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Everyone’s Out for The Gold: Sartana’s Got His Hands Full

by Tony Nash

(A Part of Western Wednesdays)

(Mild to Spoiler Free Review)

(All opinions are of the author alone)

(This review is of the Italian language version of the film)

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Una Nuvola di Polvere….un Grido di Morte….Arriva Sartana (A Cloud of Dust….A Cry of Death….Sartana is Coming/Light the Fuse….Sartana is Coming) (1970) PG-13 ****

 

Gianni Garko: Sartana (as John Garko)

Nieves Navarro: Belle Johnson-Manassas (as Susan Scott)

Massimo Serato: Sheriff Jim Manassas

Piero Lulli: Grandville “Grand Full” Fuller

José Jaspe: General Monk

Frank Brana: Deputy Sam “One Eye” Puttnam

Renato Baldini: Mr. Nobody, Casino Owner

Franco Pesce: Professor Plon Plon

Bruno Corazzari: Polack

Giuseppe Castellano: Warden Hanson

Luis Induni: The Sheriff of Sandy Creek

Francisco Sanz: Judge Ericson

Salvatore Borghese: Manassas’ Informer

Written by: Eduardo Manzanos (as Eduardo M. Brochero) (also story), Tito Capri, & Ernesto Gastaldi

Directed by: Giuliano Carnimeo (as Anthony Ascot)

Synopsis: Sartana breaks his old friend Grand Full out of prison to clear the man’s name of robbery charges. Full tells Sartana his gambling partner Johnson screwed a crooked businessman from Mansfield and a mercenary named General Monk, killing the agents sent to negotiate the deals. Johnson himself is found dead later, and Grand Full looks to be the fall guy. Sartana soon finds himself taking on the mercenary, the dead businessman’s brother- a Sheriff, the widow of the dead man, and a series of roughnecks all looking for the gold.

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The 5th and final entry in the official Sartana series, and the 4th and final film for Gianni Garko as the title character, is a little less intricate and less on gadgets and surprises, but is nevertheless an entertaining and fun ride with the Italian West’s most famous stealthy and trick-laden gunman. This go around has him looking to clear an old acquaintance of the charge of stealing $500,000 in gold and $20,000 in counterfeit money, then murdering his double-dealing partner and the two men the partner planned to double-cross. What follows for Sartana is a series of different accounts of events from the main parties, a town full of greedy vermin looking to get their hands on the loot, an agent from the Federal Government, and an Old West femme fatale who clearly knows more than she’s telling. Sartana starts to wonder if there’s more to the money situation than what he’s been told after one of the men who allied himself with him is shot dead upon figuring out where the gold’s hidden. Like with the previous instalments of the franchise, the double-crosses come in pairs, and not even the hero is sure of who to believe, but knows there are bad guys who need to get taken out.

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What sets up the film well is the opening gundown. Sartana comes upon a corrupt Sheriff and his Deputies hassling a judge and his daughters. Sadly, he isn’t in time to save the two, but he guns down the brutes in iconic Italian Western fashion. The scene is kind of reminiscent of Django, and bears a resemblance to Garko’s first scene in the debut film of the Sartana franchise. While the hero of the former succeeds in saving the innocents, where the latter isn’t given a chance, both do get to dispatch the vermin in memorable fashion. In Garko’s fist and final appearance, he gets to say a very poetic statement to the villains before he uses his weapon to exact Western Justice.

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Gianni Garko, an always capable and versatile Italian-Croatian character actor once again does well in the role of Sartana. Sartana in this film is a little more cautious in this go-around, not fully trusting anyone, including the man whose begged him to help clear his name. While his previous exploits aren’t in continuity in the series, it’s clear years of being a detective gunman have taken their toll on Sartana, and he’s become more thoughtful on how to play out his cards on the people and situations he encounters, something Garko conveys well with the character. To say the character is world weary in this final outing would be misleading, as he’s still full of vim and vigor, cracking one liners when the opportunity presents itself. Garko simply plays the character as much wiser this time around, clearly having learned from his previous jobs, and is now probably the most prepared he’s ever been going into a situation. This explains why the character has been toned down a little as well, not wanting to press his luck if he doesn’t need to. Nieves Navarro, the Spanish beauty veteran of the Italian Westerns, by this period going by her Anglo stage name Susan Scott is at her vivacious best as Belle Manassas. The Widow of Sheriff Jim’s brother, Belle has as much interest in the loot as the men do, if not more so. Her first scene has her cocking back the trigger of a rifle, showing she’s not someone to be trusted, and this carries through for the remainder of her scenes. While she isn’t on screen much, her presence as a femme fatale is felt every time she’s on screen.

