• Sartana Collection, The



    Released by: Arrow Video
    Released on: July 3rdh, 2018.
    Director: Gianfranco Parolini, Giuliano Carnimeo
    Cast: Gianni Garko, William Berger, Klaus Kinski, Sydney Chaplin, Frank Wilff, Sal Borgese, Antonio Vilar, Daniela Giordano, Susan Scott, George Hilton, Charles Southwood, Erika Blanc
    Year: 1968/1969/1970/1970/1970
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    The Movies:

    Arrow Video brings together the five Sartana films in one impressive boxed set collection, much to the joy of Spaghetti Western fans everywhere!

    If You Meet Sartana... Pray For Your Death:

    Spaghetti Western stalwart Gianni ‘John’ Garko plays the titular Sartana in this film of the same name (also known as If You Meet Sartana, Pray For Your Death!) directed by Gianfranco Parolini (who also directed the Sabata trilogy starring Lee Van Cleef and then Telly Savalas).

    The film begins when a bandit named Lasky (William Berger) and his evil gang hijack a stagecoach carrying a large shipment of gold. Lasky soon shows his gang how much they mean to him when he guns them all down with a Gatling gun in a scene that would make Django weep with joy. It seems those no-good rascals were going to rip him off and he was none too keen on that idea. Lasky teams up with his pal Morgan (Klaus Kinski) and the pair of them set into motion a plan to blackmail the original thieves… who turn out to be a few of the upright citizens in the town and a local banker!

    The gunslinger named Sartana gets involved when he takes it upon himself to set things right. He does this by planning and executing a series of elaborate traps to catch the bad guys red handed. Things get slightly more complicated for our mysterious and enigmatic anti-hero when it turns out that wife of the late Mayor has hidden a wealth of gold in her late husband’s coffin. Throw a sinister Mexican general named Mendoza (Fernando Sancho who has appeared in numerous Spaghetti Westerns and a few Jess Franco films in his day) into the mix and you can see that it’s all going to end in a showdown that Sartana will have to use all his wits to make it away from alive.

    While the inspiration for the character of Sartana can obviously be traced back to Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name from Sergio Leone’s Dollars Trilogy, there’s also a whole lot of Franco Nero’s Django going on underneath the Civil War uniform that Garko wears throughout the film. While this combined with the rather basic and unoriginal script more or less assures that there’s very little originality in the film, Gianfranco still manages to turn in an entertaining if formulaic movie. The score unashamedly tries to sound like something Morricone would have done and the look and feel of the film can’t hide its influences but Garko does a good enough job in the lead as the silent and mysterious avenger that it’s easy to overlook the fact that Sartana borrows more than it creates.

    Additionally, the cinematography is pretty solid and there are some good action scenes – specifically the opening and closing set pieces, which are fairly impressive. Supporting efforts from the always entertaining Kinski and the instantly recognizable Snacho don’t hurt anything either. Not the most original movie, but a fun one.

    I Am Sartana, Your Angel Of Death:

    The second film in the series (and the first directed by Giuliano Carnimeo who would also helm the next three films in the series) is a considerably better and more interesting film than the first entry. Garko reprises his role in this picture that starts with a bank robbery being pulled off by someone who looks an awful lot like our titular gunslinger. Of course, it isn’t him and once the actual Sartana gets word of what has happened, he has to clear his name and fast – he knows as well as anyone that there’s going to be a bounty on his head and that pretty soon, everyone with a firearm will be gunning for him.

    Soon enough, bounty hunters like Hot Dead (Klaus Kinski again, albeit playing a completely different character than he did in the first picture) are out to get that reward. Sartana, however, befriends a man named Buddy Ben (Frank Wolff) and also has a few interesting tricks up his sleeve (or under his hat, as the case may be) – after all, he just might actually be the angel of death.

    This one takes what was good about the first film and amplifies it a fair bit, making for a more satisfying picture than its predecessor. The pacing is better, the humor is more effective and the action is not only more frequent but is also better choreographed. The cinematography is top notch and the score from Vasili Kojucharov and Elsio Mancuso very solid.

    As to the performances, Kinski is once again in fine form here, he always made for a great villain in pretty much every one of the Spaghetti Westerns that he was cast in over the years. Frank Wolff is fun in his supporting role, responsible for a fair bit of the humor in the picture, and hey, check out none other than Gordon Mitchell in a supporting role. Garko, however, is the real star of the show. If he borrowed a lot from Eastwood and Nero in the first movie, here he’s starting to make the character more his own. The supernatural elements that the script offers him help a bit here, but he brings a bit more personality to Sartana in this picture and we’re all better off for it.

    Have A Good Funeral My Friend... Sartana Will Pay:

    Arguably the best of the series, this third picture opens at night time with Sartana witnessing the brutal killing of a kindly prospector and his crew by a gang of hired guns. Though he’s too late to save the victims, he quickly guns down the fiends and sends them off to meet their maker. Once the lead cools, he pokes around and notices some gold on the property – maybe the prospector was on to something here – so he decides to play Sherlock Holmes and try to figure out what happened.

