SARTANA WEEK: If You Meet Sartana Pray for Your Death (1968)

For the first film in what would come to be the Sartana series, star Gianni Garko wanted a character whose motivation was more than just vengeance. After turning down script after script, Renato Izzi’s take on the character — a man free from sentiment who pits rivals against one another — Sartana was born.

What breaks the character away from the mold is both his air of mystery and his love of gadgets, which many attribute to director Gianfranco Parolini (God’s Gun) love of James Bond films. His first line of dialogue says all you need to know about him. When faced with an entire gang of killers, led by Morgan (Klaus Kinski, Death Smiles at a Murderer), one of them says, “You look just like a scarecrow.” Sartana coldly replies, “I am your pallbearer,” before ruthlessly killing everyone but the gang’s leader.

The first few scenes of this movie set up that everyone is looking for coffins filled with gold, from Morgan’s gang to a Mexican army led by General Jose Manuel Mendoza (Fernando Sancho, Return of the Blind Dead), who says, “How many times I tell you… that my name is Don José Manuel Francisco Mendoza Montezuma de la Plata Perez Rodriguez… but you can call me General Tampico!” Then there’s another group led by Lasky (William Berger, a frequent actor in Jesus Franco films), who uses a gatling gun to wipe out his rivals. He’s working with/blackmailing Stewal (Sydney Chaplin, son of Charlie who appeared in Satan’s Cheerleaders) and Alman, a politician and banker.

Sartana remains the fly in Lasky’s ointment, taking his money in a card game and defeating Morgan, who is sent to kill him. He even wipes out Lasky’s entire gang. But then Stewal and Alman turn him in to Mendoza, who goes after both Lasky and Sartana.

What follows is an elaborate series of double-crosses, with Stewal trying to escape with the gold but being killed by Mendoza to Lasky killing Mendoza and his men and Alman’s wife killing him and taking Lasky to the gold before he kills her. Finally, Lasky and Sartana have a duel, which ends with our hero riding out of town with the coffin filled with gold.

This film sets up the character of Sartana quite well — no one is sure why he does what he does, appearing with the sound of a dead man’s watch, being able to seemingly disappear at will. He’s always a few steps ahead of his enemies and always appears unflappable in the face of sure death.

After all, I wouldn’t be spending an entire week discussing a hero who is anything less than awesome, right?

Want to learn more about Spaghetti Westerns? You can find no better site than the Spaghetti Western Database. It was so helpful as we put these reviews together all week long!

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