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Argent's Django Blu ray review,
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This review is from: Django Newly Re-mastered in HD ALL REGIONS [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
If you were to ask the average member of the movie going public what they associate with the name 'Django' undoubtedly they would go straight for Quentin Tarantino's new hyperbolic western homage Django Unchained and quite rightly so as its the latest big budget all star cast from the infamous director of all things hip and cool. But if you were to go back a good 46 years a little known director Sergio Corbucci was to cast a little known actor Franco Nero in a fairly unassuming low budget Spaghetti Western which unknown to them was to become one of the most influential Italian westerns of its time spawning countless sequels and copycats as well as furthering the careers of its director and star. This movie like Tarantino's new epic was also called Django but was something entirely different to Quentin's new flashy blood splattered opus. A contemporary of the now infamous Dollars trillogy from Sergio Leone Django was a surprisingly different approach to the cut and dry western formula of old and like Leone's 1964 genre kick starter A Fist Full Of Dollars was a reimaging of Kurosawa's Samurai classic Yojimbo. Rough, dirty and uncompromising, Django featured for its time excessive violence, a huge body count and a decidedly downbeat tone. Also unlike Leone's movie or indeed most westerns before it featured an uncharacteristically unlikeable main character who arrives in town unaided by a horse, wearing torn dirty attire and encompassing the atmosphere with a thick air of machismo and bravado, dispatching enemies in an emotionless, selfish and unforgiving way.
Corbucci's approach is also a complete change to the vast majority of westerns of the time. Shot in the far more narrow European aspect ratio of 1.66(which Corbucci also utilised for his fantastic snowbound western The Great Silence) compared to the ultra wide scope presentations that most would have become accustomed to, this lent the film a gritty claustrophobic feel and with a dank, muddy deserted western town and mostly unattractive characters not to mention scenes of violence that border on sadistic and a host of religious and racism themes you have a western quite unlike anything before it.
Banned outright in the UK until it was resubmitted to the BBFC in the 90s for a VHS release, Django also struggled to make a break in the US outside of the cult circuit but it was Europe where Django spread like wildfire in which it was so popular many European western producers attached the Django name to their movies despite no link to Corbucci's film hoping to catch a piece of its runaway success. Infact there were only two that you could really call connected sequels Django Prepare A Coffin starring Terence Hill and the 1987 Django Strikes Again with Franco Nero reprising his role a good twenty years after the original which played out more like an Italian exploitation Rambo knockoff than a Spaghetti Western.
Despite its B-Movie origins and surprising lack of pretence there is no doubt Django fully deserves its now legendary cult status and for fans of European westerns and cult films this is an extremely important and genre leading title in Italian cinema and comes highly recommended.
Along with Lionsgate's upcoming release of Hammers original Dracula, this new Blu ray release of Django from Argent is my most anticipated release of 2013 so far. After the usually region free reliable Blue Underground released this back in 2010 on a region A locked disc I have wanted to upgrade my SD DVD release of this wonderful movie. Unfortunatly it pains me to say that this AVC MPEG 4 1080p transfer is very disappointing. Back in 2010 it was common knowledge amongst Blu ray colectors that Blue Undergrounds HD transfer of Django was problematic mostly atributed to a poor quality scan done on inferior equipment. Well it seems that Argents transfer is unfortunately taken from the same scan meaning that problems that existed on the US release are also prevalant here. I will talk about the good first though as sadly the bad far outweighs it. OK so compared to my old Blue Underground standard def DVD this is noticeably sharper with greater detail. Fine object detail is actually quite nice here with close ups of trail worn faces, clothing and weaponry. The locations also look far stronger in 1080p from the thick mud that seems to permeate almost every scene through to the worn wood of the deserted town and detailing in the interior of the saloon. Depth is also apparent in a number of scenes and at times this can look fairly filmic. In motion though anyone can see that this transfer has major problems. The machine noise that graced the US Blu is here again in all its glory and it is this machine noise plus not to mention a much lower bit rate than the Blue Underground Blu ray that is completely destroying the look which is a real shame as underneath there is a decent image trying to break free. Unnatural looking film grain swirls around with the noise totally ruining certain scenes destroying detail and colour schemes and in effect making the the transfer look pale and fragile. Some sections exibit an annoying shimmer in motion too which can be seen in everything from hats to foliage and colours are muted at best. Contrast is all over the place with day time scenes cranked up to nearly retina burning levels whilst nighttime segments are way to dark, crushing the blacks and sapping shadow detail. Compared to my DVD edition print damage at key points in the movie are somewhat lessoned and comparing screenshots of the Blue Underground Blu this seems to have less noise although I hope this isnt down to the dreaded DNR.For the record Django is presented in its correct ratio of 1.66:1 and is pillar boxed at the sides so as not to lose any picture information from the top and bottom of the frame when using a 16x9 TV and the image looks correct and balanced in this ratio. Ok so im fairly unimpressed and if a new version was to be made available with a new scan I would double dip in a heartbeat. But as this is the only release available I cant not recommend it for the quality of the film alone just dont a expect flawless presentation.
In terms of audio you get two lossless DTS-HD Master tracks in both dubbed English and original Italian both mono and both with very low paltry bitrates. Listening to both from a technical standpoint the English sounds slightly better with crisper highs and more depth during the shootouts. Low end is negligible in both tracks but the music soundtrack sounds full enough without being overly robust and the classic title theme which Tarantino plagiarised for his reboot sounds faithful and authentic. There doesent appear to be any problems with hiss or pops and apart from lip sync issues which fans of these movies will be well aware of both tracks get the job done without being overly memorable and it is worth listening to both language options for different take on the movie.
Extras are hardly extensive but are interesting enough with two seperate conversations first with the star of Django Franco Nero and secondly with maverik film director Alex Cox. An alternative opening credits sequence (that I for one could see no decernable difference with) is also included and the cover sleeve is reversable with a choice of two cover arts.
From a movie stand point I cannot recommend Django enough and for anyone who has even the faintest interest in the genre I urge you to indulge in this guilty pleasure. Unfortunatly the video transfer on this new region free Blu ray is highly compromised and whether it is down to a bad scan on poor quality equipment or the by-product of a vintage low budget foreign language movie from the 60s it doesent show off Django in its best light and I do believe that given the treatment it deserves it could look a whole lot better. A definate five star movie here let down by a poor disc.
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Initial post: 27 Aug 2013 14:21:24 BDT
Eric P. Coyle says:
Saw this recently on TV. I couldn't believe how dreadful it was. So poorly directed I couldn't pick Django out of one action sequence because the bloke who was Django (Franco Nero)was moving about like some cheap extra in a background shot. There are some truly great Italian westerns but this is certainly not one of them. Camera work, lighting, editing and performance all of the lowest acceptable level.
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