Gonna Need a Bigger Cemetery

Franco Nero barely changes his expression throughout Django. As an indifferent participant to a reconstruction era west, his goal isn’t moral-based so much as seeing his next day. There’s a cold heroism to the character, where his actions happen not out of duty or obligation, but opportunity.

The pure western fantasy sees well over 150 people meet their deaths, a majority at Django’s hand. Entering a broken town whose only economic savior is prostitution, Django carries a coffin as if an ornament. That wooden box does indeed hold death, but not in an expected way. Django’s mystery isn’t held for long, yet makes use of the bubbling tension as long as it can. A turn toward grindhouse exploitation, against villains so outrageously brutish, proves satisfying.

Django wears the cost on his face and through stifled personality

Django’s historical period is one of upheaval. Southerners who refuse to accept their defeat turn shooting Mexican immigrants into a hunting game. Draped in red hoods, the Italian perspective sees an America dueling with its beliefs, and places a stone-faced anti-hero in the mix. It’s not a movie of sides – although right wins – so much as messy, imperfect events that upend the John Fords and John Waynes. Much as he delightfully slaughters Klan members by the dozens, Django himself remains flawed, driven by greed that nearly costs him his life.

By the finale, Django’s changed. Still a loner, or a Ronin in Japanese terms since Django leans on Yojimbo for its source material. Yet he’s shown empathy. He’s seen the cost of his actions (and inaction). While wholly artificial in its fictional flair, this isn’t a mere gun slinging firefight, but a measured, distinctive western fable, aided by a majestic score via composer Luis Bacalov.

Spaghetti westerns subsist in pop culture because of their harshness, breaking from a Hollywood cleanliness that served the genre for years. Django wasn’t first (or even close to it), but it’s a film that cares enough to balance its stock characters, develop them, and challenge perceptions of the horse-riding outsider who drops in and saves a town. Bloodshed isn’t glorious. Django wears the cost on his face and through stifled personality. Consequences to violence don’t only show in the nearby cemetery, but on the people who put others in there too.

Video

A miracle. Every frame of this is a miracle. The level of resolution is absurd, and so precise, the imagery picks up on the minutiae from cloth, yarn, feathers, and of course facial definition. Perfect grain reproduction spoils nothing, allowing texture to flourish. It’s equal between close, medium, and wide shots; all of them excel to extreme levels. Landscapes reveal each blade of grass. Barely a spot of damage shows on the print either.

In saturation terms, Technicolor struggles to reach this vividness. Although primarily set in earth tones, reds and blues shimmer thanks to the Dolby Vision. The bold, dense hues warm flesh tones and embolden primaries. While there’s certainly a digital touch (responsible for the warmth), its inoffensively applied given the benefits.

Exceptionally bold contrast makes the desert sun bloom, the Dolby pass crisp and respectful. Dominating shadows create dimensionality at no loss to the detail. It’s all exquisite, and an obvious challenger even to those deservedly praised catalog efforts from major studios like Sony.

Audio

Italian and English (and separate subtitles for both) come together in DTS-HD mono. The preference? Italian. It’s more natural between the pair. The dub suffers from a bloated treble and additional hiss. While the Italian holds a few source faults – general scratchiness and flat score – balance is improved. So is clarity. It’s nothing remarkable either way, but sufficient.

Extras

Bonuses spread between the 4K and Blu-ray. Beginning with the UHD, Stephen Prince provides the commentary, followed by interviews galore, the first being Franco Nero for 26-minutes. Assistant director Ruggero Deodato joins others from the creative crew including both writers Franco Rosetti and Piero Vivarelli. Sergio Corbucci’s wife speaks on her husband’s career. Then, stuntman Gilberto Galimberti. Scholar Austin Fisher puts together a 23-minute appreciation. An older introduction comes from Alex Cox, followed by an impressive collection of promotional materials.

The Blu-ray holds its own commentary with C. Courtney Joyner and Henry C. Parke. Franco Nero returns for another interview, followed by a chat with Alberto Dell Acqua. A second part to Rosetti’s interview continues here, and Austin Fisher returns for his next round.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Django
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
4

Movie

A smart western slaughter, Django upends the usual hero role for someone who must face his actions in doing right.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 54 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: