Light the Fuse... Sartana Is Coming AKA Una nuvola di polvere... un grido di morte... arriva Sartana [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - Arrow Films
Review written by and copyright: Paul Lewis (8th July 2018).
The Film

The Complete Sartana

If You Meet Sartana… Pray for Your Death (Se incontri Sartana prega per la tua morte; Gianfranco Parolini/‘Frank Kramer’, 1968)

Clad in black and riding a white horse, Sartana (Gianni Garko) follows a stagecoach in which an elderly man and his wife are travelling. The stagecoach is held up by a group of outlaws; the elderly couple are killed, but Sartana enacts revenge by employing a derringer pistol hidden up his sleeve to outshoot the gang of thugs. This event is watched from a distance by Morgan (Klaus Kinski).

Sartana rides into a nearby town where a politico, Stewal (Sydney Chaplin), and a banker, Alman (Gianni Rizzo), have formed an alliance with a Mexican outlaw, General Tampico (Fernando Sancho). One of Tampico’s men, El Moreno (Sal Borgese), holds up a stagecoach but is in turn ambushed by Lasky (William Berger) and his men, who take from the stagecoach a strongbox.

Lasky is almost double-crossed by his own greedy men, but Lasky bests his treacherous allies by mowing them down with a hand-cranked machine gun, before opening the strongbox and discovering within it nothing more than rocks. (Stewal and Alman were conspiring with Tampico and El Moreno to stage the theft of a large amount of gold from the stagecoach, with the intention of cashing in on their insurance.)

A series of fragile alliances are formed between the venal Stewal and Alman, and the outlaws Lasky and Morgan. Sartana finds himself caught in the middle, with his only ally being the town’s eccentric undertaker Dusty (Franco Pesce). The various factions cross and double cross one another, climaxing in a shootout with Gothic trappings that takes place in Dusty’s labyrinthine workshop.


I Am Sartana… Your Angel of Death (Sono Sartana, il vostro becchino; Giuliano Carnimeo/‘Anthony Ascott’, 1969)

‘Sartana’ arrives at a town and enters the North Western Bank, carrying a supposedly deceased outlaw, Bill Cochram (Federico Boido), over his shoulder. However, Cochram is anything but dead, and ‘Sartana’ is anything but Sartana: it is an imposter, and together with Cochram and other outlaws, this imposter robs the North Western Bank.

After the robbery, Sartana’s image circulates on a wanted poster, and various bounty hunters, including Hot Dead (Klaus Kinski), vow to catch him. Sartana teams up with Buddy Ben (Frank Wolff), who presides over a ghost town as its self-elected mayor, to clear his name and catch the real culprit. Sartana follows a lead to the hideout of Butch Dynamite, whose smoke grenades were used during the robbery, but when Sartana arrives he finds Butch Dynamite dead. There, Sartana is attacked by a fellow bounty hunter and former ally, Shadow (Jose Torres). From Shadow, Sartana learns that Bill Cochram has been caught and is being held by the sheriff of a nearby town.

Sartana heads into the town and breaks into the jail to interrogate Bill Cochram. Cochram offers a clue that points to the mastermind of the robbery hiding out in Poker Falls, but before he can reveal any more he is killed by an assassin using a high-powered rifle and telescopic sight.

The pursuit leads to a gambling town presided over by businessman Baxter Red (Ettore Manni), who stages duels to the death, on which his customers place bets, between disgruntled patrons amidst his one-armed bandits. There, several attempts are made on Sartana’s life, including one by Hot Dead, who owes Sartana $5,000 from a poker game five years previously. Because he doesn’t want people to say he killed Sartana in order to avoid paying his debt, Hot Dead challenges Sartana to cut a deck of cards. Sartana wins, and Hot Dead, a good sportsman, walks away.

Sartana continues to investigate and discovers Baxter Red’s ties to the manager of the North Western Bank where the robbery took place.


Sartana’s Here… Trade Your Pistol for a Coffin (C'è Sartana... vendi la pistola e comprati la bara!; Giuliano Carnimeo/‘Anthony Ascott’, 1970)

Sartana (in this film played by George Hilton) is shown in the film’s opening sequence ambushing a group of outlaws. He searches for an outlaw named Mantas (Nello Pazzafini) in dusty, almost deserted border town known to be rich with gold. Sartana encounters Golfay (Marco Zuanelli), one of Mantas’ henchmen, and becomes aware that Mantas is holding a woman and her young son hostage. Golfay reports back to Mantas that Sartana is sticking his nose where it isn’t wanted. Mantas sends Golfay and another man to kill Sartana, but Sartana bests them. Using dynamite, Sartana lures Mantas’ gang out of their hiding place and kills them, freeing the hostages.

From the hostages and a bartender at the local saloon, who seem to be the only inhabitants of the town, Sartana discovers that the miners in the area, most of whom reside in a town called Appaloosa, are being robbed and exploited.

