|Films and television|
Sartana is a series of Spaghetti Western films introduced in 1968 and concluding in 1970. The series features the titular character of Sartana who is a gunman and gambler who uses mechanical gadgets and what appear to be to be supernatural abilities to trick his rivals. The series features five official entries: If You Meet Sartana Pray for Your Death, I am Sartana, Your Angel of Death, Sartana's Here… Trade Your Pistol for a Coffin, Have a Good Funeral, My Friend... Sartana Will Pay and Light the Fuse... Sartana Is Coming. The first film was directed by Gianfranco Parolini with the remaining four directed by Giuliano Carnimeo. Sartana is portrayed by Gianni Garko in all the films in the series except Sartana's Here… Trade Your Pistol for a Coffin which has George Hilton as Sartana.
The name Sartana was first used in the film Blood at Sundown where he was portrayed by Garko. The film was very popular on its release in Italy and Germany, leading to producers to develop a new series around the Sartana character which became the film If You Meet Sartana Pray for Your Death. Garko took control of the continuity of the character and his portrayal in the films which led to his unique abilities that separated him from other spaghetti Western characters such as Django and Man with No Name. If You Meet Sartana Pray for Your Death was a financial success which led to several sequels as well as derivative films as the name Sartana could not be copyrighted. This led to several unofficial Sartana films being made in the late 1960s and early 1970s such as One Damned Day at Dawn… Django Meets Sartana!, Alleluja & Sartana are Sons... Sons of God and Sartana Kills Them All. The unofficial films bare little resemblance to the original character and occasionally do not even feature a character named Sartana, such as in ''Sartana Kills Them All.
In Film Comment, Bert Fridlund described the financial gross of the Sartana films as "fairly successful, with an Italian box office reception well above the average for spaghetti westerns" while not as popular as the Sabata which had grossed over 1,000 million lire or Enzo Barboni's They Call Me Trinity and Trinity Is Still My Name
In the official Sartana films, Sartana is a gunman, a gambler, and the films suggest he has supernatural abilities and often tricks his rivals. These include Sartana often appearing improbable and even physically impossible places, such as in I am Sartana, Your Angel of Death when Sartana is seen by the banker Sims through a window in the distance, and then suddenly enters the room. Of all the Spaghetti Western characters, Kevin Grant wrote in his book Any Gun Can Play that Sartana's personality and traits are sustained and developed among the official films. Film historian and critic Roberto Curti noted that Sartana loses some of his more death-like features of the first film, but still retaining his catchphrase of "I am your pallbearer". In the second film, Sartana was described by Curti as being a "conjurer of the Wild West" who was able to turn various objects into weapons, ranging from spoons to a wheel of a cart. In the third film the series, Sartana's appearance changes with the character now having a black bow-tie and often resorts to disguises. Sartana would continue to resort to his conjurer tricks in the film making his tiny pistol appear out of unexpected places including a hat, a boot and a loaf of bread. In the fourth film, Sartana has a moustache and continue to eschew ordinary objects as weaponized gadgets such as his razor sharp playing cards.
The Sartana films consist mostly of plots involving of short-term alliances and betrayals between groups who are attempting to get money or objects of value. These betrayal happen continuously between various characters, which Bert Fridlund of Film International described as "producing quite complex stories" The films have no continuity between their plots. In the first film, ''If You Meet Sartana Pray for Your Death, Sartana arrives in a small town that is rife with corruption where several criminals are after a chest of gold and often double-cross and black mail each other to get it. They are continuously interrupted by Sartana who makes away with it. The second film, I am Sartana, Your Angel of Death finds Sartana as a wanted man after a bank robbery which he is framed in committing. Sartana tries to avoid several bounty hunters who are after him while unravelling who is behind who has framed him. In Sartana's Here… Trade Your Pistol for a Coffin, Sartana arrives in a mining town where he gets involved with several double crosses involving a stolen shipment of gold. He often meets with a character named Sabata, a white-clad gunman who quotes Shakespeare and Tennyson who foils several of Sartana's plans. The Sabata in the film is not the same character from the 1969 film Sabata. In the fourth film, Have a Good Funeral, My Friend... Sartana Will Pay, an owner of a goldmine is murdered, leading his daughter to arrive in town to claim the property. She finds herself thwarted by several criminals and the sheriff in town to who all have their eye on the gold until Sartana arrives to interfere with their plans. In the last film in the official series, Light the Fuse... Sartana Is Coming, Sartana helps clear the name of Grandville Fuller, who he assists in a jailbreak after he is accused of murder. The two head to the scene of a crime to unravel the situation. Curti described this final film to have elements of other genres such as the giallo where Sartana is a detective who investigates and solves a mystery. Curti also noted that the film enhances on the irony to nearly cartoonish levels that were also touched upon in previous entries to the series.
