Friday, November 15, 2013

Blu-ray Review: 'Hanging for Django'

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.

HangingForDjangoWriter/director 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 outings.

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.

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