    Some time later, a pretty woman named Abigail (Daniela Giordano) arrives, claiming to be the heiress to the property in question. Sartana rightly assumes that she might need his help staying safe until the crime is solved, which sets into motion a series of shoot outs as well as some interesting twists and turns that lead up to a very satisfying conclusion.

    Another solid entry in the series, this picture essentially combines the western with the detective movie and runs with it. Garko, at this point, really has stepped into the role and carved out his own interesting niche in Spaghetti Western history. He’s become a pretty serious bad ass, looking cool and collected at all times but with an itchy trigger finger whenever he senses trouble is afoot. He and the lovely Ms. Giordano have decent chemistry in this picture, and hey, look for Helga Liné in a supporting role.

    Once again, the pacing is solid and the action nicely handled. The added bonus of a great score from Bruno Nicolai (some of which was used in the soundtrack for the video game Red Dead Revolver), this one is the highlight of the five films in the set. It’s got loads of atmosphere – a fair bit of which is quite dark and even a little unnerving at times – and it just flows really well.

    Light The Fuse... Sartana Is Coming:

    This fourth film isn’t quite as good as the third but it comes pretty damn close. The story this time around begins when a friend of Sartana’s gets word out to the gunslinger that he’s been wrongly imprisoned for a crime that he didn’t commit – the robbery of a cool million dollars in cash. He has himself intentionally sent to prison to look into this, and things get complicated when it turns out that prisoner Grand Full (Pierro Lulli), a man involved with a counterfeiting operation who knows where the money from the actual robbery has been stashed.

    But soon enough, money meant to buy the counterfeit bills and the counterfeit bills themselves have all vanished and pretty much everyone involved is dead. Full is suspected of being the killer but Sartana knows better and sets out to make things right and see that justice is served.

    Just as dark as the previous film, this one is also very nicely paced and quite involving. There’s a few less gimmicks in this one and a grittier tone than the first two films, which makes for a more arresting picture. It’s also interesting to see Sartana in and out of prison the way he is here, with Garko once again rising to the occasion and delivering a really strong performance. Pierro Lulli is also pretty good in his part and Eurocult fans will no doubt be delighted by see Nieves Navarro (credited as Susan Scott) show up in the film in a substantial supporting role as Señora Belle Manassas. She looks as lovely here as ever and is quite good in the part.

    The plot gets pretty twisted at times, it’s a little more complicated than you might expect, but stick with it. There’s enough cleverness at work here, complimented by the atmosphere, the solid visuals and another strong Bruno Nicolai and this one holds up well. It would also prove to be Garko’s last run under Sartana’s hat – but hey, at least he went out on a high note.

    Sartana's Her... Trade Your Pistol For A Coffin:

    Last but not least, this fifth entry in the franchise replaces Garko with none other than George Hilton in the titular lead role. Also known as A Fistful Of Lead, the story this time around finds Sartana learning of a series of stagecoach robberies wherein a gang of bandits relieve the passengers of their gold. This happens after he saves a lovely woman and her kid from danger.

    Of course, plot threads start to tie together and before you know it, Sartana is trying to figure out who is behind the robberies. Once he sorts that out, he winds up stuck in the middle of all of this and comes up against a stranger every bit his equal (Charles Southwood) before it’s all over.

    Hilton, on the cusp here of becoming the giallo superstar he’d later be known for, does a pretty decent job replacing Garko. He’s not as tough looking and he has a bit of a lighter approach to the character than his predecessor but he’s fun to watch in the part. The movie goes back to the series’ more humor-heavy roots with this last film, and it’s not necessarily better for it, but there are some effective gags and some decent one liners. It never delves into straight on comedy the way that the Trinity pictures did, but it is definitely more lighthearted than the last two films in the series.

    Aside from Hilton’s presence the movie also benefits from Erika Blanc showing up in a good sized supporting role and from a nice score by Francesco De Masi. Again, the camera work and costumes are good, the locations work well and the action set pieces are nicely photographed. This last film in the set is not the strongest of the bunch by any stretch, but like the first movie in the series, it’s an above average Spaghetti Western that’s well worth checking out for fans of the genre.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    If You Meet Sartana... Pray for Your Death is transferred in a new 2k scan and restoration of ‘original film materials’ and looks a bit worse for wear than the other films in the set, all of which are transferred from 2k restorations taken from their respective original negatives. Regardless, all five films look quite nice. If You Meet… has a few scratches here and there but it’s still quite clean and a very solid presentation. The rest of the movies are very clean, showing very little print damage at all. Detail and texture are very good throughout – these films have had various DVD releases over the years, some nothing more than tape-source bootlegs, and none of them have even come close to look as good as they do in this set. If you’re a Sartana fan, this package is worth getting just for the upgrade in the picture quality alone. The AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfers are free of compression issues, edge enhancement or noise reduction problems and look pleasingly film-like throughout. A nice job overall in the video department from Arrow. Each film is presented on its own disc.

