Saturday, March 3, 2012

If You Meet Sartana Pray For Death (1968)


It all begins when some bankers send off a shipment of gold from their bank. Unfortunately the stagecoach carrying it is ambushed and everyone on board is killed by a psychopath and his gang...who just happen to be in the employ of the bankers. They should have been able to get away with it except they didn't count on Sartana wandering into the mix.

I'm not sure how many Sartana films there are, I think IMDB lists around 18 films, however that doesn't mean anything since a characters name often got appropriated by producers of unrelated films. For Example Django started life in a film with Franco Nero. Its a great film that made a great deal of money, so much that he name Django is in, give or take, about two dozen film titles.Do any of the films have anything to do with the Franco Nero film? Nope. Producers and distributors simply took the name and ran with it.

According to Wikipedia there are five official Sartana films and ten unofficial films. This is the first.

I’m not sure that the plot makes complete sense, it’s a form of round robin corruption with everyone double crossing everyone else, and frankly it doesn’t matter (even if the films one technical flaw is to have some one buried above ground). The joy of the film is the characters. The film is populated with a great number of great actors playing your typical western bad guys. However the real joy is Gianni Garko as Sartana. It’s a performance that makes it easy to understand how this film spawned numerous sequels and rip offs. Dressed all in black Sartana is kind of like Eastwood’s ”man with no name” except that he is more in control. Sartana seems to be three or four steps ahead of everyone. It’s almost as if the statement that he must be the devil is true. Indeed some things I’ve read on the series have said that Sartana could be seen very much as an other worldly messenger of vengeance. In this film it’s certainly true; though the ending makes it clear he still has some mercenary needs. The best thing I can say is that Garko sells Sartana’s ability to be ahead of everyone. Normally you have to give up a bit of belief as to whether some one is that on top of things. Most times it’s a construction of the plot, here it seems real. Garko carries himself in such away, so that from the instant we see him after the ambush, we know who he is and that he is in control.

I really loved this film a great deal.

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