|English Title||Italian title||Release date||Ref(s)|
|If You Meet Sartana Pray for Your Death||Se incontri Sartana prega per la tua morte||14 August 1968|||
|I am Sartana, Your Angel of Death||Sono Sartana, il vostro becchino||November 1969|||
|Sartana's Here… Trade Your Pistol for a Coffin||C'è Sartana... vendi la pistola e comprati la bara||August 1970|||
|Have a Good Funeral, My Friend... Sartana Will Pay||Buon funerale amigos!... paga Sartana||October 1970|||
|Light the Fuse... Sartana Is Coming||Una nuvola di polvere... un grido di morte... arriva Sartana||24 December 1970|||
The character of Sartana was first created by screenwriters Ernesto Gastaldi and Vittorio Salerno for the film Blood at Sundown directed by Alberto Cardone. portrayed by Gianni Garko in the film, Sartana was a villain who framed his brother for murder. The character of Sartana proved to be so popular in Blood at Sundown that when the film was released in Germany it was re-titled to simply Sartana. A German producer wanted Garko to continue making films as the Sartana character, but as a hero rather than a villain. The producer proposed two scripts which Garko was not interested in as he was looking for a different type of character than he had played in Ten Thousand Dollars for a Massacre and Per 100.000 dollari ti ammazzo which were not very popular with audiences.
The character in Blood at Sundown does not have the look or demeanour that the character that would first begin in the film If You Meet Sartana Pray for Your Death directed by Gianfranco Parolini. Garko stated the new interpretation of the character was influenced by director Gianfranco Parolini, which gave Sartana's look which was inspired by Lee Falk's comic strip character Mandrake the Magician who was also a black caped illusionist. The character would also have series of mechanical gadgets similar to James Bond would have in his film series. Contrary to the characters seen in Django or the Dollars Trilogy, Sartana is squarely money-oriented and typically succeeds in securing his sought after riches. Sartana also features a flashier dress and browses saloons with lush interiors compared to the compared to the typically ragged appearances and simple surroundings of the deprived heroes. Garko spoke later about the creation of the character in 1990, stating that cartoon strips were "like film, are part of arte d'imagine and therein lie [Sartana's] cultural roots". He specifically consulted with the writers of the film to preserve the character's integrity and would later claim that he had a clause in his contract with producer Aldo Addobbati that the scripts had to meet his approval. Garko would portray Sartana in all the official films except Sartana's Here… Trade Your Pistol for a Coffin as he was committed to a role in Enzo G. Castellari's film Cold Eyes of Fear which led to George Hilton portraying Sartana. Director Giuliano Carnimeo stated that for Sartana's Here… Trade Your Pistol for a Coffin, the producers decided to develop the film as a Sartana feature as the character was so popular with audiences.