    As to the audio options, each film gets an original Italian and English soundtrack in LPCM Mono format with newly translated SDH options provided in English only for each track. Range is understandably limited but overall, the audio quality is just fine. Dialogue is always easy to understand and occasionally there’s some impressive depth to the music. The gun shots occasionally sound a little thin but that’s due to the elements and the recording rather than the discs themselves – there’s still quite a bit more punch and presence to the audio here than we’ve had before on past standard definition offerings.

    Arrow provides an audio commentary on If You Meet Sartana... Pray For Your Death by filmmaker Mike Siegel and audio commentaries on I Am Sartana, Your Angel Of Death and Have a Good Funeral My Friend... Sartana Will Pay by Spaghetti Western experts C. Courtney Joyner and Henry Parke. These are quite interesting, with lots of talk here about the directors’ efforts, Garko’s work in front of the camera, the supporting cast, the locations that were used for the shoot, the use of music, the debts owed by these pictures to earlier Spaghetti Western’s and even some of the social commentary that occasionally works its way into the movies. Great stuff.

    From there, we get a few new featurettes starting with Gianfranco Parolini On If You Meet Sartana... Pray for Your Death, a brand-new interview with the writer-director that runs twenty-two minutes and which features the man talking about how he wrote and directed the first film in the series after working on earlier non-SW genre films. He also talks about where he got some of the ideas from, his thoughts on the performances and more. Disc one also includes a new video essay on both the major actors and supporting players in the series from Jonathan Bygraves that does a nice job of explaining the allure of the people who appear in the films beyond just Garko’s inimitable presence.

    In From The Life Of A Stuntman actor and stuntman Sal Borgese talks for twenty-four minutes about working on two of the Sartana films and about some of the other Spaghetti Western films that he had a hand in working on. He also talks about films he made outside of the western genre, what it was like performing stunts back in the heyday of his career and more. Up next, Ernesto Gastaldi talks about writing I Am Sartana… Your Angel of Death and Light the Fuse... Sartana Is Coming in a nineteen-minute piece. Gastaldi is a great storyteller and has no qualms telling it like it is in this piece that covers how he came to write this material and what he thinks of it in hindsight.

    The only featurette on the third disc is a new interview with actor Roberto Dell Acqua that clocks in at twenty-three minutes. He speaks about how he got into acting, his roles in various projects including the third Sartana picture, and a fair bit more.

    On disc four, we get The Mute Strikes again, another interview with Borgese more specifically tailored to his work on this picture that runs twenty-two-minutes. He’s got a lot of stories from the set of this picture as well as from a few other shoots that he was involved with around the same time. There’s also a second twenty-minute interview with Gastaldi again, that covers his work on this fourth picture and a few other topics including his thoughts on quite a few of the different director’s that he’s been involved with over his long career in the Italian film industry. This disc also contains a twenty-four-minute piece called Sartana Lives, an archival featurette that covers the making of Light the Fuse... Sartana Is Coming that features interviews with actor Gianni Garko and director Giuliano Carnimeo that are quite interesting and worth checking out. We get some nice background information on each man and come to understand better how and why they came to the film business and what they each brought to the production.

    On disc five we start off with Sartana Shoots First, a brand-new twenty-minute interview with George Hilton on his work in Sartana's Here... Trade Your Pistol for a Coffin. He talks about seeing westerns in the theater in his younger days and working on Lucio Fulci’s Massacre Time before then working on this film. He also talks about what it was like on set, how he felt about the movie, his thoughts on the director and more. Lady Colt is a twenty-nine-minute interview with Erika Blanc that covers not only her work on Sartana's Here... Trade Your Pistol for a Coffin but also in other westerns, dealing with horses, acting alongside Anthony Steffen and the way that different characters tend to be portrayed in these films based on their gender. It’s an amusing and rather revealing piece – interesting indeed. Lastly, A Very Good Job spends fifteen minutes with actor Tony Askin who talks candidly about working on the fifth installment in the franchise, working both as a cast and crew member on certain projects, and how he got along with the director of the film quite well.

    Each disc also includes a still gallery of original promotional images from the Mike Siegal Archive, menus and chapter selection. Finished product is to come with some fancy packaging and a booklet but that material wasn’t supplied for this review.

    The Final Word:

    The Sartana Collection is serious treat for Spaghetti Western aficionados. It offers up five films, all in very nice shape, and a host of interesting extras that document both their history and their influence. The movies themselves remain a lot of fun and feature a host of entertaining supporting players to complement some pretty iconic work from Garko (and to a lesser extent, Hilton). Highly recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!




































































































    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Lalala76's Avatar
      Lalala76 -
      Noticable is Garko's change of appearance part way through the series, going from Clint Eastwood alike in the first two to a more refined looking Mustachioed gentleman scoundrel in the final two, not counting Hilton, who I rate highly, but feels slightly out of place in the series but still highly enjoyable. I had heard average reviews of the films themselves beforehand (having not seen them before) but its one of those series that makes you want to see more. One of the boxsets of the year for me.