The film-loving world again owes Arrow Video a debt of gratitude. Their new box set, The Complete Sartana, resurrects an obscure Spaghetti Western series and presents it in near-pristine quality with a bounty of extras.
Who is Sartana, you may ask? Sartana is a character played by Gianni Garko across many films in the 1960s and ’70s. The character’s inauspicious debut was in the film Blood at Sundown in 1967, but the series proper begins with If You Meet Sartana, Pray for Your Death, which was directed and co-written by Gianfranco Parolini (changed to “Frank Kramer” for the American release). Sartana is an anti-hero in the style of “The Man With No Name” character played by Clint Eastwood in the Sergio Leone “Dollars” trilogy, but Parolini mixes in material more suited to James Bond, of whom Parolini admits to being a big fan. Saratana is one part hired killer, one part magician, one part MacGyver, one part superhero, and one part ghost. It’s an interesting mix.
Although the trope of Sartana leading all the bad guys out into the desert again and again in order to kill them becomes somewhat strained by the film’s third act, I was impressed by the film’s script, direction, and production design. A card game that would fit comfortably in any James Bond film is photographed against the backdrop of a convincing western saloon with can-can dancers cavorting about on stage. Later, Sartana rigs a trick in his rented room using a chair, a rope, and a window that would make Buster Keaton proud. Parolini has a real eye for interesting compositions and situations, and he frames his shots to get the maximum impact from the actors, costumes, sets, and outdoor desert splendor. The action set pieces are staged and photographed in interesting ways, and I felt as I watched the film that this cast and crew were not simply going through the motions or aping another then-popular film series.
The first Sartana film was a big hit, and Giuliano Carnimeo took over the directing duties on the four excellently-titled sequels, all of which are included in Arrow’s new Blu-ray boxset: I am Saratana, Your Angel of Death; Have a Good Funeral, My Friend… Sartana Will Pay; Light the Fuse… Sartana is Coming; and Sartana’s Here… Trade Your Pistol for a Coffin. You have to love a film series that makes such profligate use of ellipses in the titles.
With the string of sequel after sequel after sequel, maybe Sartana should have joined the Avengers? #shareduniverse #doyoudigonmultiverses
If You Go to the Farmer’s Market, Tell Sartana to Pick Up Blueberries… and Bullets!
Sartana’s Erectile Dysfunction is Nobody’s Business… Except Him and His Doctor!
Django and Sartana Invite You to a Potluck, So Bring Your Mom’s Cheesy Potatoes… and Coffins!
Sartana Knows Where You Live, So Board Your Pets… Because Sartana Will Surely Kill You… But He Does Not Have Time To Give Your Cat Its Medicine!
Got Junk? Call 1-800-SARTANA... Then Hide Behind The Junk So Sartana Cannot Find You!
(Does the sight of many baddies getting shot to death ever get old?)
(For a few suspense-filled minutes, we think Sartana might be supernatural or a ghost.)
(Terrific stunts done the old-fashioned way)