In this definitive Spaghetti Western, Franco Nero (Keoma, The Fifth Cord) gives a career-defining performance as Django, a mysterious loner who arrives at a mud-drenched ghost town on the Mexico-US border, ominously dragging a coffin behind him. After saving imperilled prostitute Maria (Loredana Nusciak), Django becomes embroiled in a brutal feud between a racist gang and a band of Mexican revolutionaries...
With Django, director Sergio Corbucci (The Great Silence) upped the ante for sadism and sensationalism in Westerns, depicting machine gun massacres, mud-fighting prostitutes and savage mutilations. A huge hit with international audiences, Django s brand of bleak nihilism would be repeatedly emulated in a raft of unofficial sequels.
The film is presented here in an exclusive new restoration with a wealth of extras including the newly restored bonus feature Texas Adios, which also stars Franco Nero, and was released as Django 2 in several territories.
After a long delay, Arrow Video finally releases their edition for Sergio Corbucci’s cult-classic Django, delivering the film in a limited edition set available on either high-def Blu-ray or 4K UHD. This 4K UHD set presents the film in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 on a triple-layer UHD Blu-ray disc. The 2160p/24hz ultra hi-def presentation (with Dolby Vision) is sourced from a new 4K restoration conducted by Arrow, scanned from the 35mm original camera negative. On a bonus standard, dual-layer Blu-ray (exclusive to the limited edition), Arrow includes another western featuring Franco Nero, Texas, Adios, sourced from a newer 2K restoration and presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 with a 1080p/24hz high-definition encode. The disc replicates Arrow’s UK edition for the film. There is no 1080p high-definition version available for Django in this set and viewers without the ability to playback 4K will need to look at Arrow’s standard Blu-ray set.
The long wait (due to, as I understand it, a rights dispute with the film’s previous distributor, Blue Underground) has been well worth it, especially if it means it led to Arrow releasing this in 4K, because this presentation looks amazing and goes well and beyond however I figured this would look. Restoration wise the film has been cleaned up exceptionally, with only a few minor marks and mild stains (maybe the remnants of mold) flowing through here and there, the opening credits showing more damage and looking a bit dupier than the rest of the film. Outside of those minor instances the image is unbelievably clean.
All of that would of course be for naught if the digital presentation isn't up to the job, but thankfully this aspect is also a knock-out. Dynamic range (thanks to Dolby Vision I assume) is impressive, right from the opening credits. The image, as I mentioned before, can look a little dupey during the opening, and the picture has a dirtier, darker look, but the credits themselves, delivered in red, are bright and bold and just leap off of the screen, cleanly without any bleeding or looking blown-out. Just the leap from the dark image to the brighter credits is impressive enough, but there are outstanding examples all throughout. There’s a wonderful shot of the coffin Django is carrying around, covered in mud and glistening in the light. That “glistening” looks incredibly sharp and clear, again no bleeding, and gives that mud a wonderful, natural look. That dynamic range further holds up during latter darker sequences, which deliver excellent shadow detail. It's just striking and probably the presentation's strongest aspect.
But that’s not to shortchange anything else about this restoration and final presentation. The 4K image is also incredibly sharp and highly detailed, rendering the rather fine grain structure naturally and cleanly. The mud, the landscape, and the textures of the red hoods worn by the villains all look amazing. You can even make out every bit of stubble on Nero’s face. The dynamic range also leads to exceptional looking colours. It is a dirty looking film overall with lots of browns and such, but those red hoods and scarves, along with Nero’s blue eyes, look exceptional.
In the end Arrow delivers an absolute stunner of a presentation. I never thought I’d see the film ever look as good as it does here, and I somehow doubt it looked anywhere near as sharp and clear during its initial theatrical run. This is really just something to be thrilled about.
