Well, the last film didn't work out so well and I didn't get around to finding a copy of Yojimbo and Fistful of Dollars, soooo...guess it's time to just rely on ol' faithful. A way to ring in the new year may've better been suited with a much grander film, but you know what? There's nothing wrong with The Cleef.
Indeed folks, I bring to you this Movie Of The Month, for 2007 January....
The Stats: Director: Gianfranco Parolini Cast: Lee Van Cleef, William Berger, Ignazio Spalla, Franceo Ressel Type: Late-60s Spaghetti Western Supercool Trivia: None as far as I know. :'( Availability:Amazon US (FULL TRILOGY - SPENDY!) - Amazon UK - Amazon Germany (possibly same as UK release) - also available on Amazon's Canada site as well in Trilogy form. I'm sure there's a single Sabata US release, as I believe that's what my dad snagged.
The Content: Checklist:
Evil Landowner/Money-Grubbing Villians - CHECK! Old Civil War Rivals - CHECK! Gimmick Shtick - CHECK! (Acrobatics) Long-Range Rifle - CHECK! (Winchester with attachment) Unique Shooting Style - CHECK! (blasting dynamite outta the air!) Gattling Gun - SUPERCHECK! "Western" Duel In Town - CHECK! European-esque Bad Guy - CHECK! Prostitutes - CHECK! Cheaters Caught Gambling - CHECK! Bank Heist - CHECK! Silly Drunk Sidekick - CHECK! Native American referred to as "Indian" - CHECK! Lee Van Cleef Being Totally Awesome - CHECK! Surprise (sort of) Ending - CHECK!
Okay, how does one review a movie like...Sabata? The reason I ask this question is because of the fact as much as the film does drag in parts of the middle of the movie, that the ending is a tad unsatisfying, and there's other of the various spaghetti western vices, problems, and quirks of the genre....it's one of the most fun movies I've seen in a long time. Rather than the usual slow-paced, heavily dramatic, sometimes annoyingly cheesy style of typical Italian westerns - and unlike the ?ber-quality westerns like Leone with the glorious scenery and the like - we get a very commercial, action-packed (and I mean really action-packed - this had three or four SERIOUS gunfights, with three or four extra shooting scenes on the side), fun and entertaining flick. This is a fantasy, based very much on entertaining the audience and that is its strongpoint.
The strong key thing that makes this movie rule? Lee Van Cleef, of course. If you don't know Lee Van Cleef it's hard to consider yourself a true fan of westerns. His prescence, charisma, charm, and the evil glint of his eye that lets you wallow in glorious, delicious ambiguity....it's a treat to behold and Sabata has it in spades, as he walks into town the very night of a bank heist and begins to take care of cleaning up the town's local scum and the high-up criminals hiding behind money and delusions of purity. His interactions with every other character is consistent with who he is, his mannerisms keen and solid, with that cheeky look as he wastes outlaw, hired gun, and stupid murdering priest alike. This is definitely one of his more fun roles to see Lee performing.
The other thing that helps the flick carry along is the use of sidekick characters that are likeable and fun. Although comedic relief, the drunken fellow soldier that befriends Sabata before we even see his face, is one of the more enjoyable scumbags of the genre, giving a huge whiff of Tuco with a lot less grace and quality than Eli Wallach, but he adds a depth to this movie that kept me pleased and entertained. The same also goes for the rarely seen "Alleycat" - a Native American with serious acrobatic skills (some of the jumps are very cool ) who says nothing, but speaks many words with the subtle gestures and eloquent body language in his dealings with the drunk Mexican. These two helped make a movie that was cool on it's own just that little bit better, giving in this humble viewer's case a sense of impending doom as typically action films kill off the sidekicks before the end of the movie. I actually felt concern for the characters as the movie progressed, which is odd for a lower-tier spaghetti western I must say!
There is, however, interesting word to be placed on the two that can be best called The Villians. One is the obvious one, Stengal, the main bigwig head honcho psychopath with an awesome dueling room and a thing for an awesome cane/stick (how Sabata uses this against him is brilliant). Like most great villians in Italian films (this includes Giallo and Poliziochetti films too), this dude is freakin' SLEAZY. He oozes the goo of sleaze from every pore of his body and looks creepy as hell doing it. He's got the eyes and the face to give you the chills and the acting ability in his body language to back it up.
Then, on the side, is the third party. The one you're always not sure about. That comes in the form of William Berger as Banjo, the ambiguious former-friend/rival of Van Cleef's Sabata. Their backstory is even left in a very "maybe" sort of fashion, allowing you to draw your own conclusion. His role in the story plays out as he weaves his way through opportunities, seeking a final goal. Berger plays the character as a very leathered (in the sun-soaked fashion I mean) kind of person, who's scrubbed and scuffled and played his way out of many jams and hopes to do so for only a little longer before reaching the big score. His banjo playing is...well, nice and mis-timed, like any self-respecting cheap western would do at this time. But his secrets are unique and when he finally reveals his weapon, it's the kind that makes you smile and think, "yeah, Robert Rodriguez definitely liked this movie." He's a fun character, even if he was a bit dull to me due to his scenes with the prostitute who keeps trying to leech off him. Heh.