Sartana rides to Appaloosa and finds that the town is run by Spencer (Piero Lulli), the head of the mining company, his henchman Baxter (Carlo Gaddi), and the hotel owner, Trixie (Erika Blanc). Spencer takes the gold from the miners and promises to transport it safely to the bank in Dodge City, but he conspires with outlaws, including Mantas’ gang, to stage robberies of the gold. Sartana approaches Spencer and offers to transport the gold to Dodge City.

Meanwhile, Sabata (Charles Southwood) arrives in the town and strikes up an allegiance with Spencer. Sartana and Sabata make vocal their dislike for one another. Spencer enlists Sabata to kill Sartana, observing that ‘The first rule is to divide your enemies’. However, it seems that Sartana has similar ideas and is much more shrewd than Spencer in his ability to play one side off the other.


Have a Good Funeral, My Friend… Sartana Will Pay (Buon funerale amigos!... paga Sartana; Giuliano Carnimeo/‘Anthony Ascott’, 1970)

At night, an isolated house populated by gold prospector Benson (Attilio Dottesio) and his colleagues is razed to the ground by a group of men, its inhabitants killed. Sartana arrives on the scene too late to save Benson and the others, but he kills the assailants.

Sartana rides into the nearby town of Indian Creek, discovering that it is torn between two factions: banker Ronald Hoffman (Antonio Vilar) and his cronies, and gambling house owner Lee Tse Tung (George Wang), a Chinese immigrant.

Sartana attempts to smoke out the culprits behind the massacre by paying for a lavish funeral for the men he killed. Witnessing this funeral disturbs Sam Piggott (Franco Ressel), an employee of Tung’s gambling house, and Piggott assaults the elderly undertaker (Franco Pesce) for refusing to reveal who paid for the men’s funeral.

Sartana confronts Piggott’s employer, Tung, and Sartana suggests that his arrival in town was with the intention of buying Benson’s land (to the tune of $20,000). Tung tells Sartana that Benson’s land is worthless (‘“If you buy sand, you build walls of glass”. Confucius said that. He was a very wise man’). Shortly afterwards, Piggott makes an unsuccessful attempt to kill Sartana; not long afterwards, Sartana finds Piggott’s dead body.

Benson’s niece, Jasmine Benson (Daniela Giordano), arrives in Indian Creek. Soon, Hoffman calls Jasmine to his office and offers to buy her uncle’s land for $10,000, but she refuses his offer, telling him Sartana offered her twice that amount. Sartana attempts to help Jasmine negotiate the selling of her uncle’s land, ensuring that she isn’t fleeced by either Hoffman or Tung.

Meanwhile, Sartana’s life is placed in increasing jeopardy – especially when a saloon girl (Helga Line) urges the deputy sheriff, Blackie (Ivano Staccoli), to kill Sartana, and later when Piggott’s brothers ride into town seeking retribution for the death of Piggott.


Light the Fuse… Sartana is Coming (Una nuvola di polvere... un grido di morte... arriva Sartana; Giuliano Carnimeo/‘Anthony Ascott’, 1970)

In a lonely desert town, a group of men – the town’s sheriff and his deputies – manhandle a young woman and mock her father, a judge. The townsfolk look on from inside their homes as the sheriff and his deputies kill the judge. Their attention is diverted by the arrival of Sartana, who they assume by his austere appearance to be a priest. Sartana shoots and kills the corrupt lawmen, carting their bodies to the Everglades Penitentiary and turning himself in. (‘I’ve killed them, and I’ve come here to give myself up’, he says.)

Everglades Penitentiary is a place of cruelty, where inmates are kept in cages in the ground and tortured in the intense heat and by the guards, who urinate upon them and splash them with acid. One particular prisoner bears the brunt of the governor’s (Giuseppe Castellano) ire, however: Grand Full (Piero Lulli) is tormented by the governor and his guards because the governor believes Grand Full knows the location of $500,000 in gold and $20 million in counterfeit money. Sartana has placed himself in Everglades Penitentiary with the intention of breaking Grand Full, a former ally, out of the prison; this is an aim that Sartana achieved through sheer ingenuity and with the help of a concealed blowdart.

Grand Full tells Sartana that the gold and counterfeit money was part of a deal struck between Manassas Joe and Monk (Jose Jaspe), the leader of a group of mercenaries, which was presided over by Grand Full’s buddy Johnson (Gennarino Pappagalli). The deal went south, Joe and Johnson were killed, and the money and gold disappeared. Joe’s brother, Sheriff Manassas Jim (Massimo Serato), wishes to avenge his brother’s death and get his hands on the loot. Monk also wants to get his hands on the money, as does Joe’s widow Belle (Nieves Navarro).

