HAVE A GOOD FUNERAL MY FRIEND SARTANA WILL PAY (1970)
In an interview for Westerns…All'Italiana! Fanzine, Garko fondly remembered this film, the third Sartana film in the series, as his best western. Like the other movies in the series, the best way for North Americans to view this one on DVD is the "Franco Cleef", fan made version. If you have a region free player, get the German DVD by X-Rated Kult.
The story revolves around gold (I'm beginning to see a pattern here). The daughter of a murdered gold mine owner has arrived from Wichita to inherit the land. As usual, several unscrupulous characters, such as the corrupt Sheriff, banker, and Chinese gambling house owner want to manipulate the girl into thinking that the gold mine was worthless, so that she would sell it to them at a lower price than what it's really worth. Enter Sartana, who aids the girl and shoots and gambles his way into more riches. This is the most coherent and easy to follow of all the Sartana films, the plot runs very smoothly, and is perhaps the best part of the film. Of course, what would a Sartana film be without the usual plot twists and backstabbing between antagonists?
Four outlaws pay respects to their fallen brother, at the hands of Sartana.
Gianni Garko sports a heavy moustache in place of the 5 o'clock shadow he had in the previous two films. The new look makes him a dead ringer for Robert Redford's "Sundance Kid", which was probably by design rather than by coincidence on the part of the filmmakers. This entry in the Sartana series is comparatively modestly budgeted, and lacks the star power of the first two films. We have some recognizable faces such as Franco Ressell, Helga Line, Robert Dell'Aqua, and Luis Induni, but we don't see any major leading men such as Klaus Kinski and William Berger to complement Garko. One very interesting character is that of the Chinese gambling house owner played by George Wang. This character is perhaps the most formidable of Sartana's opponents, as he actually manages to give as good as he gets before finally being subdued. The character embodies one bad stereotype after another, from his speaking of "engrish", to the quoting of Confucius, to the final showdown between him and Sartana, which features some awkwardly choreographed kung fu. Its all very cheesy, but adds to the fun ten fold.
While this movie lacks the star power of the previous two installments, it is incredibly easy to watch. The story flows nicely, and there is never a dull moment. This movie features a substantially lower body count than the other Sartana films, but the action sequences are not any less spectacular. The budget is considerably lower than the other Sartana films, but you won't notice it. Bruno Nicolai provides perhaps the finest score he ever composed. The action scenes are nicely done, with one memorable in which Sartana, on horseback, pursues a wagon full of bad guys and coffins. As each man on the wagon gets shot, he just happens to fall perfectly into a casket. As usual, this installment features an array of gadgets including Sartana's ‘slaying cards', which he uses in a shuriken-like manner, a watch made out of lead which Sartana uses to tell time as well as "clock" his adversaries, as well as a revolver hidden in a book, that fires when the book is opened.
Overall, a fine, perhaps underrated installment to the Sartana series. It is modest in budget, but not in fun.
LIGHT THE FUSE SARTANA IS COMING (1970-71)
This is the forth and final ‘official' Sartana film with Garko in the lead. It was released in Italy in December of 1970, just 3 months after HAVE A GOOD FUNERAL. Once again, English speaking viewers in North America can enjoy the "Franco Cleef" fan made version. If you have a region free player, get the German DVD by X-Rated Kult. Many consider this final installment as the finest of the Carmineo directed sequels.
The plot of this film is intricately detailed but like with the other Sartana films, becomes increasingly coherent with each repeated viewing. Sartana infiltrates a prison and helps Grandville Fuller (aka Grand Full) break out of jail. The reason? You guessed it. A hidden stash of gold. What else? Grandville claims to have been framed for murder and knows some information that might lead to the stash. On top of half a million dollars in gold coins, there is also 2 million dollars in counterfeit bank notes at stake here. Sartana also forms a partner ship with wise old gambler and inventor Pon Pon. But Sartana, Grand Full, and Pon Pon are not the only ones who are after the money. Various other parties and all kinds quirky and greedy characters also get themselves involved. The town sheriff, a bizarre General named Monk, a widow and her hired gun, a federal agent named Puttman, and a man impersonating Puttman who is the widow's lover. Everybody wants the gold for themselves and double cross each other, while Sartana slowly gathers the clues that reveals the location of the hidden gold. Little do they know that Sartana has manipulated the whole situation, and predictably ends up with the gold with everybody else dead.
The cast here is low key but decent. In addition to Garko, reprising his role as Sartana for the fourth and final time, we also have Giallo sexpot Nieves Navarro aka Susan Scott, Piero Lulli as Grand Full, and other noted character actors and recognizable faces including Massimo Serato, Sal Borgese, and Dan Van Husen. Mara Krupp does a sort of reprise of her role from A FEW DOLLARS MORE, playing a horny hotel owner who tries to seduce her guests. Interestingly enough, Franco Pesce, who plays Pon Pon, also appeared in the other three films, playing different characters.
There is a reason why many consider this film the finest of the Carnimeo directed sequels. Its just so outrageously "Spaghetti". All the elements that made the previous films in the series great seem to be amplified in this installment. The characters are even more over the top, the gadgets more unbelievable, and the kill count even higher. The character of Monk for example, is not exactly something you would ever see in a John Wayne western. Jose Jaspe's portrayal of the crazed deaf general is quite good. Bruno Nicolai once again provides an outstanding score, one of his best, and one that arguably surpasses that of the previous Sartana films. As usual, Sartana brings his bag of unusual tricks. Already an adept gambler, gunman and magician, you can also add music to his list of talents. His organ, which is actually a battle station in disguise, has to be seen to be believed. Watching Sartana use his organ to mow down Monk's gang may very well be Carnimeo's finest moment as a director. Also of note is Pon Pon's mechanical toy named Alfie, which can light up enemies just as well as it lights up cigars.
The Sartana series definitely closed out with a bang with this final installment. By 1971, the Spaghetti Western genre was declining rapidly, preventing further official sequels from being made.
The Sartana series of movies, while they were popular in Europe upon their release, have now been relegated to obscure cult status, known only to hardcore Spaghetti Western fanatics. Fortunately, the DVD age has allowed a new generation of viewers to re-discover this series of films. If you are new to the Spaghetti Western genre and wish to try out a Sartana or two, pick one and watch. There is no continuity link between any of the movies so you can watch them in any order. The Sartana films are not for everybody so if you do not like the first one you watch, you probably won't like the others either. On the other hand, if you enjoyed one of them, you will probably enjoy all. Just don't expect a Sergio Leone-esque masterpiece. I hope this article was useful in introducing you to the world of Sartana.