That is, however, the one thing to say about Sabata. There are times where it's very dull, stemming quite a lot from an overly complicated and convoluted plot that's a mess of ideas. It's as if someone cranked out an okay first draft, then added and took out some ideas to make it punched up a bit, then they just shot that. It's not a horrible screenplay, Long Days of Vengeance was a lot more meandering and dull than this, but it makes you crave some tighter writing in some sequences.
But, when the movie picks up, the action is fantastic. This is a visually impressive piece of work, as the director was supposedly known to do, with some very cool set-pieces and some ideas that you most certainly remember (which is nice, as the genre is quite forgettable). Seeing Lee throw a piece of dynamite in the air and shoot it in front of some bad-guys is obvious inspiration for Hong Kong Blood Operas and 80s action film gas cans to come and is a visual you won't forget too often. The same memorable aspect goes for the awesome use of Alleycat's acrobatics and the pretty damn good pyro (and LOTS of it) when the dynamite is just thrown around the old-fashioned way. It's nothing to write home about ("today I saw a movie I will NEVER forget!") but it's great fun and if you need something to watch on a Saturday afternoon, it's hard to go wrong with....Sabata!
Images: (screencaps pending - here's some lobbycards 'n' such from Fistful of Westerns)
<Church Lady> Oh reeeeeallllyyyy, Lethal? Are you sure it wasn't....SATAN?! </Church Lady>
I dunno f this flick carries any edition that includes Italian with subs, as I actually haven't looked into that yet. I oughta do that from now on for Spaghetti Western movie review stats - "Includes Italian Track" - since watching a spaghetti western in Italian (I've seen both Djangokill and Companeros this way) is a wonderful experience.
Only for about half a second at a time. Then he looks like any typical Mario Bava-movie overweight Italian (I say this since to me he reminds me like something out of Baron Blood or Diabolik). Makes ya wonder if ol' Danny was doing some experimental out-of-body experiences back in the day.
By the way, next month's film might be a tad "violent" - a bit moreso than usual. My dad and I finally picked up Four Of The Apocalypse - one of Lucio Fulci's spaghetti westerns! Not the one I really wanna see (which would be Masscre Time with Franco Nero), but if I remember correctly, that's the one that's like a true Fulci movie. I.e. - graphically gruesome. o_o So be warned! I am not going to be sweet for Valentine's Day!
Maybe I really should have watched this movie to the end ... I saw it when they showed it late at night here in Germany some months ago and I guess the slow middle part turned me off. And actually, I somehow don't like funny sidekicks ... but that's just me ... or it was the German dubbing which may have been too silly for me ... or I may have had to high hopes for this movie ...
About the trilogy: "Adios Sabata" only uses the name "Sabata" to ride on the success of the previous one. The original title is "Indio Black". The director is the same, though. And the true sequel "Sabata returns" apparantly falls much behind the original. I have seen none of the sequels though ...
I watched Adios Sabata a little while ago and am currently getting my hands on Return of Sabata.
Adios was very cool, actually. I had a feeling it was a retitled flick. But it was also good fun and actually much more elaborate than the original given the big battle happens during the day, so you can see the set. There's also some fantastic long-shot cinematography and kill gags. Gianfranco had a lot of fun finding new ways to show accurate death.
I hope Return is fun, at least.
btw, is anyone seriously addicted to the Sabata theme? Damn you, Marcello Giombini!! Your catchy themes haunt us!
Ah, I'm late for 2 or 3 months, but I manage to get my hand on this flick . Too bad, there were not the two others of the trilogy, in my store, because I would buy them immediately ! Now, I will have to reserve some of my free time.
I watched this one yesterday and I have to say that I would not watch it again. I thought the acting was horrible. It had even worse one-liners and was just plain awful in my book. But, that's my opinion and that's what the forum is all about. I still think that it was good to review it because other people may find that they like the silliness in the film.
I'm afraid I have to agree with Chico on this one. Yeah, it had some cool stuff but the movie did strike me as being very silly most of the time. That's not to say that I disagree with the review, as much of what is mentioned is accurate. My problem is that I can't help but compare Sabata to better films like Once Upon a Time in the West. This film just didn't do it for me. I know it's not fair to draw such a comparison but that's just me.
I hope you keep in mind that things like Once Upon A Time In The West are pretty much the outlandishly "so good it shouldn't exist" kind of product in an otherwise very odd, formulaic, boring (really boring), and "silly" genre of spaghetti westerns. That's not to say your opinion is wrong, I'm just curious from what angle you approached it or if this is merely a method of comparison difference.
Like I did say, it's more the flick you throw on in a Saturday afternoon when you're doing housework or hanging out or channel surfing, really. (it's gonna be awhile before I seriously rewatch it, probably)
EvilFutsin wrote:Like I did say, it's more the flick you throw on in a Saturday afternoon when you're doing housework or hanging out or channel surfing, really.
Understandable. I dunno, this film just couldn't hold my attention. I actually fell asleep for a few minutes during the middle of it. Even flicks like A Fistful of Dollars are long & have boring stretches for sure, but it doesn't try to be silly. It's really more of a preference thing I guess & I simply prefer westerns that attempt to take a more realistic approach.
And I do keep in mind that film makers (like yourself) see qualities in movies that your average guy (like me) tend to miss. I won't go as far as Chico did & say Sabata was awful, but I will say I didn't care for it much. You know, some people don't like superhero movies because they aren't realistic. But they aren't going into the movie with the right mindset imo. Maybe this was my problem with Sabata. Had it been billed as a comedy I could be more forgiving.