Sartana enlists the help of a magician, Plon Plon (Franco Pesce), and a clockwork Native American doll named Alfie (which functions as a cigar lighter-cum-dynamite thrower-cum-remote gun). In his attempt to solve the mystery and find the loot, Sartana forges various temporary and fragile alliances, including with a federal agent named Sam Puttnam (Bruno Corazzari).


Critique:
Although Gianni Garko had played a villain named Sartana in Alberto Cardone’s 1000 dollari sul nero (Blood at Sundown, 1966), the first ‘proper’ Sartana picture was directed by Gianfranco Parolini (aka ‘Frank Kramer’), whose other westerns all’italiana (for example, 1976’s Diamante Lobo/God’s Gun and the three Sabata movies) have problems with pacing and tonal consistency. There are some stark tonal shifts in If You Meet Sartana… Pray for Your Death too, with scenes of Gothic intensity standing in stark relief to some moments of bold slapstick, but for the most part the picture has a sense of cohesion that Parolini’s other westerns all’italiana (and, for that matter, his films in other genres) tend to lack. Like Sergio Corbucci’s Django (1966), the Sartana pictures spawned numerous films which used the Sartana character ‘unofficially’ (including Pasquale Squitieri’s Django sfida Sartana/Django Against Sartana, 1970). The four ‘official’ sequels to If You Meet Sartana… were directed by Giuliano Carnimeo (under the pseudonym ‘Anthony Ascott’) and built on the foundations of Parolini’s picture, expanding the palette (both in terms of narrative and photographically: where Parolini’s film was shot ‘flat’, Carnimeo’s sequels were photographed in 2-perf widescreen processes) and featuring ever more labyrinthine plots that married the visual paradigms of the Western with the narrative conventions of thrillers and whodunnits.

The first Sartana picture outlined the character of Sartana as a dapper and resourceful bounty hunter whose motives are ultimately ambiguous. (Why, exactly, does Sartana mysteriously appear in town and take on the various factions warring over the gold?) Thomas Weisser describes Sartana, at least in the first film, as ‘a bigger-than-life Western vigilante’ (Weisser, 2014: np). Meanwhile, Alex Cox has suggested that Sartana displays ‘no rudimentary traces of morality, nor mortality’, is ‘[d]evoid of any moral sense, yet strangely priggish’ and therefore ‘becomes a simple, deadly, money-accumulator. A superhero for the Reagan/Thatcher years, Sartana was a character ahead of his time’ (Cox, 2010: np). In If You Meet Sartana…, Klaus Kinski’s Morgan compares Sartana with a hyena ‘snuffling among the corpses’.

Sartana is also a trickster figure: a card shark with a penchant for gadgets who is also something of an illusionist. In the first film, there are hints that Sartana is – or, at least, is perceived to be – a spectral presence. ‘He looks like a ghost’, the elderly woman riding in the stagecoach in the film’s opening sequence comments when she sees Sartana following behind. ‘You look just like a scarecrow’, one of the thugs who holds up the stagecoach tells Sartana. ‘I’m your pallbearer’, Sartana offers in response, establishing a connection between the character and funerary customs that escalates as the series of films progresses. In the later films, Sartana takes on an increasingly supernatural quality, especially in Have a Good Funeral, My Friend… Sartana Will Pay. In that film, for example, he displays unnerving accuracy when using playing cards as weapons, in one scene throwing a playing card at a bible on Hoffmann’s desk, the card lodging in a page which, when opened, has relevance for the narrative. As the films progress, Sartana also becomes surrounded with an increasing array of James Bond-esque gadgets: in the final film, Light the Fuse… Sartana is Coming, he is assisted by a clockwork doll called Alfie which fires dynamite at his enemies (and also functions as a cigar lighter), and at the climax he uses a pipe organ that, when Sartana ‘pulls out all the stops’, also doubles as a field cannon and machine gun post.

The Sartana films, taken as a whole, are an interesting representation of the changing fortunes of the western all’italiana as it moved away from the mythic texture of Leone’s Westerns and incorporated the athleticism of the pepla and a fascination with James Bond-style gadgets. However, unlike James Bond, for example, Sartana is a devoutly celibate figure – like Alan Ladd’s Shane in Shane (George Stevens, 1953). Throughout the series of films, women proposition him, but Sartana either turns them down or accepts their proposition simply in order to trap his enemies. (In the first picture, a dancer in the saloon offers Sartana a ‘come on’, asking him suggestively ‘Can I do something for you?’; to this, Sartana’s reply is a simple, ‘Nope’.) Have a Good Funeral… also references the then-popularity of martial arts films, via the presence of Lee Tse Tung and a climactic fight between Tung and Sartana.

