Sabata (Italy 1969)

Rating: **
Review Date: 8/9/14
Director: Gianfranco Parolini
Cast: Lee Van Cleef, William Berger, Ignazio Spalla, Linda Veras

Lee Van Cleef plays Sabata, a mysterious gunman who rides into a small Texan town and starts blackmailing the masterminds behind a recent bank heist. The increasingly frustrated bad guys want him dead, and Sabata ups the ante every time someone tries to kill him. As these kinds of movies go, there's really only one solution: kill everyone who stands in your way. Sabata knows this and doesn't seem to mind. In fact, he seems to enjoy outsmarting the bad guys and putting them through their paces. As one man puts it, "the devil rides with him!"

Shot in Italy and Spain, the landscapes are beautiful and the cinematography is gorgeous (although the fake cactus props are unintentionally funny). Lee Van Cleef is wonderful as the cool and clever Sabata, and it's hard to picture anyone else in the role. Unfortunately, the supporting characters aren't very interesting, and Sabata's boisterous friend Carrincha (Ignazio Spalla) is a caricature that's mostly played for laughs. Banjo (William Berger) is an eccentric antagonist of questionable alignment, but he's more of a nuisance than anything. However, his concealed rifle is quite amusing, and stands out as one of the film's highlights. Linda Veras is stunningly beautiful as a whore who dreams of a better life, but she's sadly underutilized. While the action scenes are fun to watch, the film's meandering plot seems to lack energy, vitality, personality, and charm. The heavily dubbed actors are also a constant distraction. The film is definitely enjoyable, but it fails to live up to the genre standards set by Sergio Leone.