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Image result for Una Nuvola di Polvere….un Grido di Morte….Arriva Sartana (A Cloud of Dust….A Cry of Death….Sartana is Coming/Light the Fuse….Sartana is Coming)

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Massimo Serato, Piero Lulli, and José Jaspe make a fine trio of villains and rogues. Serato, a veteran character actor who did everything from arts films to dramas to comedies to westerns to horror to action, is entertaining as Sheriff Jim Manassas. A crooked lawman through and through, Manassas is more interested in getting his hands on the gold than he is on avenging his brother’s murder. The lawmen of the territory, including Manassas himself, are all killers with badges, looking for what they can gain, and have little to no interest in actually upholding the office of law and order. Manassas even goes as far as to frame people, thinking he can get Sartana to give up Grand Full if he puts a price on his head. Lulli, another of the many veterans of the Italian Western and of Italian genre films in general, is his usual smiling menace and slimy deceitful best in the role of Grand Full. A con artist/gambler through and through, he still protests his innocence at having played a part in his casino partner’s double-cross scheme, and then subsequently murdering the parties involved. Since Sartana is an old friend, Full knows he can count on the gunman coming to his aid, even if neither fully trusts the other. What looks plain and simple with the character may not be entirely what it is, and the audience is left wondering from Lulli’s stare and smiles how much of the level is he really on. Jaspe, a reliable and well-respected Spanish character actor displays versatile and skill chops as the wacky General Monk. A tough mercenary whose sole, but very much crippling, handicap is being deaf, Jaspe’s abilities allow him to convey that even with this difficulty he wields a kind of respect as he goes almost completely ape on his subversives with a bull whip. Monk is actually only crook on the level in the money situation as he’s looking to gain money and fame from one of the many revolutions taking place in Mexico, but that doesn’t stop him from trying to get the whole half a million all to himself.

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While not as many gadgets are on display this go around, the two main instruments at Sartana’s disposal are still quite neat to look at. An early fancy cigarette/cigar lighter gets many uses as an impromptu gun/mini cannon when Sartana has to keep the bad guys on their toes when they surround him. Sartana’s banter with the contraption, whom the man he bought it from called Alfie, is also quite amusing to hear and see. Also in Sartana’s arsenal is an Organ that acts as a makeshift shotgun/cannon which will get its usage toward the end of the film.

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While not as flashy or slick as the previous entries, the 5th and final Sartana film still does a good job in keeping the audience guessing as to who the bad guy is, and where the money is hidden. Even if the ending itself doesn’t come as a complete surprise, how Sartana comes to his solution is still pretty cool to see. Giuliano Carnimeo’s direction is on par as always and the inclusion of Ernesto Gastaldi on the screenplay helps in the script not getting too caught up in Tito Capri’s high-jinx that have never really hurt the films, but at times have risked the films become something of a parody that they never were really meant to be. Certain scenes and plot elements do give an indication that this was the final official film of the franchise, but it’s still cool to see Sartana in his usual form, this time acting primarily on his own.  While some films lose steam by the final installment, this series stayed fairly string till the very end.

(All five of the official Sartana films are quite good, even with the fifth and final installment not having the same budget as its predecessors. The combination of Mystery, Action, and Western works well as always with this film, keeping the audiences in the dark as to whose the leader behind the curtain of the whole affair. Arrow Video’s transfer in audio and visuals is good as always and makes their Boxset a must buy. The Italian version is the preferable one as always as it keeps the tone and feel the director and writer always intended for it, though the English dubs here are OK for those who prefer them.)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google images and their respective owners

For more information

IMDB/Light the Fuse…Sartana is Coming

Wikipedia/Light the Fuse….Sartana is Coming

Spaghetti-Western.net/Light the Fuse….Sartana is Coming

(Look at my review of the inagural film for the links to the Box Set)

Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics

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