A constant throughout the film is a depiction of games of cross and double cross, motivated by pure greed, with participants who are mostly from ‘respectable’ professions (bankers, businessmen, sheriffs, the governor of the Everglades Penitentiary). If the western all’italiana was a mode of cinema favoured by proletarian audiences in Italy, the Sartana pictures offered the vicarious thrill of watching a just avenger disassemble the mechanisms of repression and knock unjust agents of the middle and ruling classes from their proverbial perches. (‘Here thye do what they want and use the law as an excuse’, an ancillary character tells Sartana in Light the Fuse….) In If You Meet Sartana…, the crooked nature of Stewal and Alman – their staging of a robbery of gold from their bank in order to claim the insurance money – is underscored by the manner in which they share the same woman, Alman’s wife Evelyn (Heidi Fischer). As Stewal tells Tampico, ‘There are two kinds of violence used to gain power and wealth. We’ve chosen the diplomatic kind of violence’. This sense of ‘game-playing’ amongst the antagonists is foregrounded by frequent references to gambling, and Sartana cuts through these dishonest members of the professional class like a knife through butter, often using their own tactics against them. Alex Cox has noted that Gianni Garko was approached by producer Aldo Addobbati, and together they devised the basic premise of the first Sartana film around an old Roman proverb, ‘Tra i due litiganti, il terzo gode’ (‘When two parties fight, the third one wins’) (Cox, 2010: np). In Light the Fuse…, Sartana forms individual alliances with the various characters who are after the gold – Grand Full, Manassas Jim, Monk – and in each case offers to share the loot with them fifty/fifty; ultimately, however, Sartana’s ploy is to lead these groups into conflict in order to discover which of them was responsible for the theft of the gold and counterfeit money. In Have a Good Funeral, Sartana forms an alliance with Benson’s niece before revealing in the film’s closing sequence his knowledge that she, like Hoffmann and Lee, is just another grifter playing a ‘long game’.

When, in Light the Fuse…, Sartana arrives in a small town immediately following the murder of a judge, and the manhandling of the judge’s daughter, by a corrupt sheriff and his deputies, it’s difficult not to wonder whether or not the Sartana pictures, with their black clad avenging angel riding a white horse, were a model for Clint Eastwood’s High Plains Drifter (1973) and Pale Rider (1985), with their quasi-supernatural avengers taking on corrupt forces of law and repression. Like those later films, the violence in the Sartana pictures is quite graphic: this is most noticeable in If You Meet Sartana…, which features some noticeable bullet wounds in foreheads, achieved by makeup and clever editing. Throughout, like Eastwood’s characters in the Leone films and in the much later High Plains Drifter and Pale Rider, Sartana allies himself with outsiders – eccentric characters on the margins of society. In the first film, his ally is the cackling elderly undertaker, Dusty (Franco Pesce). These characters function as comic foils for Sartana. (‘The rich must always be respected, even in death’, Sartana comments in the first picture; to this, Dusty replies dryly, ‘And they will still rip you off’.)

The films are riddled with allusions to other westerns all’italiana: the chiming pocket watch that Sartana uses to unnerve Lasky in the first picture is straight out of Sergio Leone’s For a Few Dollars More (1965), as is the appearance of Sartana himself, who dresses in the same manner as Lee Van Cleef’s Colonel Douglas Mortimer in the Leone film (and, like Mortimer, Sartana both uses a derringer handgun and is sometimes blackly comically mistaken for a man of the cloth owing to his austere appearance). In Sartana’s Here… Trade Your Pistol for a Coffin, the early sequences showing Mantas and his gang holding the woman and her child hostage recall the Rojos gang holding Marisol (Marianne Koch) hostage in A Fistful of Dollars (1964).

Video

All of the films are presented in 1080p, using the AVC codec, and each film is housed on a separate Blu-ray disc.

If You Meet Sartana… Pray for Your Death takes up approximately 28Gb of space on its disc. The film runs for 95:52 mins and appears to be uncut. If You Meet Sartana… is presented in the 1.85:1 ratio.

The photography in this film makes much use of wide-angle lenses which feature noticeable barrel distortion, and there’s some interesting use of what appear to be split dioptre lenses too, creating the impression of deep depth of field even in some of the film’s low light scenes.

The other films in this set are billed as 2k restorations from original camera negatives; the presentation of If You Meet Sartana… is identified in Arrow’s promotional material as a new 2k restoration ‘from original film materials’. Given the characteristics of this presentation, it seems reasonably safe to assume that this means If You Meet Sartana… has been sourced from a positive source – most likely an interpositive, The presentation of If You Meet Sartana… contains some noticeable damage: there are some vertical scratches that appear intermittently throughout the presentation, burn marks, examples of dust and debris, and a few missing frames. That said, this is all naturally-occuring, film-sourced damage, and it’s never detrimental to one’s enjoyment of the film. Detail throughout is excellent, with a very pleasing level of fine detail present in some of the tight Leone-esque close-ups of the actors’ faces. Colours are earthy – browns and autumnal greens dominate the palette – and communicated consistently throughout the presentation. Contrast levels are very good, with richly-defined midtones tapering off into deep black. The presentation retains the structure of 35mm film, carried by a solid encode to disc.

