|The Plot: Okay, I won’t even lie, the plot is pretty convoluted and features so many twists and turns it’s a little hard to keep up with – but essentially Sartana, the famed Spaghetti Western cult figure (played here by George Hilton), after rescuing a boy and his mother from a gang of evil bandits is then embroiled in a game of tag with said gang as they are in pursuit of gold which they frequently rob off of a stagecoach that travels through their territory. Sartana gets in the middle of things, offering his service to the company owner – but in this film nothing is as it seems. Things get even more complicated when the mystery man Sabbath enters the picture, another gunslinger like Sartana with equal ability and who dresses all in white while carrying a white matching parasol. Seems a little girly, sure, but then he shoots you dead. However will Sartana make it out with these kind of odds!?|
The Review: Sartana’s Here… Trade Your Pistol For A Coffin. How do you like that for a title? In the world of cinema, the Italians were brilliant with naming their product. Here in the states we use average terms, usually a two-word title meant to declare action of some sort. In Italy, during their best days, they used full declarative statements in their titles! Who says you can’t do it, right? Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key, Django Kill… If You Live, Shoot!, A Special Cop In Action, Live Like A Cop Die Like A Man, etc. You could sell me these movies based solely on those titles and a lot of the time that’s exactly why us viewers would end up checking out these movies. The Spaghetti Western genre is very notable for these sultry titles that just suck you in, even the more popular Sergio Leone films had some pretty nifty titles. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly – that’s a pretty unusual title right there, same for Once Upon A Time In The West. Long sentence based film titles meant to lure you in, and that’s exactly how I found Trade Your Pistol For A Coffin. Once I read that, I knew I had to see this film. I have unfortunately never had the pleasure of seeing any of the Sartana films previously made to this one but I’ve read up on them a little. It seems that this is the fourth (official) film bearing the name Sartana and features George Hilton stepping into the lead role as the titular character. Though I can’t speak of many of the differences between this film and previous films made with different casts and such; but I will say that Trade Your Pistol certainly stands out by its own merits and definitely doesn’t let you down if you come into it looking for all those reasons guys like myself enjoy the subgenre.
All I can speak about is this film itself, and for what it is SHTYPFAC is a fantastic western, deliberately over the top and always moving along at a swift pace. Big reveals are a constant, and absurd sequences of shooting prowess so beyond all human capability are so frequent that the mind can hardly absorb it all in one sitting. This to me was one of the more fun aspects of the film, little moments like a man with matches that are lodged between his own toes taking his pistol and shooting the ends of them all and lighting each match one by one. Then there’s all of the little gags with Sartana, shooting his enemies through a loaf of bread and then later being called out for it as his enemies catch him at lunch once again and telling him “stand up, and move away from that bread!”. Hollywood westerns often had one man taking on an army of pistoleers, but rarely did you see one go so far as to make shooting a superhuman ability. Shooting at the hip is a tough enough ability for an experienced marksman, but shooting from within the holster… shooting through bread… shooting through boots – I have to think Sartana had some kind of Spidersense going on. I’m not sure if this is simply a running gang throughout the whole series, with Sartana blasting his enemies through varying objects constantly – or if its something introduced in this film alone but I am definitely giving it my thumbs up because even though it is completely unrealistic to be as amazing with a pistol as seemingly everyone in this film is – it certainly makes for one interesting piece of work!
In many ways SHTYPFAC embodies a lot of the ideal greatness that the genre took on when Sergio Leone showed all of the world just what a western could be with his Man With No Name trilogy. Although Leone did keep his films a little more grounded in reality, Sartana takes itself above rational thought and creates something unique nd fun. The plot is almost inconsequential to the real story here, which is that with enough “cool” characters, a ton of “cool” superhuman bits of gunfighting superiority – you ccan make one COOL movie. The plot really isn’t a bad one at all, but at times things move so fast its hard to keep up with every little thing. Like I said though, what makes the film so special isn’t just that. It’s the atmosphere, the booming soundtrack and the larger than life characters who make no mistakes. Caricatures of the Spaghetti Western subgenre, but done to perfection here. I have to say I really enjoyed my first Sartana film and I hear the rest of the series is even better. Things get a bit overboard in the way that the characters are presented as being able to shoot the hair off a chiahuah at four hundred miles away – but if you take it as part of the charm (which it is) it becomes all the more enjoyable. I highly recommend it and can’t wait to see the rest of the series.