aka Se incontri Sartana prega per la tua morte (I)
Director : Gianfranco Parolini
Story & screenplay: Werner Hauff, Renato Izzo, Gianfranco Parolini
Music : Piero Piccioni
Cinematography : Sandro Mancori
Cast : Gianni Garko (Sartana), William Berger (Lasky), Sydney Chaplin (Jeff Stewal), Klaus Kinsky [Klaus Kinski] (Morgan), Gianni Rizzo (Alman), Fernando Sancho (Jose Manuel Mendoza), Sal Borgese (El Moreno), Franco Pesce (Dusty), Heidi Fischer (Jane), Andrew Scott [Andrea Scotti] (Perdido), Sabine Sun (Evelyn), Carlo Tamberlani (Clergyman in wagon), Maria Pia Conte (Saloon Girl), Patricia Carr [Rossella Bergamonti], Antonietta Fiorito, Sergio Jossa, L. Francis Littlewoods [Gianfranco Parolini], Arigo Peri, Adinolfi Ugo [Ugo Adinolfi]
A complete cracker of a Spaghetti Western, Sartana boasts a fine script that's both sparse and hugely convoluted. A band of Mexicans under orders from General Tampico (Fernando Sancho) attack a stagecoach and steal a strongbox allegedly full of gold. Just as they are about to open it up they are ambushed by Lasky (William Berger), who is most disconcerted to discover that the casket is, in fact, full of rocks. Observing everything is Sartana (Gianni Garko); a mysterious individual dressed all in black whose intentions are far from clear.
It would seem that Lasky is in cahoots with a local politician, Stewal (Sydney Chaplin) and the banker, Alman (Gianni Rizzo). They had been planning to play a scam on the insurance company by stealing the gold from themselves and then claiming it to have been stolen by banditos - thus entitling them to additional compensation. However someone (or rather everyone) is attempting to play a double cross.
One of the best things about this film is the way in which the main character is so ambiguous. You never know quite what Sartana is after. Does he was the gold for himself? Is he looking for revenge? Furthermore, he seems to display almost supernatural qualities that make you almost doubt that he's anything more than a ghost - a feeling enhanced by the gothic trappings that are played up to the full. Appearing as if from nowhere and referring to himself as '
your pallbearer', all that is certain is that he can outmanoeuvre even the most duplicitous of villains.
In fact, Sartana proved to be such a popular character that there were four official sequels (all directed by Giuliano Carmineo rather than Parolini): I Am Sartana, Your Angel of Death (1969), Light the Fuse... Sartana's Coming (1971), Have a Good Funeral, Sartana Will Pay (1971) and the George Hilton-starring Sartana's Here, Trade Your Guns for a Coffin (1972). In addition to this there were also a host of unofficial rip-offs, directed by the likes of the incomparable Demofilio Fidani. The apotheosis of this gothic trend was probably Sergio Garrone's Django the Bastard (1969), which extended the idea of the spectral gunslinger to it's logical conclusion.
There are many other admirable qualities on display. Parolini's direction is probably as good as he ever managed, mixing offbeat style with the pace of a teetotaller exiting a teenage party. There's some great camerawork, fabulous saloon scenes and loads of ribald strumpets parading around in evil-looking corsets. Piccioni's soundtrack is unusual but effective; it's not often that you have cheesy Hammond organ accompanying the maracas, strings and strumming guitars of the traditional Spaghetti soundtrack.
Above all, however, are a selection of bravura performances from a cast that could never - reliable Gianni Garko aside - be described as understated. William Berger is completely fruitloop, snorting snuff, striding around in a lovely green velvet suit and acting generally like a mischievous, overgrown kid. Fernando Sancho is last seen with a bullet in the forehead and a half-eaten roast chicken under his cheek (which seems to sum up his entire career, somehow). Sydney Chaplin (Charlie's boy) found some fruitful employment in Italy - such as Riccardo Freda's A Doppia Faccia (69) - after his Hollywood career failed to kick into gear (despite appearences in Limelight (52) and Land of the Pharoahs (55)). Merely adding spice to an already well-seasoned dish is a brief but effective cameo from Klaus Kinski as a killer with bells on his spurs.