The four other films are billed as new 2k restorations from the original negatives. These presentations are mostly equal. Running for 103:19 mins, I Am Sartana, Your Angel of Death takes up a little under 31Gb of space on its disc; Sartana’s Here… Trade Your Pistol for a Coffin takes up just under 26Gb of space and runs for 92:01 mins; taking up just under 28Gb of space on its disc, Have a Good Funeral, My Friend… Sartana Will Pay runs for 93:03 mins; and finally, Light the Fuse… Sartana is Coming runs for 99:45 mins and fills a little over 28Gb of disc space.

All four sequels, shot in 2-perf widescreen, are presented in the 2.35:1 ratio. I Am Sartana, Your Angel of Death was shot in Cromoscope, and the three other films were shot in Techniscope. (Cromoscope was a 2-perf widescreen process that was identical to Techniscope, other than it was handled by a different laboratory.) Both Techniscope and Cromoscope were widescreen processes that used spherical, rather than anamorphic, lenses. They were cost-saving in the sense that, by halving the size of each frame in comparison with anamorphic (4-perf) widescreen processes, they reduced the negative costs involved in making a film by half. However, this was reputedly offset to some extent by lab costs, which it is said were more expensive for films shot in 2-perf formats like Techniscope/Cromoscope; it has also been suggested that increases in lab costs were one of the reasons why 2-perf non-anamorphic widescreen processes such as these became less popular during the late 1970s and the 1980s.

Release prints of Techniscope/Cromoscope pictures were made by anthropomorphising the image and doubling the size of each frame, resulting in a grain structure that was noticeably more dense/coarse than that of widescreen films shot using anamorphic lenses. (This was compounded in many 1970s Techniscope productions by the movement away from the dye transfer processes used by Technicolor Italia during the 1960s and towards the use of the standard Kodak colour printing process, which necessitated the production of a dupe negative, with the additional ‘generation’ of the material making the grain structure of the release prints of Techniscope productions during the 1970s even more coarse and the blacks less rich.) Another of the characteristics of Techniscope photography was an increased depth of field. Freed from the need to use anamorphic lenses, cinematographers using the Techniscope process were able to employ technically superior spherical lenses with shorter focal lengths and shorter hyperfocal distances, thus achieving a greater depth of field, even at lower f-stops and even within low light sequences. By effectively halving the ‘circle of confusion’, the Techniscope format shortened the hyperfocal distances of prime lenses and altered the field of view associated with them – so an 18mm lens would function pretty much as a 35mm lens, and shooting at f2.8 would result in similar depth of field to shooting at f5.6. The use of shorter focal lengths also prevented the subtle flattening of perspective that comes with the use of focal lengths above around 85mm. (The noticeably increased depth of field, combined with short focal lengths/wide-angle lenses, is a characteristic of many films shot in Techniscope, including Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars, 1964.)

The four widescreen Sartana pictures make good use of the Cromoscope/Techniscope frame, the photography becoming increasingly innovative as the series progressed: the later films make some striking use of canted angles, for example, the camera shifting on its horizontal axis when a character is shot. (Sartana’s Here… Trade Your Pistol for a Coffin also features some snazzy split-screen footage.) Where the other films feature heavy use of Almeria-style landscapes (desert towns, etc), Sartana’s Here… is the ‘odd one out’ not only for the fact that it features George Hilton as Sartana (instead of Gianni Garko) but that, like later period westerns all’italiana, its settings are less desert landscapes and more mud-drenched fields.

The four widescreen Sartana films (I Am Sartana…, Sartana is Coming…, Have a Good Funeral…, Light the Fuse…) have been restored in 2k from the original negatives. The use of the negatives as the source material for these presentations thus bypasses the 4-perf ‘blow up’ process, and as a result, blacks are deep and velvety, in line with Cromoscope/Techniscope pictures processed using the dye transfer process than the later 2-perf pictures which were processed using the Kodak colour printing process (and which involved the production of a dupe negative that, as noted above, weakened contrast and produced a coarser grain structure). Throughout all four presentations, the grain structure of the films is natural and organic and, owing to the source being a new transfer of the negative (bypassing the 4-perf blow-up stage), without the coarseness that characterised some of the vintage prints of Techniscope films made after around 1970.

Contrast levels are very good throughout: midtones have strong definition, and highlights are even. Blacks are deep, as noted above, and rich in texture. An extremely rich level of fine detail is present, accounting for the fact that the film was shot in a 2-perf format. Colour is robust. All four films have pleasing encodes to disc.

Damage in the four sequels is limited and much less than in the presentation of If You Meet Sartana…. However, I Am Sartana contains some inserts that seem to be from a positive print.

