Saturday, August 10, 2019

DJANGO THE BASTARD (1969) (Synapse Films Blu-ray Review)


Label: Synapse Films
Region Code: Region-FREE
Rating: PG
Duration: 99 Minutes
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.40:1) 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono with Optional English Subtitles 
Director: Sergio Garrone
Cast: Anthony Steffen, Rada Rassimov, Paolo Gozlino, Luciano Rossi

Django the Bastard (1969) a.k.a. The Strangers Gundown is a solid if somewhat slow-burning spaghetti western that adds some minor Gothic/horror touches to the usual 'mythical stranger in town for a bit of revenge' dust-up. The film stars Anthony Steffen (The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave) as one in a long-line of onscreen Djangos through the years. This Django is a former Confederate soldier who arrives in a generic looking western town and sets about having his revenge against a trio of former commanding Confederate officers who years earlier set their troops up to be massacred after joining the Union, highlighted by the unhinged Hugh played by the Kinski-esque Luciano Rossi (Contraband)

Django as played by Anthony Steffen is a mysterious man of few words, the sort of man who prefers to let his six-shooters do the talking, slipping in and out of the shadows like a ghostly apparition, which further lends to the from-beyond-the-grave revenge elements peppered throughout the film. The story here is not at all that original, we've seen a lot of these elements in Sergio Leone's The Man With No name Trilogy, and this film itself seems to have informed Clint Eastwood's High Plains Drifter which came a few years later, but the films executes all these elements well with solid direction from Sergio Garrone (SS Camp Women's Hell). 

Adding to the atmosphere are flashbacks to the Civil War that inform the character's backgrounds and vengeful motives, but some might find the lack of the red stuff a bit of a disappointment. I also didn't think that the film itself was shot all that stylish, but it does a decent enough job capturing the grit of the spaghetti western and the gun-slinging mayhem with just a tiny bit of creativity behind the camera. 

Audio/Video: Django The Bastard (1969) arrives on region-free Blu-ray from Synapse filmed, presenting the film on 1080p HD framed in 2.40:1 widescreen. This is a new 2K scan sourced from a 35mm negative element, and it looks terrific. it's pleasingly free of blemishes aside from a tiny bit of white speckling, carrying a strong natural looking grain presence with solid colors and black levels throughout. Fine detail is also strong with clothing and facial close-ups offering plenty of texture throughout. 
The dubbed English DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono audio is solid, it's expectedly boxy sounding, which is par for the course for these 60's Italian westerns, with newly translated optional English subtitles. The score from Vasili Kojucharov and Elsio Mancuso gets some nice life in the mix as well. 

The only extra on this release is a solid audio commentary from Film Historian and Author Troy Howarth who walks us through the Italian and U.S. versions of the film, touching on the cast and crew, and speaking of the unusual horror elements. The single-disc release arrives in a standard Blu-ray keepcase with a  one-sided sleeve of artwork featuring the original illustrated Italian artwork which is also featured on the disc.  

Special Features

- All-New 2K Scan Created from a Beautiful Original 35mm Negative Element
- Audio Commentary from Film Historian and Author Troy Howarth
- Newly Translated Removable English Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing

Django The Bastard (1969) is a solid spaghetti western with some interesting touches that set it apart. While I think it's a bit of a minor entry among the Italian westerns the dusty revenger offers plenty of violence by way of the mythical gun-slinging stranger, and Synapse give it a top-notch transfer with an excellent commentary to accompany it. 

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