the first appearance of the Gatling gun
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in Django. Its two bounty hunters are devoid of any real presence or charisma. The featurette on this disc marvels at the role of women in Hanging for Django, but I kind of kept forgetting that Nicoletta Machiavelli was even in this sucker. The sinister Mr. Fargo, as played by Riccardo Garrone, is too bland and muted to make for much of a memorable villain. Sergio Garrone shows something close enough to visual flair in the sepia-tinted flashbacks, but otherwise, his directorial bag of tricks is limited to one snap zoom after another after another after another after another. The light, breezy, and occasionally whimsical (?!) score seems like it was spliced in from a completely different movie. I don't know what the deal is with Maya and whatever relationship she may or may not have with Brandon or Fargo. I don't know why, in the middle of a cockfight, Fargo flashes back to a dark time in his childhood. I don't really know why a movie this tedious and poorly made even exists. Um, I guess I'm into that really unique rifle that Murdock is lugging around. Other than that, there's basically nothing I like about Hanging for Django, and Raro's presentation of the film makes an already difficult experience that much much worse. Skip It.

The cover for Hanging for Django proudly brags about a "new transfer from [the] original 35mm negative", which...nah, there's no way. For one, the movie's presented in 1080i. I couldn't even begin to tell you the last interlaced feature film I've come across on Blu-ray; even the chintziest, most bargain basement dreck can still somehow muster 1080p24. The newly-inserted "Hanging for Django" title bar looks wildly out of place with the rest of the flick. Quick pans and fast movements have a nasty tendency to sputter and stutter. Its colors are limp and lifeless across the board. Some of this sloppiness probably dates back to the original production, such as the sky in the climactic showdown jarringly alternating between ashen gray, a subdued blue, and somewhat vivid azure as the camera cuts from shot-to-shot. Contrast skews flat and is occasionally muddy. The image is fairly soft -- excessively so in the opening stretch -- boasting little in the way of fine detail. It's weak even for a two-perf Techniscope-style production. Hanging for Django is also completely devoid of any sort of filmic texture, looking as if it's been filtered to Hell and back. I mean, crack this screenshot open to full-size:

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Is there anything on display there that screams "high definition!" to you? There's something to be said for the lack of wear or speckling, I guess, and maybe I should be thankful that a Spaghetti western this hopelessly obscure has managed to find its way to Blu-ray, period. Still, work this sloppy isn't something I can really shrug off, especially with an asking price north of twenty bucks. I just hope Raro puts forth more of an effort when they release one of my longtime favorites, Nightmare City, sometime in the next couple months.

As for the rest of the technical specs...? AVC. Single-layer disc. Aspect ratio somewhere in the neighborhood of 2.35:1.

The lack of lossless audio similarly fails to meet even the most basic expectations for a shiny, new Blu-ray disc. Hanging for Django instead features a pair of Dolby Digital mono tracks (192kbps): one in English and the other in Italian. Since the dialogue and sound effects were all recorded after the fact, there really isn't an "original" language to influence your choice. The English track sounded cold and canned to me, and I can't stomach the squeaky actor standing in for William Berger, so I stuck with the Italian audio instead. It's listenable enough, despite sounding kind of thin as well as suffering from some mild hiss and crackling in the background.

Another troublesome thing is that the provided English subs are actually dubtitles, transcribing the English track rather than translating the Italian version. This means you sometimes get subtitles when no one's actually speaking, and the intent can be different too. Hell, one of Brandon's last lines in the movie is a cold, succinct "dead or alive" callback in Italian, but the subtitles drone on with dialogue like "I'm taking you in, Fargo!" even though he's silent at that moment. The English
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subs are placed in the body of the scope image, which I prefer, although they strike me as unusually small in size.

  • Two Bounty Killers for a Massacre (15 min.; SD): The lone extra on the disc itself is this Italian retrospective from 2007. It delves into the filmography of director Sergio Garrone and how different Hanging for Django is from the bulk of his more extreme work. From there, the featurette speaks about each of the cast members and analyzes the characters they portray here. This is a decent look back at the film, and it's certainly candid about the fact that Hanging for Django really isn't very good.

    Strangely, "Two Bounty Killers for a Massacre" is heavily windowboxed, not enhanced for widescreen displays at all.

Interestingly, the slipcase slides off to reveal a completely different set of painted artwork. A set of liner notes briefly charts the careers of Sergio Garrone and his cast. They also touch on what makes Hanging for Django unique as well if you don't feel like watching the disc's featurette.

The Final Word
A gruelingly lackluster Spaghetti western like Hanging for Django would be a tough sell no matter what, but its poor presentation here makes this Blu-ray disc borderline-impossible to recommend. Skip It.
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