If You Meet Sartana… Pray for Your Death


I am Sartana, Your Angel of Death


Sartana’s Here… Trade Your Pistol for a Coffin


Have a Good Funeral, My Friend… Sartana Will Pay


Light the Fuse… Sartana is Coming



For full-sized screen grabs, please see the images at the bottom of this review and click to enlarge them.

Audio

All five films offer two audio options: (i) English DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0, with optional English subtitles for the Hard of Hearing; and (ii) Italian DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0, with optional English subtitles translating the Italian dialogue.

The English dubs for all of the films are pretty good, certainly among the more effective dubs for westerns all’italiana. There are some creative differences between the Italian and English dialogue throughout all five films – nothing that impacts on the plotting of the films, but sometimes these are differences that offer a slightly different ‘spin’ on certain characters’ actions. In I Am Sartana, Sartana is accused of cheating at cards, and in the Italian version he responds by stating ‘I’m not a cheat. I’m your undertaker’. In the English dub, his response is slightly more oblique: ‘The only queen I pull is the queen of spades’. In Have a Good Funeral…, when Sartana happens upon the slaughter of Benson and the other miners in the film’s opening sequence, in the English dub one of the assailants tells Sartana, ‘Better pray for your mortal soul’. ‘I’ll pray for yours’, Sartana responds. In the Italian version, this exchange is slightly different in its connotations: ‘It’s a bad deal to you, showing up’, Benson’s killer asserts. ‘It’s a bad deal to you’, Sartana answers.

The Italian dialogue also contains more ‘earthy’ language, words like ‘shit’ and ‘piss’ appearing fairly regularly in some of the films, where in the English dubs these have been substituted for less impactful expressions. In I Am Sartana, for example, Hot Dead tells Buddy Ben ‘You know I’m a shit’. In the English dub, he refers to himself as a ‘pig’ instead.

In the case of Light the Fuse…, the Italian track features much more atmospheric ambient sound effects that are missing in the English dub. For example, in the opening sequence of that particular film, the wind can be heard prominently on the Italian track but is missing completely from the English track.

Subtitles are easy to read throughout all five pictures and free from clumsy errors.

Extras

The contents of the discs are as follows:
DISC ONE:
If You Meet Sartana… Pray for Your Death (95:52)

- Commentary by Mike Siegel
. Mike Siegel offers a wealth of knowledge about the western all’italiana, situating this first Sartana picture within the development of the Italian Western and reflecting on the film’s production and development. It’s an excellent, well-researched track that is packed with information and insight.

- ‘If You Meet Frank Kramer…’ (22:25)
. In a new interview, director Gianfranco Parolini talks about his work in cinema, reflecting on the first Sartana picture. He insists that the first film wasn’t supposed to be a big picture but became a runaway success. Parolini reflects on his education with the Jesuits and his career in cinema, suggesting he came up with the theme for Three Coins in the Fountain (Jean Negulesco, 1954). He talks about his career as an assistant director and his development as a director. The interview is in Italian, with optional English subtitles.

- ‘Light the Fuse: Sartana’s Casting’ (16:43)
. This video essay takes the form of clips from the films, interspersed with onscreen text by Jonathan Bygraves that focuses on the actors who appear throughout the Sartana pictures.

- Gallery (29 images)
. A gallery of promotional images – locandinas, posters, lobby cards and such – from Mike Siegel’s collection.


DISC TWO:
I Am Sartana, Your Angel of Death (103:19)

- Commentary by C Courtney Joyner and Henry Peake
. Joyner and Parke, filmmakers and ‘Western zealots’, offer a lively commentary for this film that is packed with enthusiasm and research, and underpinned by a solid understanding of the Western genre and its conventions. They talk about the Sartana character and the ‘official’ and ‘unofficial’ sequels, reflecting on the ‘comic book feel’ of the Sartana pictures – which, as Joyner suggests, avoids becoming ‘grim and relentless’.

- ‘From the Life of a Stuntman’ (24:18)
. Stuntman Sal Borgese is interviewed about his roles in Italian films of the 1960s and 1970s. At the time, he was mostly known for appearing in pepla and films about organised crime, but soon transitioned to working in westerns all’italiana, beginning with Corbucci’s Django in 1966. On that picture, Borgese had an issue with his payment: he was paid as a stuntman but expected to perform as an actor. Borgese dug his heels in and demanded due payment, but this led to him being ignored for a role in Sergio Sollima’s Corri, uomo, corri (1968). Borgese reflects on his work as a stuntman, suggesting ‘I gave too much to the cinema without earning what others seemed to get’. The interview is in Italian, with optional English subtitles.

