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SABATA (Ehi, amico, c’è Sabata … hai chiuso!)(director/writer: Gianfranco Parolini (Frank Kramer); screenwriter: Renato Izzo; cinematographer: Sandro Mancori; editor: Edmondo Lozzi; cast: Lee Van Cleef (Sabata), Franco Ressel (Stengel), William Berger (Banjo), Gianni Rizzo (Judge O’Hara), Nick Jordan (Alley Cat), Pedro Sanchez (Carrincha), Antonio Gradoli (Ferguson), Claudio Undari (Oswald), Luciano Pigozzi (False Father Brown), Linda Veras (Jane); Runtime: 106; MGM/United Artists; 1970-Italy)
“There’s a lot of spaghetti tossed in this action western.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A Spaghetti Western that can’t be ruined by poor dubbing, an outlandishly gross tale, dialogue that is meaningless, acting that’s the pits, a body count that would satisfy the Pentagon during the Vietnam War, an acrobat who annoyingly can’t stop doing flips, an obnoxious strolling banjo player with a rifle hidden in the instrument’s neck, a drunk knife-thrower, a bevy of one-dimensional villains, and an assortment of nonsensical gun duels. This film is so lacking in humor and romance, or any possible relation to reality, yet it is still mindlessly entertaining. Lee Van Cleef is offered a satchel full of money to go to Italy and do his steely-eyed gun thing. Here he plays the titled character, an expressionless bounty hunter with a few James Bond tricks up his sleeve and a penchant for killing.

As Sabata (Lee Van Cleef), clad in all black, enters the dusty Texas town named Daugherty, he befriends the local beggar and the disheveled and straggly bearded Carrincha (Sanchez). The beggar will hook him up with another amigo to watch his back, an acrobat named Alley Cat (Jordan). While Sabata is in the saloon…he prevents a gambler from playing with the houses’ loaded dice…but, outside, a gang of bank robbers kill off the cavalry guards and rob the Army safe of $100,000. It’s soon learned by him that the pillars of the community are behind the robbery: the saloon keeper Ferguson (Gradoli), Judge O’Hara (Rizzo), and the gang’s leader, the greedy land baron, Stengel (Ressel). The group wants the money to invest in more land, because they got the word that the railroad is coming through.

Sabata ambushes the seven bank robbers and kills them all from long range, and brings the safe back to the colonel in charge of the Army regiment in town. He stays in town to receive his $5,000 reward and then starts blackmailing the pillars of the community to pay him hush money to stop him from blabbing about their part in the robbery. Also, in town is an untrustworthy banjo player (Berger). He’s with one of the saloon girls, Jane (Veras), who dreams of getting together enough money for them to get out of this dumpy town.

The film had a few odd quirks; for instance, Stengel is seen reading the book “Inequality is the Basis of Society;” Sabata kills the false padre by pulling on a string he attached to the hidden gun in his money satchel; Sabata carries a derringer with a triple-bullet chamber and he possesses a rifle with a firing range of 3,000 feet; and, in one scene, he must have killed a hundred or so of the thugs Stengel has guarding his house. There are a series of gun duels with the mercenaries Stengel hires and there is his secret partner to deal with, the banjo player, a gunslinger whose loyalty is questionable.

There’s a lot of spaghetti tossed in this action western. It’s not for all tastes, even those who like westerns might not care for the amoral personification of the Lee Van Cleef character. But you can’t beat this film for continuous gunfights and mounting body counts. This is the first of a trilogy about Sabata.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”