If You Meet Sartana, Pray for Your Death (1968)

Se Incontri Sartana Prega per la Tua Morte

Ok, as I've mentioned before, the spaghetti western genre is well-known for taking the character's name of a successful film, and using it ad nauseum on subsequent film titles, most of which have nothing whatsoever to do with the original film, and often, don't even have a character in the film with the name. The most obvious case is the Django films. After the success of Sergio Corbucci's Django in 1966, there were over 35 other titles with the name Django in the title, such as Django the Bastard, Django Kill!, Son of Django, even Nude Django. They were almost always far inferior to the originals.

Anyways, another film character that went through the treatment was Sartana, with not less than 18 titles with Sartana in the title. Towards the end of the western trend there was even "Django Challenges Sartana" and a few others.

Gianni Garko as Sartana

Gianni Garko stars as Sartana. Don't piss him off.

Last night I watched the one that started it all, hearing a lot of good things about it. Its official title was "If You Meet Sartana, Pray for Your Death" (1968), directed by Gianfranco Parolini, under the pseudonym "Frank Kramer" (this was often done for American releases). Gianni Garko stars as Sartana.

Sartana is basically a vigilante, not killing for money or revenge, but just because some people deserve it. The story involves a gold shipment (from a shady deal involving some bankers) that is stolen by a guy named Lansky (genre regular William Berger), who breaks out the good 'ol Gatling gun when his gang tries to double-cross him. Lansky and his sidekick played by Klaus Kinski (another genre regular) decide to blackmail the bankers. Sartana throws a wrench in the works for everybody involved, raising hell and such.

William Berger, with good hair and velour suit

William Berger as Lasky, complete with mod haircut and fashionable brown velour suit.

Now, just because I've seen and heard about this Sartana character everywhere, I had some pretty high expectations for this film. And to be honest, I was a bit disappointed. I found the plot revolving around the gold a bit hard to follow, and didn't fully have it figured out until halfway through the movie. The film was a bit slow at times. All in all, it wasn't a bad film, but it never rose to the level of a Sollima or Corbucci film. I remember reading somewhere that there were more spaghetti westerns released in 1968 than in any other year. By now, the formula was getting pretty standard. And what would a spaghetti western be without Fernando Sancho as the fat slob Mexican revolutionary?. He actually says the below quote in the film:

"Do not forget that my name is Don Jose Manuel Francisco Mendoza Montezuma de la Plata!"

What made the film work for me was the Gianni Garko. The guy has got some serious screen presence. Like the hawk-eyed Lee Van Cleef or Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name, Garko (who starred in 6 Sartana films) has most definitely etched out a unique persona. He smiles a lot, can be quite the charmer, but is quite the ruthless killer, with his tiny little gun with the square barrel and four chambers. When he's onscreen, the movie is slammin'. I found myself wishing that there was more of him in the film. I've got most of the Sartana sequels with Garko, I look forward to seeing if they are any different.

Wild East has released this film on DVD in the U.S, but it' s currently out of print. It's worth picking up if you can find it. I don't think it lived up to the hype that many people give it, but it wasn't a bad film, and it was produced quite well.

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