Thursday, May 5, 2011

If You Meet Sartana Pray for Your Death (1968)

Sartana is one of the biggest names in spaghetti westerns. He ranks up there with Django, Ringo and Sabata. Like the others there were a plethora of unrelated films that had characters using his name or his name in the title with no such character to be found. IF YOU MEET SARTANA PRAY FOR YOUR DEATH is the first of five official Sartana films (Though some argue there are six official films).

The film opens as a stagecoach is attacked by Morgan(Klaus Kinski) and his gang of bandits who shoot down the passengers. Sartana (Gianni Garko) arrives on the scene and kills everyone except for Morgan who gets away. Shortly after another stagecoach is attacked by General Mendoza's men and they are ambushed by Lasky (William Berger) and his men. The chest is taken from the back of the wagon but Lasky murders his gang with a Gatling gun. After opening the box to find it contains rocks instead of the intended gold, Lasky heads to town to a local banker and crooked politician to collect his payment. Sartana meets Lasky in a card game and beats him out of thousands of dollars. The other men in the game confront Sartana outside and meet their deaths. Lasky is a bit more patient in the situation.

Lasky sends his partner Morgan after Sartana but Morgan's arrogance with his throwing knives costs him his life. Meanwhile, Lasky is blackmailing the two men bankrolling his crimes while in search of the missing gold. The men inform Mendoza that it is Lasky who killed his gang. Mendoza captures Lasky who tells him that only Sartana knows of the location of the treasure. Our crooked businessman and politician are busy trying to out think the other to get all of the gold for themselves. Eventually the grand finale of gun play between occurs in the funeral parlor between Sartana and Lasky. And we all know IF YOU MEET SARTANA PRAY FOR YOUR DEATH.

IF YOU MEET SARTANA... is a very entertaining, if a bit confusing Italian western from director Gianfranco Parolini (SABATA trilogy). The story is a bit all over the place with the multiple subplots. There are enough turncoat moments that if this was a WWE event I'd be hoarse from yelling "Heel turn!". That said the action never stops and once the story hits its stride it is a fun ride to see it play out. Parolini doesn't stray too far from the path of classic western direction but there are some playful moments with the camera. Garko is perfect in the title role and his gun play and antics are beyond fun. And hell, we even get the crazy comedic coffin maker old man character. I would have liked more out of Kinski's role, who has minimal screen time though. But how bad can a movie be when the lead character's first line is "I am your pallbearer"?

When all is said and done this is a great first step in to a series I'd been putting off for way too long. I cannot wait for I AM SARTANA YOUR ANGEL OF DEATH.


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