Following the success of Sergio Corbucci’s 1966 spaghetti western, Django, dozens of films were released that bore the name but only served as a means to capitalize from it. A lot of them had nothing to do with the character, and neither Corbucci nor the film’s original star, Franco Nero, had any involvement in the making of them. It wasn’t until 1987 that fans got an official sequel with Django Strikes Again, in which Nero reprised the role and Corbucci had a credit for being the character’s creator, but didn’t have a hand in the screenplay and didn’t return to the director’s chair for it either.
One of the unofficial films to come out of this was Django, Prepare a Coffin, which was initially going to have Nero as the titular character once again, but he decided to pursue a career in Hollywood instead. However, one might have trouble telling the difference between Nero and the actor chosen for Django, Prepare a Coffin, Terence Hill. Both share a lot of the same facial features, such as the bright blue eyes, the amount of scruff they carry during their respective movies, and having nearly identical jaw lines. It’s rather fascinating that director Ferdinando Baldi was able to find someone that could easily be mistaken as Nero.
Although it’s marked as an unofficial entry, Django, Prepare a Coffin is set up as somewhat of a prequel to Django, giving the viewer some background information on the Gatling gun-toting drifter and how he came to be prior to the events of the first film. It alters at least one of the events presented in the first film, which was the fact that, off screen, Django’s wife was killed by Major Jackson, the main antagonist. In Django, Prepare a Coffin, we witness his wife being killed by a corrupt senator named David Barry. Django is also left for dead after the raid by Barry’s men.
Years pass, and Django is presumed dead. But he goes under the radar as a traveling executioner for different towns. As it turns out, the people he’s hanging are being purposefully convicted for crimes they didn’t commit. Django realizes that these people he’s supposed to be hanging are innocent, and he devises a plan that saves them from meeting their maker. All of these men band together with Django to seek revenge on those who sentenced them to death, while Django goes after the man who killed his wife.
Like Nero, Hill portrays the character as a man of few words with a quick trigger finger. This could easily be mistaken as an official entry in the Django series, since Hill plays the same character - and almost in the same manner - as Nero. But Hill stands out on his own, showing Django as a man who witnesses the many great things he has get stripped away from him at the hands of someone he considered a friend, and how he has to adjust to his newfound life.
Django, Prepare a Coffin doesn’t quite carry the same emotional impact or the same edginess of Corbucci’s film, which was considered one of the most violent films to have been made at the time of its release. This is more of a low-budgeted, B-movie approach that, at times, can be pretty cheesy, but comes with some humorous moments. One great scene, in particular, has a character, as he’s getting ready to seek revenge, ask, “What’s the matter with killing someone?” Another scene features a parrot with a thirst for alcohol shouting, “Polly want a drink! Polly want a drink!”
Aside from its silly humor, what makes Django, Prepare a Coffin an enjoyable romp is that it comes with a lot of the same themes as many westerns that were released at that time. It focuses on a character who is bound for revenge and will go to great lengths to get it. Baldi's film may not be as impactful or as groundbreaking as the original Django, but it makes up for it with some solid shootout scenes and a catchy soundtrack and theme song that won't leave your head for some time.
Arrow Video’s release of the Blu-ray/DVD combo pack makes this the first time that Django, Prepare a Coffin has become available for purchase in the U.S. in this format. The picture quality is a strong improvement over the bootleg quality that has surfaced on streaming sites such as YouTube.
The special features are somewhat scarce in this release. The only features on the disc are the film’s trailer and a short interview with Kevin Grant, author of Any Gun Can Play, in which he describes the Django character and how Nero’s portrayal had a major cultural impact on cinema. Grant also focuses on the similarities between Corbucci’s film and Django, Prepare a Coffin.
The booklet that comes with the first pressing of this release features a discussion with another spaghetti western expert named Howard Hughes. It goes over some of the same things that Grant discusses in the feature on the Blu-ray, but also discusses where filmmaker Quentin Tarantino lists it amongst his favorites in the genre, and how the film has become a cult favorite for many.
While this is not directly related to the first Django film, it should still be checked out by those who have an interest in the character, the spaghetti western genre, or just westerns in general. Its quick run time and shootout scenes make it entertaining and something you could easily rewatch if you're in the mood for a good old fashioned revenge tale.