- ‘Violent Tales for Kids’ (19:10)
. Screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi talks about his approach to writing Westerns. His first was Michele Lupo’s Arizona Colt (1966), and he used his experiences of watching Westerns as a child. He suggests that between the gialli all’italiana, the spy pictures and the westerns all’italiana, Italian cinema was ‘almost industrial’ for about 15 years. Gastaldi discusses the logistics of writing Westerns and getting them produced, and the complications vis-à-vis writing credits on some of these films. The interview is in Italian, with optional English subtitles.

- Gallery (31 images)
. A gallery of promotional images – locandinas, posters, lobby cards and such – from Mike Siegel’s collection.


DISC THREE:
Sartana’s Here… Trade Your Pistol for a Coffin (92:01)

-
‘Sartana Shoots First’ (20:12)
. In a new interview, George Hilton talks about his work in the Western genre, suggesting that he isn’t a fan of Westerns generally. However, Hilton was talented in the ways that a Western actor needed to be (horse-riding, boxing), and thus became approached to act in Westerns – and the genre, he admits, ‘made me very famous’. He says many of the actors in the Italian Westerns were stuntmen, and after fight scenes he’d often return home covered with bruises. Hilton says that Antonioni approached him after watching Lucio Fulci’s Massacre Time (1966), praising Hilton’s role in the picture. Hilton compares his approach to Sartana with Garko’s, suggesting he played the character a little lighter, ‘somewhere between Garko and Terence Hill’. The interview is in Italian, with optional English subtitles.

- ‘Lady Colt’ (29:21)
. In another new interview, Erika Blanc discusses her role in this film. Unlike Hilton, Blanc was a fan of Westerns from a young age, finding the stories and their settings exotic. She ‘completely fell in love with’ the Spaghetti Western: ‘When you were on the set of a Western, you lived in the Far West’, she says. The interview is in Italian, with optional English subtitles.

- ‘A Very Good Job’ (15:16)
. Actor Tony Askin reflects on how he became an agent and, latterly, an actor, and he discusses his work on specific films from this era. The interview is in Italian, with optional English subtitles.

- Gallery (23 images)
. A gallery of promotional images – locandinas, posters, lobby cards and such – from Mike Siegel’s collection.


DISC FOUR:
Have a Good Funeral, My Friend… Sartana Will Pay (93:03)

-
Commentary by C Courtney Joyner and Henry Parke
. Joyner and Park provide another commentary track. They discuss this film’s role in the development of the Sartana mythos and, again, offer critical insight underpinned by a strong comprehension of the tenets of the Western. The commentary is lively, enthusiastic and packed with information.

-
‘The Man Who Came from the Circus’ (22:41)
. Writer, actor and stuntman Robert Dell’Acqua discusses, in a new interview his work in cinema: he began as a clown and eventually transitioned into working as an actor. Now 72, he runs an amusement park. Coming from the circus, he found stuntwork in films ‘fascinating’, and his former career gave him an advantage over many of his contemporaries. The interview is in Italian, with optional English subtitles.

-
Gallery (22 images)
. A gallery of promotional images – locandinas, posters, lobby cards and such – from Mike Siegel’s collection.


DISC FIVE:
Light the Fuse… Sartana is Coming (99:45)

-
‘The Mute Strikes Again’ (22:01)
. Another new interview with Sal Borgese, actor and stuntman, sees Borgese reflecting on how he became a stuntman, with his first gig being in a scene opposite Jack Palance in Barabbas (1961). Borgese offers some anecdotes from his work during this period and discusses his working relationship with Parolini. Parolini had approached Borgese play the ‘mute one’ in The Three Supermen after the original actor, Aldo Canti, had been thrown in jail, but Canti was released and the role was given back to him. Borgese tore up his contract and went back to working as a stuntman in Yugoslavia. Borgese discusses the differences in terms of Parolini, Sergio Corbucci and Umberto Lenzi’s approach to film directing, describing Lenzi as ‘a technician’ who knew precisely where to place the camera and was always thinking about the next shot, even during a take. The interview is in Italian, with optional English subtitles.

- ‘Giuliano, Luciano and Me’ (20:29). In another new interview with Ernesto Gastaldi, the writer discusses his relationship with Giuliano Carnimeo. Their friendship began whilst both men were in their early 20s, and Gastaldi discusses the time he and Carnimeo spent in Spain under Franco’s dictatorship. In the early 1960s, Gastaldi saw less and less of Carnimeo, until one day Carnimeo called Gastaldi and asked him to adapt an L Ron Hubbard novel, Fear. Gastaldi scoffed at the idea, and again didn’t speak to Carnimeo for a number of years, until a television project was proposed which fell through, and that was the last time the pair spoke. Gastaldi suggests that Westerns are quite basic ‘fairy tales’: ‘We’re not talking about The Brothers Karamazov’, he says. However, as the western all’italiana developed, new elements had to be added: ‘I didn’t think it was necessary, to be honest. They went Gothic and stuff like that’, Gastaldi says. The interview is in Italian, with optional English subtitles.

