• Stranger’s Gundown, The



    Released by: VCI Entertainment
    Released on: 4/29/2003
    Director: Sergio Garrone
    Cast: Antonio De Teffe, Luciano Rossi, Paolo Gozlino, Rada Rassimov
    Year: 1969
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    The Movie:

    Sergio Garrone’s (who would later go on to make a plethora of trashy women in prison movies in the 70s and 80s) 1969 Spaghetti Western effort, Django Il Bastardo, was released in the U.S. in 1974 as The Stranger’s Gundown and is widely acknowledged as the basis for Clint Eastwood’s second directorial effort, High Plains Drifter.

    Brazilian born Antonio De Teffe plays Django, one of a troupe of Confederate soldiers that were betrayed during the Civil War by their three commanding officers, Hawkins, Howard and Murdoch. All of the soldiers in the division are slaughtered by the Northerners and left for dead.

    Thirteen years later, Django, one of the soldiers from the aforementioned massacre, turns up in a small town and starts putting cross markers down with the names of those who had earlier betrayed him etched into the wood. One by one he hunts them down and exacts his own revenge on the men who may or may not have taken his life years before.

    The influence of Garrone’s film on Eastwood’s masterpiece is undeniable, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call High Plains Drifter a remake like many others have. There are quite a few differences not only in the characterizations but in the actual story as well (going into much more detail, however, would surely spoil the twists in the film for those who haven’t seen it yet).

    While The Stranger’s Gundown is very much a low budget affair, Garrone makes the best out of what he has to work with. Gino Santini, the film’s cinematographer, uses all sorts of interesting and unusual camera angles to draw you into the story, and it’s interesting to note just how many times Django comes into and out of the frame simply by walking in or out from the right hand side of the picture. Adding to the spectral quality of De Teffe’s Django are certain gothic touches: the use of crosses to foretell a characters death, the method of disposal Django uses for certain characters, the vengeance from beyond the grave theme that runs throughout the film, all add up to give the movie a creepy and at times, quite unsettling atmosphere that makes the film well worth seeking out not only for Spaghetti Western fans but for ghost story buffs as well.

    Note: VCI has issued the US version of the film on DVD, not the Italian version. The main difference is that the scene where the confederate soldiers are killed, which is the entire reasoning behind Django’s motive in the film, is presented roughly half way through the film, rather than before the credits, which is how it is presented in the Italian version, Django Il Bastardo.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    VCI’s anamorphic 2.35.1 transfer is a bit grainy with some minor print damage here and there and fairly soft colors. That being said, it’s watchable and the definition and detail on screen is decent. Most of the damage occurs around the reel changes, though a nasty scratch does appear vertically on the print from time to time. The transfer could have been better, but it could have been worse.

    The English dubbed Dolby Digital Mono track is the weakest part of the disc. The dubbing is poorly done, but if you’re able to look past this as most Euro Cult fans are (myself included), you’ve still got to contend with the tinniness of the track, as well as the hissing and popping that crop up and become particularly towards the end of the film. You can understand what’s going on and it’s not hard to follow, but I wish VCI had cleaned the track up a bit for us. What’s here is serviceable, but just barely.

    There are a couple of trailers for two VCI Spaghetti Western titles (A Bullet For Sandoval and Any Gun Can Play) and a couple of unrelated titles, and scene selection.

    The Final Word:

    While the presentation of The Stranger’s Gundown isn’t perfect, it’s great to see this film on DVD in widescreen and the movie is a must own for Spaghetti Western fans.