One thing I’ll never understand is why, given how iconic a figure Sartana is, the designers of the Italian poster decided to use an image of Garko from Cowards Don’t Pray instead. ???
If You Meet Sartana … is a terrible film in all sorts of ways. The film-makers appear to have made the plot up as they went along. The exteriors were filmed in the same waste disposal dump as For a Dollar in the Teeth (but completely lack that film’s gritty realism). The sets look exactly like sets. The music has some eeriely effective moments but is generally insipid and misjudged. It’s basically a low-rent rehearsal for Sabata. But I really like it and will watch it repeatedly. It’s not a case of it being so bad that it’s good, either (Such films usually outstay their welcome after about 10 minutes). In this case I just suspend my critical faculties and enjoy it on its own terms.
I think the main reason for this indulgence is the charisma of Sartana himself (not just Garko’s sinister charm but the nicely emphatic actor who dubs him into English), and the eerie twist his character brings to an otherwise pointless shoot-em-up. None of the sequels work for me (and Angel of Death is the only one I’ve actually been able to sit through to the end) - not just because they make a travesty of the character’s Grim Reaper image, but also because they lose track of what Christopher Frayling would call his “connotations” (so the distinctive derringer is replaced by a standard Colt, and the beard by a blond handlebar moustache :o)
The action in the film becomes increasingly deranged (Lasky massacres his entire gang, but not to worry, here’s another one he prepared earlier), but at least there’s plenty of it, which adds to the appeal. And for some reason I find myself cherishing lines of dialogue like “The gold! General Tampico will be content!”
But what’s Sartana going to do with the gold when he finally gets it? Though he says (in the English version) that he isn’t a ghost, I suspect he’s actually a curse personified, visiting judgement on everyone who tries to steal it for themselves. There’s discussion above about Lasky’s last line - was he going to say ghost or gravedigger? - but I always heard it as “You are the D…” - implying he’s something much more dangerous!