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July 03, 2018

The Complete Sartana

i am sartana  poster.jpg

If You Meet Sartana . . . Pray for Your Death/ Se incontri Sartana prega per la tua morte
Gianfranco Parolini - 1968

I am Sartana, Your Angel of Death / Sono Sartana, il vostro becchino
Giuliano Carnimeo - 1969

Sartana's Here . . . Trade Your Pistol for a Coffin / C'e Sartana . . . vendi la pistola e comprati la bara
Giuliano Carnimeo - 1970

Have a Good Funeral My Friend . . . Sartana will Pay / Buon funerale, amigos! . . . paga Sartana
Giuliano Carnimeo - 1970

Light the Fuse . . . Sartana is Coming / Una nuvola di polvere . . .un grido di morte . . . arriva Sartana
Giuliano Carnimeo - 1970

Arrow Video BD Regions A/B Five-disc set

First, a bit of clarification might be needed. The five films in the package are considered the true Sartana films. I don't know how the various producers came to agreements, but it should be pointed out that none of the films here are any of the dozen or so productions where Sartana is just a name in the title, a lure for the less discerning viewer. Whatever minor inconsistencies may be found in the five films listed above, aside from the name, there is the costume of a black suit with cape, the custom made pistol with four barrels, the use of gadgets not entirely implausible for the time the films take place, and the profession of bounty hunter and gambler. Not to mention the unwieldy titles in the series. The stories can generally be boiled down to the question: who's got the gold? Further inconsistency, perhaps unavoidable, is that some of the films are better than others, but all are undeniably entertaining. The Arrow set is loaded with supplements, primarily fairly lengthy interviews with several surviving members of the cast and crew.

I would even suggest watching one of the supplements from the first disc prior to checking into the films. There is a overview of the various actors, several of whom are seen in two or more of the films, with brief biographical information. Aside from the two Sartanas, Gianni Garko and George Hilton, there are the featured actresses, such as Erika Blanc and Susan Scott (Nieves Navarro). The elfin Franco Pesce is usually cast as the town undertaker, with an English language voice reminiscent of Walter Brennan. (And if you're asking who Walter Brennan is, than you need to stop what you're doing and see Rio Bravo.) And as far as I'm concerned, Fernando Sancho was born to play corrupt Mexican generals. Viewers may have their own favorites, but this supplement helps put names and faces together, and help recognizes some of the supporting players not only in the Sartana films but also Italian genre cinema.

if you meet sartana poster.jpg

The first film, If You Meet Sartana . . . , is for me the best of the series. The template for the series is established with the double-crosses, triple-crosses, corrupt law enforcement, bandit gangs, and questionable women. Invariably, the worst of the villains is the richest guy in town. But what also makes for great entertainment in the first film is having Garko competing against Klaus Kinski, nutty, and William Berger, nuttier, whether gambling or fighting for the hidden gold. Berger is especially manic, sniffing what I assume to be cocaine out of a little silver box, or getting unhinged at the sound of the music emanating from a pocket watch. No explanation is given about that watch within the story, and I'm sure no one who made the film was concerned that this bit of business was lifted from For a Few Dollars More. Additionally, this is visually the strongest film film in the series. Parolini, who signed this film as Frank Kramer, often emphasizes space within the frame with something large in the foreground as part of a full shot of the setting in question, whether it's the barrel of a rifle, or an actor, usually Garko, seen in close-up on the side of the widescreen frame.

Carnimeo is a good craftsman, who on a couple of films will have the camera tilt when characters are shot in a gunfight scene. One nice bit of creativity is when Sartana has a gunfight against an outlaw trio, each standing in a different part of a cantina, and the film cuts to a triptych of the three falling to their respective deaths. For those who are sticklers for historical veracity or even simple consistency, Carnimeo's films may prove frustrating as some of the props and costumes indicate knowledge that there was the American Civil War, but a vagueness about when it happened. Also, Carnimeo's pseudonym of Anthony Ascot has at least two other spelling variations.

Sartana's Here . . . is worth noting for having a character named Sabata, or Sabbath in the English language track, unrelated to the Sabata of the films directed by Parolini. Played by the blond Charles Southwood, this Sartana is a well-dressed dandy who rides around with a parasol, taking time between gunfights to read Shakespeare. That parasol bit presumably was inspired by Tony Anthony's character known as the Stranger. Hilton makes a credible replacement for Garko, and could have easily continued the series himself.

Sartana Will Pay has a screenplay that is largely the work of the prolific Ernesto Gastaldi, best known for his work with Sergio Martino. There's a touch of giallo with a character tortured by having acid poured on him. Not quite Rashomon as Sartana tries to discern which tale of betrayal is true. The gimmickry gets pushed here, especially at the end. There is a particularly funny running gag concerning the self-proclaimed "best shot in the West".

Gastaldi has two interviews here, and those familiar with his contributions on NoShame's disc know he's a great raconteur. Wide eyed Erika Blanc also shares her memories of working in Italian cinema. There is a recent interview with George Hilton, and an older interview with Gianni Garko together with Carnimeo. The interview with Gianfranco Parolini was probably his last, he died last April. The films can be seen either with Italian or English dialogue tracks. Keep in mind that the films were made when post-dubbing was the normal procedure for these European co-productions, and as Erika Blanc notes, even in Italian the viewer does not necessarily hear the voice of the actor in front of the camera.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at July 3, 2018 08:45 AM