Sartana Does Not Forgive/ Sartana non perdona
Let me get this out of the way up front: this is in no way a "Sartana" film. The main character is called "Uriah" in the English dub.
George Martin stars as a man named Uriah in Alphonso Balcazar's 1969 revenge western, Sonora. Early on, as we see Uriah ride into town, a number of flashbacks show us he's looking for the man wh raped and killed his wife, a man named Slim Kovacs, played to the hilt with evil scumbaggery by Jack Elam. Slim is just about one of the most immoral characters I've seen in a spaghetti in quite some time - he double crosses a peasant named José, who helped him with a bank robbery and later saved his life... he shoots down the sheriff in town in cold blood, unprovoked, getting the advantage of a trick dummy bullet he put in the sheriff's gun. There is no redeeming quality to this guy, whatsoever, and Elam plays it masterfully.
Slim is in town to rob a stage coach coming into town. After disposing of the sheriff and terrorizing the townsfolk, he's hired on a gun-for-hire named Kirchner (Gilbert Roland) for protection, who happens to also share an acquaintance with Uriah. Uriah has to deal with Kirchner,a problem, as the men seeming share some sort of respect and affinity for each other. Needless to say, Uriah, with the assistance of a vengeance-seeking José, eventually disposes of Kirchners' gang, and faces off with Slim, defeating him with a little bit of trickery, thanks to Kirchner.
By all accounts, this seems like your run-of-the-mill revenge spaghetti. Yet, early in the film, I found myseld sucked into it, and I'm still not sure why. It had all of the typical conventions and style of the genre at this time, and the pacing was sometimes slow. The acting, to me, seemed much better than your typical spag. Martin played the typical anti-hero well, gritty and not overdone. Jack Elam, as I mentioned before, was absolutely fantastic as the evil son of a bitch Slim... rarely have I anticipated a villian getting to what was coming to him as I did here. Gilbert Roland was also excellent, playing a smart, witty, dignified-but-tough-as-nails man-for-hire. The scenes with him and Martin seemed very genuine; it was as though you were watching two men with some sort of history together, put into a situation where one might have to kill the other and didn't want to, as they held a deep respect for each other.
The writing was somewhat above-average, too. There are several rather clever scenes in the film, such as when we first meet Kirchner, and he sends the undertaker over to a table of men he's about to dispose of. He makes the undertaker ask the men which coffin they'd like to be buried in. There's also a great scene where Kirchner and Uriah are taunting each other. It escalates with breakfast being dumped on boots, whiskey ruined by cigars, and targets being drawn on each other, yet it's done in a way that doesn't come across as silly or contrived.
The cinematography is good, and the score by Francesco de Masi was somewhat typical. The plot was one we've seen many times before. Yet, there was something in this film, in both the acting and writing, that stood out for me. So often, getting through a generic spaghetti can be tedious, due to simplistic dialog and horrendous acting. It was a relief to see a pretty unknown, typical spaghetti transcend that. Unfortunately, as far as I know, the only available copy of this is a VHS rip taped off of Australian television in 2001. It'd be nice to see Koch or Dorado restore and release this one.