I am Sartana, Your Angel of Death (1969)

This is the second of the official Sartana films, but the first by director Giuliano Carnimeo, who directed the rest of the official series. Gianni “John” Garko played Sartana in all of the films, but the first in the series, If You Meet Sartana Pray for Your Death, was directed by Gianfranco Parolini. Parolini went on to direct the Sabata series of spaghetti westerns with Lee Van Cleef.

In I am Sartana, Your Angel of Death, men rob a bank of $300,000 while one of them is dressed as Sartana. The bank then puts up a $10,000 reward on Sartana’s head, so Sartana must contend with numerous bounty hunters, including friends of his, while he tries to find out who really robbed the bank and clear his name. To do this, well, he pretty much kills everyone. The thing is, Sartana is a charismatic and well-dressed man with a penchant for sleight of hand and card tricks. He comes and goes, deceives his enemies, and prefers throwing knives and a pepper-box derringer for his tools of the trade. He also has one pal on his side, Buddy Ben, an eager opportunist and bum who is happy to share a rumor or two in the hopes that he’ll get some of the $300,000.

I really enjoyed this. Really really enjoyed it! It’s hard not to like Sartana, and while he can be gruff and amoral, his manner and methods really sets him apart from other traditional Western anti-heroes. The supporting cast also shines, including Klaus Kinksi in a role as an unlucky gambler and bounty hunter after Sartana named Hot Dead. The showdown with Hot Dead in a gambling den is probably the highlight even though it isn’t resolved by a gunfight; instead it’s two old friends (and brilliant gunslingers) playing a game of chance and letting luck decide their fate. In a movie chock full of violence, this scene shines through.

If there is a downside to the film, it’s that the constant deception and the heavy use of darkness in some scenes occasionally makes the plot and action difficult to follow. In particular there is a scene where a character is beaten up in the dark, and while the cinematography is wonderfully handled, spinning the camera back and forth as men mercilessly beat the victim, it is also incredibly disorienting. Also, to make sure the body count is high, there is a lot of fodder who often appear to have some kind of backstory that isn’t elaborated on before they are slaughtered. But then anything more would inhibit the bloodshed, and that’s exactly what this kind of movie is about.

For fun I sometimes like to see if I can date Westerns by the weapons that are used. This movie is likely late 1860s, very early 1870s, as every rifle appears to be a Winchester M1866, and most of the revolvers look to be Colt Dragoons, Walkers or other pre-1870 revolvers. I believe Sartana’s derringer is custom-made, considering the special cylinder and the custom grip. I know, it’s a weird quirk. You should try it sometime.

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