|If You Meet Sartana Pray for Your Death||I am Sartana, Your Angel of Death||Sartana's Here… Trade Your Pistol for a Coffin||Have a Good Funeral, My Friend... Sartana Will Pay||Light the Fuse... Sartana Is Coming|
|Director||Gianfranco Parolini||Giuliano Carnimeo|||
|Producer(s)||Aldo Addobbati||Aldo Addobbati
|Sergio Borelli||Eduardo Manzanos Brochero|
|Tito Capri||Roberto Gianviti
|Eduardo Manzanos Brochero|
|Screen story writers||Luigi De Santis
|Tito Capri||Giovanni Simonelli||Eduardo Manzanos Brochero|
|Composer(s)||Piero Piccioni||Vasco Vassil Kojucharov
|Francesco De Masi||Bruno Nicolai|
|Director of photography||Sandro Mancori||Giovanni Bergamini||Stelvio Massi||Julio Ortas|
|Editor||Edmond Lozzi||Ornella Micheli||Giuliana Attenni||Ornella Michelli|
The directors of the Sartana film series would later declare their fondness for the films they made, with Carnimeo proclaiming that Sartana's Here… Trade Your Pistol for a Coffin was "perhaps [his] best film" and found Hilton to be better fit for the role due to the increasingly "absurd" situations Sartana would find himself in. Gianfranco Parolini stating that If You Meet Sartana Pray for Your Death was "the film I love the most and gave me the most satisfaction." According to Garko, Parolini left after the first film for the opportunity to work with Lee Van Cleef on Sabata. Van Cleef's Sabata was compared to being similar to Sartana by Grant, noting the character's enchant for gadget like firearms and that Sabata is referred similarly to Sartana in the films as a "pallbearer". Bert Fridlund described the financial gross of the Sartana films as "fairly successful, with an Italian box office reception well above the average for spaghetti westerns" while not as popular as the Sabata which had grossed over 1,000 million lire or Enzo Barboni's They Call Me Trinity and Trinity Is Still My Name
Retrospective reviews of the series include Amy Longsdorf of the Courier-Post stated that "of all the Spaghetti westerns which arrived in the wake of Clint Eastwood's "Man With No Name" trilogy the "Sartana flicks [...] ranks as some of the best." James Evans of Starburst found the films to be "convoluted and occasionally plodding" but in certain cases, such as Light the Fuse… Sartana is Coming they could be "still convoluted but nevertheless entertaining, well-directed and atmospheric films that combine action, humour and invention throughout."
Giuliano Carnimeo later compared Sartana to another spaghetti western character Django, who solves his issues with high levels of violence, that Sartana often took on revenge-themed storylines but had a more ironic edge and humorous weapons that would eventually lead the spaghetti western into full blown comedies such as the Trinty film series.
Despite borrowing of character names of Sartana, the films by Parolini and Carmineo had few direct imitators. As Gastaldi and Salerno did not use the name of the character in the film's title for Blood at Sundown they could not copyright the name. This led to several films being released with Sartana in the title with only George Ardisson in Django Against Sartana resembling the character of Sartana from the official films. Gastaldi commented on the other Sartana films in 1995 stating he had never seen the other Sartana films.
The first unofficial Sartana films appeared shortly after the release of If You Meet Sartana Pray for Your Death. Two months after the release of the film, Alfonso Balcazar's film Sonora (1968) was distributed under the title Sartana Does Not Forgive. In 1969, director Demofilo Fidani directed two unofficial Sartana films: Shadow of Sartana... Shadow of Your Death (Italian: Passa Sartana è la ombra della tua morte) and Four Came to Kill Sartana (Italian: ...e vennero in quattro per uccidere Sartana!). Fridlund described Fidani's Sartana films as not having very involved plots and contained simply orchestrated fight sequences where "the bad guys (and their director or script writers) can seldom come up with anything more clever than to, one at a time, make an open rush against the sneaking hero and consequently get shot." In 1970, several more unofficial Sartana films were released: Django Defies Sartana and another film directed by Fidani titled One Damned Day at Dawn… Django Meets Sartana!. Other film included Roberto Mauri's Sartana in the Valley of Death and Sartana Kills Them All. In the English version of Sartana in the Valley of Death titled Ballad of Death Valley, the hero is referred to as Lee Calloway and never as Sartana. Sartana Kills Them All starred Garko as a character called Larry Santana who is dressed in a brown leather jacket with fringes, not a black suit and long coat, and he uses no special weapons or tricks. Fidani made another unofficial Sartana film released in 1970 titled Django and Sartana Are Coming... It's the End. In 1971 other films baring the name were released such as Let's Go and Kill Sartana where the titular character does not appear in the film. Two more films followed in 1972 with Trinity and Sartana are Coming and Alleluja & Sartana are Sons... Sons of God.  The two latter films were more comedy oriented films that followed the success of They Call Me Trinity.