• Django The Bastard (Synapse Films) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Synapse Films
    Released on: August 13th, 2019.
    Director: Sergio Garrone
    Cast: Antonio De Teffe, Luciano Rossi, Paolo Gozlino, Rada Rassimov
    Year: 1969
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    Django The Bastard – Movie Review:

    Directed by Sergio Garrone’s (who would later go on to make a plethora of trashy women in prison movies in the 70s and 80s, like S.S. Experiment Love Camp) in 1969, the Spaghetti Western titled Django Il Bastardo in its homeland was released in the U.S. in 1974 as The Stranger’s Gundown (which is the title card that appears on the elements used for the transfer on this release). Alternately known as Django The Bastard, the film would seem to have had an influence on Clint Eastwood’s second directorial effort, High Plains Drifter.

    Brazilian born Antonio De Teffe (who co-wrote the script with Garrone), credited under his regular Anthony Steffen pseudonym, plays Django, one of a troupe of Confederate soldiers that were betrayed during the Civil War by their three commanding officers: Hawkens (Victoriano Gazzarra), Howard (Jean Louis) and Murdok (Paolo Gozlino). 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. Along the way he befriends Murdok’s wife Alida (Rada Rassimov, who played Maria in The Good, The Bad And The Ugly), whose motives are also quite questionable.

    The influence of Garrone’s film on Eastwood’s masterpiece wouldn’t seem to be a coincidence, but you wouldn’t go so far as to call High Plains Drifter a direct 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 Django The Bastard 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 – this all adds 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. On top of that, the insanely Morricone-esque score from composing team Vasili Kojucharov and Elsio Mancuso is also quite good. Derivative, to be sure, but good.

    Django The Bastard – Blu-ray Review:

    Synapse brings Django The Bastard to Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 2.40.1 widescreen touted as taken from a new 2k scan of an original 35mm negative element. There’s a little bit of print damage now and then, small white specks rather than large scratches or anything like that, but otherwise this looks very, very good. The film’s grain structure is left entirely intact, colors are reproduced very nicely and black levels are quite strong. There’s very strong detail here throughout, and good depth and texture to the image as well. There are no compression and no noticeable issues with noise reduction or edge enhancement. Those familiar with the old VCI DVD release will be quite pleased to know that this disc offers a substantial upgrade in picture quality over that older disc, the difference is like night and day.

    The English language DTS-HD Mono track is problem free. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. Dialogue is clear, Vasili Kojucharov and Elsio Mancuso's score sounds quite good and the track is free of any noticeable hiss or distortion. Levels are nicely balanced as well.

    The only extra on the disc is an audio commentary from author Troy Howarth. As the titles begin, he speaks about the film’s U.S. release and why it was retitled for that market, how the picture isn’t a true sequel to Sergio Corbucci’s original film, how the film plays out as a horror film as much as a western, visual ties to Bava’s filmography, and how Steffen benefitted from writing his own material in this film. He offers plenty of info about the cast that appear in the film, where Garrone stands on the ranking of the best Spaghetti Western directors, the use of shadows in the film, his thoughts on Steffen’s work in this and other pictures (he describes him as ‘bored or constipated whenever he was on screen’ in some of his pictures), what makes Rada Rassimov’s character one of the more interesting in the picture, the use of music in the film, the unconventional approach taken to the big ‘reveal’ in the film, the use of techniscope photography in the picture, how he feels there are giallo/western hybrid pictures out there like Price Of Death and Kill The Poker Player, and quite a bit more. He covers a lot of ground here, injecting a lot of opinion and random observations about the picture as it plays out.

    Aside from that, we get menus and chapter selection.

    Django The Bastard – The Final Word:

    Django The Bastard holds up really well, a fantastic spaghetti western with some eerie touches and some very creative ideas at work. Garrone’s direction is top notch and De Teffe makes for a fine leading man in this picture. The movie really holds up well! Synapse’s Blu-ray is light on extras but Howarth’s commentary is strong and the presentation of the feature itself a very nice upgrade sure to be appreciated by the film’s fans. Recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized Django The Bastard Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Oldboy's Avatar
      Oldboy -
      The fact that it doesn't provide Italian audio is a major turn-off for me. Too bad.
    1. Nabonga's Avatar
      Nabonga -
      Personally I'm ok with that since they didn't speak Italian in the old west, but to each their own.