Monday, August 01, 2011

“You’re lucky today. I never kill on Thursdays. I promised.”

Ah Spaghetti Westerns. Movies Italians made about the American Southwest in the Italian countryside with mostly-Italian casts and crews and a few American lead actors. The very concept is a bit on the surreal side and I’ll admit before recently, I’ve not seen any of them. Inherent goofiness aside, I suppose its time to change that. Now where to start?
I’ll just be an ass and not pick The Man With No Name Trilogy and instead take one of the Sartana films. Who’s Sartana? From what I’ve gathered he’s another mysterious bounty hunting drifter who’s been the focus of a great many awesomely titled films with several actors playing the lead over time (and several knockoff films of much lesser quality). Guy’s got a cult following. Today’s entry is I Am Sartana, Trade Your Guns For A Coffin, AKA C’e Sartana…vendi la pistola e comprati la bara AKA Fistful of Lead from 1970. It’s not one of the “Big 4” of the Sartana movies, but it definitely leaves an impression.

We start out with an impeccably dressed rider sitting down for a lunchtime picnic on his travels and witnessing a stagecoach get ambushed, slaughtered, robbed and a stick of dynamite thrown into the wagon to destroy it. Deciding to investigate, since a bounty he was looking to claim just got shot dead, he throws his canteen up into the air and shoots it, the water from it landing squarely on the dynamite, diffusing it. This told me two things: That Sartana is one hell of a shot, and that it’s going to be THAT kind of movie.

Sartana (George Hilton here as opposed to Gianni/“Johnny” Garko who was the original and definitive Sartana) discovers that the bags of gold the coach was carrying were full of sand. He follows the trail of a bandit leader named Mantas (Nello Pazzafini) clearing out one of his hideouts of henchmen and heading to the crooked town of Appaloosa where the head of the local mining company, Samuel Spencer (Piero Lulli as Peter Carter) and his henchman Baxter (Carlo Gaddi) are looking for hired guns to protect the gold shipments to Dodge City. Sartana quickly finds himself surrounded by intrigue and backstabbing and catches the eye of local hotel owner Trixie (Erika Blanc).

Sartana proceeds to outfox his enemies with Batman-like resourcefulness and planning. Things take another turn when another gunman rides into town; the poetry reading English dandy Sabbath (Charles Southwood) who’s no slouch himself when it comes to elaborately planned badassery.

Directed by Giuliano Carnimeo (as “Anthony Ascot”), there are some interesting camera angles used (mostly spins and whip-pans) that add some different touches. Otherwise, visually the film’s not what I’d call innovative, though still well shot.

Tito Carpi on writing duty and the film mixes equal parts badassery and cheesiness. There’s a lot of entertainment to be found between the occasional cheesy one-liners, Sartana’s crazy preparedness for any given situation, and interesting little touches, like the four-barreled Derringer he carries around and a friendly game of checkers…using shot glasses. That’s badass. Horribly, horribly bad for your, but still pretty awesome.

Music by Francesco De Masi, and you know, its pretty good. Nice and catchy with a fair amount of swagger that fits the character nicely.

Fistful of Lead was a fantastic surprise. Sartana is one hell of an interesting gunslinger and I’m going to make it my mission to track down the rest of these films. Totally recommended both as a Spaghetti Western and as a part of “Cinema of the Awesome.”


Oh, and the disc also contained Trinity and Sartana Are Coming AKA Trinità e Sartana figli di... from 1972. You would think it was connected in some way, but no. It’s not. It’s a long, dull, Buddy Comedy Western about two thieves/bank robbers who get into all sorts of not-actually-hilarious hijinks as they score loot and can’t seem to keep any of it. They pretty much used the names of popular gunslinger characters (Trinity’s another Spaghetti Western badass). The fights are childish (and I presume targeted at a younger audience), the music annoying, and everybody seems to have graduated from the A-Team School of Marksmanship. The one interesting thing it does is make “Trinity” a native of Trinidad, but its really not worth putting up with the rest of the movie. This film really isn’t worth your time, nor is it worth a full review write-up.

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