Sentenza di Morte (1968)

a.k.a. - Django Unbarmherzig Wie Die Sonne, Death Sentence

One of the strangest Spaghetti Westerns made, with a distinctive score and surreal directing. Koch Media German R2 release.

The Film

The international distributors were the scourge of the Spaghetti Western. With new films coming out each week, many of them seemingly indistinguishable, it took something special to get their films noticed - in many cases, this meant renaming and retitling the film. Originally known as Death Sentence, this film was retitled and rescripted for German release. The character of Django in this version of the film was known as Cash in the original script. However, the relative youth of the actor means that this film could almost work as a prequel to the later, more famous Django (1966) or Viva Django (1968).

The story is told in four seperate episodes. The first opens with two men struggling through the remote parts of the desert; one has a gun, the other has water, they duel with their words and via a flashback we learn that the man with the water is Django (Robin Clarke), chasing the man (Richard Conte), who killed his brother. It is not long before Django gets the upper hand over his opponent after torturing him with the prospect of water. The next part of the film sees Django tracking down a gambler (Enrico Maria Salerno) getting his revenge over the poker table. Later, he tracks down Friar Baldwin (Adolfo Celi) and eccentric albino O'hara (Tomas Milian) to complete his quartet of revenge.

Sentenza di Morte is one of the strangest Spaghetti Westerns produced. Experienced television and theatre director Mario Lanfranchi wrote, scripted and even cast the film, so it is a very personal effort and one not influenced by commercial producers. The storyline is very simple, a gunman out to get revenge on the men responsible for his brother's death. The scipt, written by director Mario Lanfranchi, contains some very nice dialogue scenes as well as a few nice action moments. Although the Cash/Django character tracking down killers of a relative looking for vengeance is hardly original, the four he gets his revenge on are quite distinctive, although apart from Diaz, we never actually find out what the others did to warrant the revenge he seeks. The pacing ranges from fast to slow, and it can drag at times; the gambler episode in particular is almost entirely dialogue and doesn't go anywhere fast, although it does have a nice pay-off. There are some nice details; Lanfranchi pictured Cash/Django as an avenging angel and so he always drinks milk.

Lanfranchi's direction is what makes this film most distinctive. A crazy mix of close-ups, zooms, pans and tracking shots are combined with some strange angles, sun-bleached photography and shudderingly fast editing (which often gives the impression that the film is cut). This is backed by a very atypical soundtrack, a mix of 1960s freeform jazz, remniscent of Venus in Furs (1969), including a reccuring Django theme, and some gothic organ music and vocals in O'Hara's scenes, that makes the film completely seperate from the typical Spaghetti Western. The production is good, the sets look realistic, the Spanish exteriors look great, and there are plenty of extras where needed, although many of the scenes are almost deserted.

There is a fine team of actors on hand. The sadly rarely used Robin Clarke, here in his debut film, looks uncannily like Steve McQueen and plays Cash/Django quite well, his dedication to revenge is quite plausible. The quartet of men he goes up against are experienced gunmen, and played by a fine range of experienced actors. Milian is the stand-out as the eccentric albino O'Hara who squints his way through the most surreal enounter with the avenger.

Sentenza di Morte is a very strange Western experience, up there with Django Kill (1967). Although the storyline itself is pretty standard, and could have made a straight-forward film, the use of modern Jazz and some very elaborate editing gives a unique and distinctive experience that is highly recommended for Spaghetti Western fans. However, genre newcomers might well be scared off by this films eminant strangeness.

In Brief:

It it a sequel? No, this film is unconnected to Sergio Corbucci's Django (1966).
Anyone famous in it? Robin Clarke, occasional British actor, had the lead role in cult sci-fi Inseminoid (1981)
Tomas Milian, euro-cult star, very big in the Spaghetti Westerns, including Companeros (1970)
Adolfo Celi, very recognisable Italian actor, biggest role was in Bond film - Thunderball (1965)
Directed by anyone interesting? Mario Lanfranchi, very occasional director and writer.
Any violence? Plenty of standard Western shootouts, some blood.
Any sex? No.
Who is it for?
Highly recommended for any Spaghetti Western fans who have 'seen it all'.
Good soundtrack? Very atypical 1960s Jazz themes giving the film a surreal, distinctive edge.


Koch Media have done a very fine job with this almost unknown film. The print is digitally restored from the original negative and looks very good, although with some grain and speckles to remind you of the age of the film. Although there is no English audio track, the German and Italian tracks sound fine, and the English subtitles are good. Koch Media have gone the full hog, getting us an interview with writer/director Mario Lanfranchi. More than just a sit-down interview, he walks through his house as he talks about the film, adding some variation to the piece. Sadly, there is no interview with Tomas Milian, although he has often given interviews on other Spaghetti Western DVDs. An audio commentary by Lanfranchi is provided, but since he seems to lack experience of these, it is quite slow, and often just falls into the old trap of commenting on the on-screen action. A couple of trailers, some poster-art and a pair of film introductions round out the package, and set a very tough task for any future DVD release to beat.

Visuals 2.35:1 anamorphic wide-screen. Colour.
The image is good with occasional print damage and some grain. Always watchable.
Audio Italian and German language dubs - Dolby digital mono.
Both tracks sound fine. The lead is named Django in the German, and Cash in the Italian.
Subtitles English and German.
English titles translate the German soundtrack and have only a few typos.
Run TimeMain feature - 1hr 29m 41s (PAL)
Extras The disc includes:
  • Making of - Documentary-style interview with director Mario Lanfranchi. English, optional German subs (25m 59s)
  • Audio Commentary with director Mario Lanfranchi. English audio.
  • Original German Language Trailer, very low picture quality. 2m 40s
  • Original Italian Language Trailer, decent picture quality. 2m 43s
  • Slideshow of stills and promotional artwork, with music from the film. 6m 48s
  • Opening title scenes - English credits. 2m 45
  • Opening title scenes - No credits. 2m 45
  • DVD case insert, two pages of film notes in German.
AvailabilityDVD Title: Django Unbarmherzig Wie Die Sonne
Packing Card digi-pack in a slipcase.
Menus All German, but easy to navigate.
Region Region 2 (UK and Europe) - PAL
Other regions? None known.
Cuts? The film is believed to be fully uncut. The film is from the German print, so titles and credits are in German.



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All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 5th February 2006.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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