Color, 1969, 97m.
Directed by Sergio Garrone
Starring Anthony Steffen, William Berger, Mario Grega, Riccardo Garrone, Mariangela Giordano
Raro (Blu-Ray & DVD) (US RA/R1 HD/NTSC), (DVD) (Italy R2 PAL) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)
Released at the height of spaghetti western mania was this solid programmer, one of numerous films passed off as a sequel to Django without actually featuring the title character. Here instead we have a rivalry and sort of partnership between a pair of bounty hunters seeking money out in the wild west, with Anthony Steffen (The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave) as Johnny Brandon and William Berger (Five Dolls for an August Moon) playing a more morally dubious, mercenary from Montana named Everett Murdock (even clad in black), who poses as a preacher. They roll separately into a Texas down where illegal immigrants are being smuggled across the border and either "killed like cattle" or pawned off as field workers. It all points to a rich local fat cat named Fargo (Riccardo Garrone, the director's brother), who's planning one last haul with all the pressure building around him. Loyalties shift, secrets are revealed, and as such things must, it all builds to a climactic showdown with three men eyeballing each other and reaching for their pistols. Also getting a small but juicy role in the intricate plot is raven-haired beauty Mariangela Giordano, who later went on to exploitation infamy as Peter Bark's busty, ill-fated mom in Burial Ground.
Originally filmed as Una lunga fila di croci (or "A Long Row of Crosses") and also issued as No Room to Die, this film landed in the middle of a handful of westerns by director Sergio Garrone, whose better known Django the Bastard came out the same year. Of course, when the market dried up in the '70s he went on to sleazier pastures with the likes of L'amante del mostro (with Klaus Kinski) and the truly foul SS Experiment Love Camp and SS Camp: Women's Hell. He doesn't have anything resembling a distinctive directorial style (apart from aping Sergio Leone pretty well in some sepia-toned flashbacks with zooms aplenty), but it's a perfectly accomplished genre entry with a few deaths every five minutes or so (shootings, knifings, falls from cliffs, etc.), with Berger getting the best moments courtesy of his seven-barreled(!) shotgun. There's also a score that lurches into weirdly comic music at times more suitable to a Terence Hill / Bud Spencer movie, but that just adds to the overall weirdness.
Though barely shown in the U.S., Hanging for Django was issued on DVD in Italy in 2007 from Raro (following a visually inferior Japanese edition in 2003). That same basic presentation is carried over for its North American home video debut on Blu-ray and DVD from Raro, with the HD option definitely the way to go. The scope transfer features a digitally superimposed Hanging for Django main title during the English credits (presumably to obscure the more common No Room to Die) to tie it to a certain Oscar-winning Tarantino movie, though as usual, the uninitiated will keep wondering where the heck Django is. For some reason it's presented at 1080i instead of the label's usual (and far preferable) progressive releases, and it's very obvious via some motion blurring during the action scenes (especially the chasing and rapid camera panning during the finale). It's still by far the best this film has ever looked and most spaghetti western fans will be pleased, but it's worth noting.
On a similar note, the Italian and English audio are included in standard Dolby Digital, which gets the job done but might have been punchier in lossless. The optional English subs are directly transcribed from the English audio track, which is very well apart from some ridiculous Speedy Gonzales accents for the Mexican characters. In addition to the usual illustrated liner notes booklet, the sole video extra is the featurette prepared for the Italian home video release, "Bounty Killer for a Massacre," which is actually titled "Two Bounty Killers for a Massacre" on screen and runs 14 minutes. (The theatrical trailer indicated in the prebook announcement apparently didn't materialize.) Italian film scholar Manilo Gomarasca, an articulate fixture on several of the label's featurettes, does a solid job of discussing Garrone and his importance in this kind of "extreme" spaghetti cinema while elaborating on the significance of several supporting actors. Another welcome Euro western release in HD, this is hopefully a sign of more to come from the Raro stables.
Reviewed on October 11, 2013.