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Schlock & Awe: DJANGO, PREPARE A COFFIN

Schlock & Awe: DJANGO, PREPARE A COFFIN

As popular as Sergio Leone‘s Dollars Trilogy (eventually) was in the United States and as innovative and genre-redefining as they were everywhere, the clear winner of popularity in Europe was Sergio Corbucci’s 1966 film Django. It was edgy and violent and funereal in a strange way, and set the bar for many of the Italian westerns that would come later — most of which you’d never really see in the U.S. Django the character was popular enough to spawn close to 50 unofficial sequels or movies that were retrofitted to be called something-or-other Django. One of these unofficial movies that actually tried to be a sequel was 1968’s Django, Prepare a Coffin.

A ton of movies featured an all-purpose spaghetti western hero, and while they are almost never actually named “Django,” the character became a ubiquitous genre character for close to a decade. Evidently, European films didn’t care about intellectual property at all. I’ve already written about the original Django, as well as a weird unrelated Gothic horror western, but this is the first semi-legitimate sequel (actually, a prequel) I’ve reviewed, and it’s surprisingly faithful to the source.

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Directed by Ferdinando Baldi (who directed the musical spaghetti western spoof Little Rita of the West), Django, Prepare a Coffin, also known as Viva Django!, could be a direct follow-up to the original movie. Baldi even reportedly offered original star Franco Nero the chance to come back, and when he ultimately declined the offer, Baldi cast up-and-comer Terence Hill, who bears a striking resemblance to the chiseled, blue-eyed Nero.

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Depicting quite a few Django references, this movie starts off with Django and his wife ambushed as he guards a gold deposit. His wife is killed and Django learns that the culprit is his supposed friend David Barry (Horst Frank). Django lays low and takes the job of hangman in a town run by the ruthless gangster Lucas (George Eastman), who is an underling of Barry’s. Several of Barry’s political rivals and people standing in the way of his land grab are set to be executed, until Django fakes their deaths in order to build an army of “dead men” to take down his enemy.

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Django sends the condemned men to “haunt” those who perjured to get the men hanged, which makes them sound insane when they report to Lucas. The hanged are supposed to intercept an attack on a gold transport and capture Barry’s men to get evidence, but Garcia — who earlier has saved Django’s life during a fight within the group — convinces the rest of the men that instead they should take the gold for themselves. Garcia then kills the others. Not cool, bro.

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Garcia’s treachery isn’t what he expected; his wife is arrested and sentenced to hang since she’s the only “living” one who had knowledge of the gold transport. Django, despite his anger at Garcia, saves the wife, and she then returns the favor when Django himself is captured and beaten. Garcia, for his part, gives Django the gold and helps lure Barry to a graveyard. Barry didn’t come alone, though, and brings a cadre of bad peeps. Luckily, Django has buried a friend in a grave marked Django…it’s the machine gun, you guys.

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Django, Prepare a Coffin is a solid movie that stands up as a worthy successor to the original. The fact that Baldi and co-writer Franco Rossetti kept their script mostly true to the original movie is commendable. Terence Hill isn’t quite as charismatic a lead as Franco Nero, but he does a commendable job, and the supporting cast, especially Frank and Eastman as the lead villains, is really terrific. George Eastman, by the way, despite being a very tall, handsome man of leading man quality, was most always cast as villains, and moreover, unrepentant monsters. He played a kidnapper and rapist in Mario Bava’s crime-horror film Rabid Dogs, and even wrote himself as a cannibalistic terror in the once-banned Anthropophagus.

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The thing that’s perhaps most infamous about Django, Prepare a Coffin is its music by the Reverberi brothers. The track “Last Man Standing” which plays throughout the movie was sampled by Gnarls Barkley for their hit “Crazy.” Don’t believe me?

Now that is, Crazy, isn’t it?

There were hundred of Italian and European westerns produced in the 1960s and ’70s, and while they all can’t feature Lee Van Cleef or give the world more Ennio Morricone music, several of them are worth your time. Django, Prepare a Coffin is definitely in that camp. Check it out! It’s available now on Blu-ray via Arrow Video and it’s a blast. Several of them, in fact.

Images: Titanus Distribuzione/Arrow Video

Kyle Anderson is the Associate Editor for Nerdist. He writes the weekly look at weird or obscure films in Schlock & Awe. Follow him on Twitter!

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