Saturday, June 12, 2010

Django, Prepare A Coffin! (1968)

A gold transport protected by a guy named Django (Terence Hill, doing a rather stiff impression of Franco Nero as Django) is attacked by a gang of bandits. Everyone except for Django is slaughtered, the man himself left for dead. Among the victims of the massacre was Django's wife, so he gets even more grim-faced than before and does the obvious. Namely, he starts to dress up like that other Django from a certain Corbucci film.

Five years later, Django has somehow found out that two old friends of his, David Barry (Horst Frank) and Lucas (George Eastman) were the ring-leaders of the attack. In a sense, they're still living off the interest of the old incident by blaming the old attack on the gold transport (and possibly also newer crimes - the storytelling is rather obtuse) on people whose land they want to steal. It doesn't make much sense, yet still seems to work for them.

Fortunately, Django is now working as an official executioner and only seemingly hangs the victims of Barry's and Lucas's plans. In truth he is building a small gang of their victims to take revenge.

Alas for Django, not every one of the people he has saved is truly trustworthy. A guy named Garcia (Jose Torres) would prefer getting gold to getting his revenge on the people who framed him and soon Django's plan is in tatters. Of course, the usual torture, escape with the help of an old coot and a woman (Garcia's wife Mercedes as played by Barbara Simon) and final revenge follow.

The more of Ferdinando Baldi's Spaghetti Westerns I see, the more I come to the conviction that the wild and weird The Stranger Gets Mean is a positive aberration in his body of work in the genre. Django PAC! is just as easily distracted from its main plot or any form of sensible storytelling, but it's neither as batshit insane nor as imaginative as the later film to make up for its ADD sensibilities.

Again, as was the case with the other films of his I've seen, Baldi only seems to go through the motions of the Spaghetti Western, copying some of the surface elements of other films of the genre, but never getting to either the thematic reasons for using these elements or just developing some themes, or even just ideas, of his own.

At times the film is just another solid Spaghetti Western, but whenever I got my hopes up of it staying at least a solidly entertaining genre piece, Baldi does something to undermine this - usually by introducing yet another element that could potentially be used to provide some depth to the film (like Barry's political ambitions or a monologue by Garcia that informs Django and the audience that being poor is rather shite), but that he'll drop immediately after without ever truly making use of it. After a time, this and the film's permanent detours into boring talky sequences without any substance where silent, moody sequences with substance belong, become somewhat infuriating.

Django PAC! has its moments, though. Django's confrontation with Lucas in a burning house is surprisingly tight - if held back by Hill's stiffness -, and there are short sequences that put an emphasis on the casualness with which Django kills that seem to belong in a much less bland film, but for each of these scenes, there are three others mindlessly plundered from better films. Baldi even shoehorns a machine gun in a coffin in (just because he didn't have a better idea for the finale and there was a machine gun inside a coffin in that other Django film?), without even bothering to introduce the gun beforehand. And might I just mention that there's a dramatic reason why Django doesn't use the machine gun in the final battle in Corbucci's original film?

The photography is pretty, though.


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