It's so good, in fact, that it’s then rather jarring to jump to the film on the second disc, Texas, Adios. That should not be taken as a dig against its presentation, because the restoration for the second film still manages to impress itself. It’s just that to go from a 4K version of a film, and all the advantages that particular format offers, to a standard high-def presentation of another, does give one a bit of whiplash. Though dynamic range, black levels, and colours aren’t as strong (obviously) they still look good here, and the film is, for the most part, quite sharp and clean. There is a warmer look, but it’s suiting, and the image isn’t overly yellow, blues still managing to pop. Black levels are rather deep but can get muddy in a handful of scenes that look a little dupey. The restoration has cleaned up things nicely, but there are a few moments where some stains appear in the top portions of the screen, which look to be related to mold.
It’s a solid presentation in the end, but nothing compared to what Django delivers.
(All screen captures for Django are taken from the source disc in SDR. They have been shrunk from full-resolution to 1920x1080 and converted from PNG files to JPG. They should still offer a general idea of quality but should not be considered reference quality.)
Django (1966): 9/10 Texas, Adios (1966): 8/10
The two films both come with English and Italian soundtrack options, all delivered in DTS-HD MA 1.0 monaural. I listened to the English tracks primarily for both (despite the mention of possible translation issues on the commentary for Texas, Adios) and sampled the Italian.
For both films the Italian tracks may sound a little sharper, if edgier, compared to their English counterparts, but I think viewers will be happy with either option; it will come down to which Django/Nero voice they want. It’s clear both tracks for both films are dubbed with lip-synching issues (the English one is worse, admittedly), so neither is perfect in this regard, but quality wise they’re fine, no severe instances of damage ever sticking out. The tracks can be a little flat, too, gunshots sounding pretty mellow when all is said and done, but the music, especially in Django, sounds sharp and features some decent range.
In the end they’re all fine, just products of the time.
Arrow’s limited-edition packs in special features over the two discs, Django and its features on the first disc, Texas, Adios and its features on the second. Though I don’t own it, it appears that the disc for Texas, Adios is the exact same one Arrow used for their UK edition of the film; I don’t believe it was ever released in North America on its own.
Both films come with audio commentaries, Django coming with one featuring Stephen Prince, Texas, Adios with C. Courtney Joyner and Henry Parke. Both tracks cover the production of their respective films, including original intentions, like how director Corbucci envisioned Django taking place in snow but having to settle for mud instead. Prince likes to talk about the film’s compositions and its use of the European 1.66:1 ratio (almost unheard of for spaghetti westerns), which aided Corbucci's use of master shots, while both tracks touch on the popularity of the genre and where each film sits in status, Joyner mentioning how the Texas, Adios was marketed as a Django sequel in some territories (and I assume the reason it has been included in this set). Both tracks also cover Akira Kurosawa’s influence, Yojimbo being of particular importance, and bring up other films of the genre, especially Sergio Leone’s “Man with No Name” trilogy. The films cross in some areas, so similar topics come up (how the films villains stand-in for fascism for starters) but they both provide excellent coverage of their respective films and the spaghetti western sub-genre.
Arrow also digs up a few interviews, some crossing over to both films. First, actor Franco Nero provides interviews for both films, with both looking to have been filmed during the same session. His 20-minute one for Texas, Adios is more of a retrospective, with very little mention of the film in question. He shares stories about working in Hollywood, meeting Clint Eastwood and John Wayne (who gave him great advice on the size of horse he should appear with on screen), and how he was supposed to appear in Paint Your Wagon. The 28-minute one for Django has some more stories around Hollywood (particularly Camelot) but it’s for more focused on the film, Nero talking about how he was cast, how Corbucci lit his eyes, recalls his stunt work, and what it was like shooting the opening credit sequence lugging that coffin. He also talks about his cameo in Django Unchained, which he considers the best Django film after the first one (he also considers the “official” 80’s sequel he was in a disaster). He’s a great and charming interview subject… and I hope I look as good at 50 as he does at almost 80.
