The Plot: Sartana, a drifting stranger with a black coat and a tremendous knack for shooting & gambling, wanders into town on a quest for some stolen gold. However, between a few rich socialites and a Meixcan commander – the gold is being split and everyone is trying to get a larger share. Laskey, a often cowardice but always dangerous bandit, is currently blackmailing the socialites since he knows all about their deal and they used him to steal it – but he too is looking for his own fair share, and now that Sartana’s in town – so is he. At the end, who will be standing with anything and who will just be left lying dead?

The Review: After reviewing the very awesome Sartana’s Coming… Trade Your Pistol For A Coffin, I had to do my best to track down the rest of such an amazing series. It wasn’t long before I came across the original Sartana, also known as Sartana’s Here Better Pray For Your Death which was made in the early days of the Spaghetti Western genre and features an approach that in comparison to the over the top attitudes of Trade Your Pistol, seems a little bit more of a tame outing – however for the time it was made it was no doubt as different a western as anyone could imagine. The original intention from director Gianfranco Parolini and the writers, or so I hear, was to have a series that worked like James Bond in the old west and there’s no doubt that Sartana’s drinking and card playing, gadget bearing, calm at all times character is exactly the mold for such a character, so kudos to those responsible because I have to give them credit on what turned out as an absolutely brilliant idea. The gadgets are here, but so in an uncanny ability to see every angle and every three steps ahead of him. The way in which people are checking out all the latest Saw movies every year now to see how elaborate the traps get, the same way Sartana fans check out each movie in the hopes of seeing just how outlandish his own traps and one-liners turn out to be. Much like Trade Your Pistol For A Coffin, Pray For Your Death is ultimately way too complex in its back and forth alliances and the vast amount of direct characters involved in the gold deal that you can easily get confused. Lord knows I still am, but in the end Sartana is a fun and wild Spaghetti Western that defines itself far greater than any other series that immediately comes to mind.

They say the attribute that really defined the Spaghetti Western is the introduction of the “Anti-hero” in the case of Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name. While this may true, it doesn’t hold up as a real staple of the genre or a pigeonholed for the leads. Sartana is evidence of this, as you can’t really say he’s a character out simply for himself. He’s a character who does a lot for financial gain but he’s just as apt to go after a villain in the name of his own brand of justice. He treats it like sport when he deals with fast draw gunfighters who aim to take him down, and he of course never loses. This I think is a trait of many Spaghetti Westerns really, with heroes who essentially turn into Superman. He may not fly or run faster than a locomotive, but you’d better believe that Sartana is Superman in the old west. Fastest hands in the west, unable to be intimidated or pressured, a poker player who never loses and with no real vice at all. Not even women prove to be a weakness for Sartana, even ones with very large breasts… Sartana truly is a greater man than I. Are all of these a bad thing? Not so in my opinion, though you might hear different in film school. Some films just need to create that undoubted leading man, that impossible to beat foe and Sartana is just the type. It’s fun to root for your hero when you know that not only will he win, but he’ll do the right thing in the end. There’s a boyhood fantasy element to it that I think makes it a bit of nostalgic fun. Unlike what you may expect from that description though, Pray For Your Death is an amazing feast for the eyes in terms of cinematography. Featuring so much depth to the footage and an expressive color pallet for this sort of film. Just a great looking film that uses both sets and exterior shots to their full ability.

Sartana’s always up to something, and this first adventure is often remembered as the best and I could easily agree from the two I have seen. I’m now a confirmed fan and I hope I can turn on a few new fans to the series with these reviews. Although the overcomplicated plot for the film does hinder it some, it’s not enough to deter audiences too much. If you simply pay very close attention and keep up with character names it becomes slightly easier. Still, I have to imagine some of the English dubbing could be blamed on the grand confusion these films inspire – but really, who wants to watch a Western in Italian? A little too odd for my tastes. In the end, what matters most is how much entertainment is derived from the film – and I’ll say, it is one of the most fun westerns you’ll probably see. From Gianni Garko layed back and always smooth performance as well as the welcome cameo (can’t really call it much more than that) appearance of Klaus Kinski who gives a brief but memorable performance as Lasky’s right hand man. Lasky, William Berger, is probably the standout of the cast though with his manic personality and amazing charisma shining through at all times. He kept me glued to the film and is just awesome on screen. I’m giving the movie a high four out of five. If it were just a little more smooth in its transitions and kept the story continually flowing it would easily have been a stubbing Award winner – but those twists just keep on coming until there’s some slight confusion! Imagine the movie Heist set in the old west, not 100% perfect but so much fun and interesting that it still winds up in my favorites regardless.