Article first published as Blu-ray Review: 'Hanging for Django' on Blogcritics.
Last year, right before Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained was released, four other Django titles
were released on DVD. As with all films that are part of a series — a
term used rather loosely here — it was a case of the good, bad, and
ugly. The funny thing about some of the Django titles is that sometimes they don’t even feature a Django character. Such is the case with the release of Hanging for Django on Blu-ray from Raro Video, another offspring of Kino Lorber, on October 29.
Sergio Garrone puts Anthony Steffen in the role of Johnny Brandon, a
bounty hunter hot on the trail of Santana. Along the way, another bounty
hunter, Everett Murdock (William Berger), joins forces with Brandon as
they decide to fry a bigger fish in the form of Mr. Fargo (Riccardo
Garrone). Fargo is smuggling illegal immigrants through the border in
Nogales, including Maya’s (Nicoletta Machiavelli) brother Jose. After a
string of dead immigrants puts the U.S. on Fargo’s trail, Brandon and
Murdock must put aside their differences to take Fargo down.
Coming from the Kino family, you’d expect the video department to be a little sketchy, but in the case of Hanging for Django,
it looks better than expected. Presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio in
1080p, the image quality is extremely clean. It’s hard to tell if
there’s any DNR on hand, even with film grain being rather faint. Detail
could be a smidge sharper — beads of sweat and questionable makeup
manage to stand out. The print itself is refreshingly clean, with no
aliasing, banding, crush, or noise take its toll on the image. All
things considered, this is one of the best looking Kino transfers this
side of their Mario Bava Collection.
As for the audio, only two tracks are available, lossy Italian and
English 2.0 Dolby Digital. Considering all sound came from the center
speaker, dialogue is clean and crisp and never drowns amidst the music
and gunfire. It could have been given some room to breathe if it had
been upgraded to a lossless mix, but these types of films rarely receive
that kind of treatment, outside of being a major studio catalogue
title. There was no hiss or pops heard either. This is probably the best
the film will ever sound outside of a full restoration. A set of
Italian and English subtitles are also available.
The only special feature is the 14-minute “Video Documentary: Two
Bounty Killers For a Massacre” presented in Italian with English
subtitles. Manlio Gomarasca offers up a Wikipedia-worthy background on
Sergio Garrone and features video clips that include spoilers. Be sure
to watch the feature first. In the “Video Documentary,” Gomarasca notes Hanging for Django as an anomaly in the film resume of Garrone. Made as a tribute to the spaghetti western, whereas his Django the Bastard featured more of his love of gothic horror, Hanging
certainly fits in with the likes of any film by Sergio Leone, even if
just in style. Garrone and his cinematographer Franco Villa have some
fun tricks up their sleeve, keeping your interest visually, even if the
screenplay is the convoluted mess you’d expect from the genre’s lesser
Hanging for Django may not feature an actual Django, or
any kind of hanging for that matter, but fans of spaghetti-westerns can
feel safe blind buying a new addition to a surprisingly expanding
library of these films.