Both discs also present archival interviews with writer Franco Rossetti, from a program (or something along those lines) called That’s My Life, running 10 and 9-minutes respectively. In both he talks a little about each film and working with the respective directors, throwing more praise towards Corbucci, feeling Ferdinando Baldi was a decent director “all-in-all,” he just lacked Corbucci’s flair. Western film scholar Austin Fisher also pops up to talk about each film (24-minutes for Django and 16-minutes for Texas, Adios). He focuses on the timing of Texas, Adios’ release, coming out in a weird space after films like Django and A Fistful of Dollars but before the more radicalized films, and how it seems to be more paying tribute to the classical American westerns. For Django he explains how the film became a cult film due to being hard to come by in certain markets: the violence got it banned in places like the UK. The popularity of the film then led to knock-offs and sequels, and he touches on some of those, including Texas, Adios, which again was marketed as a Django film after the fact.
Django includes a few exclusive participants. Director Ruggero Deodato (of Cannibal Holocaust fame) appears for 26-minutes to talk about his work as assistant director on Django, sharing stories about Corbucci and details about the film, like the extras they rounded up for it. It sounds like he had a bit of a falling out with the director, or at least lost touch. He seems to blame this a little on the filmmaker’s wife, Nori Corbucci, who introduced Sergio to the Rome nightlife, and she shows up here for 28-minutes to talk about her late husband. Interestingly, despite it being successful, Corbucci apparently didn’t think much of the film, and she took issue with some of the cruelty in it. All the same, the film did open doors, and she shares stories about the friendships he had made, alongside tales of his various mistakes, like how he rejected Sofia Loren for a role very early in her career because she was “too tall and magnificent.”
Arrow also includes an 11-minute interview with co-writer Piero Vivarelli, who explains the origins of Django as a character. The film was also written backwards, Corbucci and him coming up with scenarios to close off the film and then figuring out what gets the main character there. Accorsing to Vivarelli, Quentin Tarantino was disappointed upon learning this. Actor and stuntman Gilberto Galimberti next talks about choreographing the stunt work and fight scenes in the film. Here, he had to help plan the editing in advance to get a certain look and proper rhythm, and that led to a few improvised shots in the film. His contribution runs 19-minutes. A 12-minute archival introduction by Alex Cox also shows up here, the filmmaker explaining the appeal and original scarcity of the film, at least in the UK.
Actor and stuntman Alberto Dell’acqua appears in a 34-minute interview on Texas, Adios’ disc to talk a little about the film before getting more in-depth about his career, which included work in the circus. He then talks about his film work, crossing a number of genres. Interestingly, the work he’s most proud of is in a film called Killer’s Gold.
Both discs then present lengthy galleries featuring production stills, lobby cards, posters, press books (from Germany), and home video art, and in these you get to see some of the alternate Django related art for Texas, Adios. Django then comes with two trailers, an international one and an Italian one. The other film comes with an Italian trailer that features an English dub.
This limited edition also comes with a fold out poster featuring two alternate artworks for Django on either side, along with a 56-page booklet. Writer Howard Hughes provides essays for both films (though the one for Texas, Adios is an all-encompassing one about director Ferdinando Baldi), and each film also comes with a collection of contemporary reviews, with the ones for Django focusing on the violence. The rest of the writing is around Django: Hughes contributes another piece, this one around the series of Django films that would follow the first, official and unofficial alike, which includes Tarantino’s recent one, and this is followed by a short piece on director Sergio Corbucci written by Roberto Curti. The booklet also features an excerpt from an interview with Corbucci, the director confirming the influence of Kurosawa’s films. It’s a wonderfully put together booklet also featuring some nice stills from the film.
All around Arrow provides a very satisfying set of supplements. The inclusion of Texas, Adios is a bit questionable (the link to the main feature is weak at best) but still a nice-to-have bonus film, and the features do a wonderful job covering both films in great detail.
An easy recommendation for fans of the film. The features do a superb job covering the film (along with the bonus film, Texas, Adios) and the presentation is an absolute knock-out. Well worth the long wait.