- ‘Sartana Lives’ (24:14). In archival interviews, Giuliano Carnimeo and Gianni Garko (interviewed separately) talk about their careers and reflect specifically on their work on the Sartana pictures, Garko discussing his approach to the character. These interviews are in Italian, with optional English subtitles.

- Gallery (21 images). A gallery of promotional images – locandinas, posters, lobby cards and such – from Mike Siegel’s collection.

Overall

The Sartana pictures are remarkably diverse, though there’s a particular consistency to Carnimeo’s four ‘official’ sequels to Parolini’s If You Meet Sartana… Pray for Your Death. Carnimeo’s handling of the material becomes more confident as the series progresses, and there’s a strong argument to be made that Have a Good Funeral, My Friend… Sartana Will Pay and Light the Fuse… Sartana Is Coming are the strongest in the series. In particular, these films make Sartana even more mysterious: his motivations are often highly ambiguous, even in the first film, but in the last two ‘official’ Sartana pictures the character takes on almost supernatural qualities.

These films have mostly been difficult to see in good home video presentations, even in the digital era, and all five films finally see very pleasing presentations in this Blu-ray collection from Arrow Video. The presentation of If You Meet Sartana… is a little weaker than the others, displaying some noticeable damage – but it’s all organic and, though obviously based on a lesser source than the other pictures, is pleasingly filmlike nonetheless. These solid presentations of the main features are supported with some incredible contextual material. For fans of westerns all’italiana, Arrow’s Sartana boxed set is an essential purchase.

References:
Cox, Alex, 2010: 10,000 Ways to Die in the West: A Director’s Take on the Spaghetti Western. Manchester: Kamera Books

Weisser, Thomas, 2014: Spaghetti Westerns: The Good, the Bad and the Violent—A Comprehensive, Illustrated Filmography of 558 Eurowesterns and Their Personnel, 1961-1977. London: McFarland

CLICK TO ENLARGE:
If You Meet Sartana… Pray for Your Death
IF_YOU_MEET_SARTANA_vlcsnap_2018_07_05_21h28m58s539
IF_YOU_MEET_SARTANA_vlcsnap_2018_07_05_21h29m16s734
IF_YOU_MEET_SARTANA_vlcsnap_2018_07_05_21h30m32s183
IF_YOU_MEET_SARTANA_vlcsnap_2018_07_05_21h30m51s679
IF_YOU_MEET_SARTANA_vlcsnap_2018_07_05_21h32m26s102

I am Sartana, Your Angel of Vengeance
I_AM_SARTANA_vlcsnap_2018_07_05_21h35m08s321
I_AM_SARTANA_vlcsnap_2018_07_05_21h35m15s781
I_AM_SARTANA_vlcsnap_2018_07_05_21h35m19s268
I_AM_SARTANA_vlcsnap_2018_07_05_21h35m36s123
I_AM_SARTANA_vlcsnap_2018_07_05_21h36m36s456
(example of insert from lower-quality source)
I_AM_SARTANA_INSERT_vlcsnap_2018_07_05_21h37m19s041

Sartana’s Here… Trade Your Pistol for a Coffin
SARTANA_S_HERE_vlcsnap_2018_07_06_21h43m48s817
SARTANA_S_HERE_vlcsnap_2018_07_06_21h43m52s472
SARTANA_S_HERE_vlcsnap_2018_07_06_21h44m24s099
SARTANA_S_HERE_vlcsnap_2018_07_06_21h44m38s530
SARTANA_S_HERE_vlcsnap_2018_07_06_21h46m28s929

Have a Good Funeral, My Friend… Sartana Will Pay
HAVE_A_GOOD_FUNERAL_vlcsnap_2018_07_07_22h40m57s616
HAVE_A_GOOD_FUNERAL_vlcsnap_2018_07_07_22h41m07s714
HAVE_A_GOOD_FUNERAL_vlcsnap_2018_07_07_22h41m48s612
HAVE_A_GOOD_FUNERAL_vlcsnap_2018_07_07_22h42m03s311
HAVE_A_GOOD_FUNERAL_vlcsnap_2018_07_07_22h43m26s915

Light the Fuse… Sartana is Coming
LIGHT_THE_FUSE_vlcsnap_2018_07_07_22h38m59s764
LIGHT_THE_FUSE_vlcsnap_2018_07_07_22h39m02s950
LIGHT_THE_FUSE_vlcsnap_2018_07_07_22h39m06s194
LIGHT_THE_FUSE_vlcsnap_2018_07_07_22h39m13s550
LIGHT_THE_FUSE_vlcsnap_2018_07_07_22h39m40s233

 


DVD Compare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the Amazon Europe S.a.r.l. Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk, amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.fr, and amazon.de.