Light the fuse...Sartana is coming!
This is hard to recommend. Not because it is bad, far from it, but because it is a Sartana picture and a lot of people don't dig those movies. People that put this series off are usually soulless grumps who never had a childhood. It's the gimicky, off beat nature of the series that scare these individuals away. The films are less like westerns and more like mad cap comic book stories, and this particular entry happens to be the goofiest of them all.
The plot is the usual complicated yarn we've come to expect from the series. A deal to sell 1/2 a million dollars in gold for 2 million in counterfeit money is set by two shady baddies. The deal goes sour, the two parties end up dead and the loot goes missing. When Sartana arrives on the scene the whole town is already in an uproar, searching for the missing booty. The main contenders being the town sheriff, a widow, a one eyed drifter and a small army of cut-throat bandits led by a peculiar character named Monk. Sartana plays all sides in order to locate the hiding place of the cash and take down as many villains as possible along the way. You might think this sounds like the same old shtick previously seen in the earlier entries, and you'd be correct. It's essentially the same movie as the others but it's not like that is a bad thing. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Besides, there is enough new stuff to keep things fresh.
This time Sartana has a whole new array of weapons and gadgets to help achieve the largest body count in the entire Sartana series! The most bizarre of them all comes in the form of a miniature, totem pole looking, robot named "Alfie" (a reference to Michael Caine who played the anti-James Bond in The Ipcress Files). Alfie's main function is a cigarette lighter but it soon becomes apparent that it can be programmed to kill!
Sartana also has a church organ that, in a scene reminiscent of Django revealing what was inside his coffin, becomes a deadly surprise to Monk's army of bandits. The Organ's surprise functions, which I won't give away here, are very similar to a piano's during a second season episode of The Wild Wild West. I'll bet money one of the screen writers (Tito Carpi, Ernesto Gastaldi and Eduardo Manzanos Brochero. Take your pick) lifted the idea from that episode. Sartana's trademark pepperbox pistol is sorely missing (only the sheriff has one), replaced by a revolver.
In the earlier films of the series, Sartana was something of an other-worldly gunslinger that couldn't be wounded or killed. They decided to make him a bit more human for this outing as he does get a beating early in the first act. The movie also marks the first time Garko changes clothes in the series. It is also the first, and last, time for the series to have portions of the movie filmed in Spain (the distinctive Rocky terrain is filmed at Manzanares El Real outside of Madrid). The original three, and the sole entry starring George Hilton, reverted to quarry pits, outside of Rome, for their exterior shots.
The cast is expansive but it never feels like they fit too many characters for the movie's own good (ala Heads you die, Tails I kill you). It always does a particular muscle in my body good to see Nieves Navarro play a sexy Femme Fatale. Piero Lulli always enhances everything he's in and Mara Krupp has a very funny role as a hotel clerk. You'll recognise her from For a Few Dollars More, she is the hotel owner's wife. Ya know? The lady with the big jugs and the uhhh.... unfortunate face.
You also have Franco Pesce "reprising" his role as the town's crazy old timer who is the only ally Sartana acquires.
The actor that stands out the most is of course Garko. The man had a presence most actors would crave for today. He plays a more comical Sartana in this one. A little less of the dry wit seen in Have a good funeral. He's showing more teeth in this one.
Bruno Nicolai belts out another rousing score but it doesn't quite reach the excellence of Have a good funeral my friend, Sartana will pay's soundtrack.
Proclaiming that a certain movie doesn't have a dull moment in it has become a tiresome cliche but this movie manages to stay true to that comment. There really isn't a dull moment in the whole picture. Whether it be smirking at a campy looking outfit one of the more flamboyant of Monk's gang members would be wearing or Sartana pole volting onto his trusty steed, your eyes will be glued to the screen and your ass will remain firmly on your seat. Unless, of course, you ignore that little child deep inside you.
The one error in this, otherwise, perfect pop corn flick is the lack of a formidable villain for Sartana to fight. You never get a sense that any of the baddies could out draw Sartana. The first Sartana outing isn't my favorite but at least it had a great nemesis (William Berger as Lasky).
Of course, that is a minor complaint and it won't effect the excellent rating this movie deserves.
This is Carnimeo's crowning achievement and Garko's most shining hour.
This is one instance where they saved the best for last.
Side note: There is some confusion about the release of this film and the George Hilton Sartana outing titled "Sartana is here, trade your pistol for a coffin".
According to research the latter was released a full year before Garko's final take on the character.
However, I was told, by a reliable source, that Mr. Garko said he had already finished "Light the fuse..." when he was offered the Hilton one and that he declined because he wanted a change of pace. Garko went on to star in the Giallo "The Cold Eyes of Fear" instead and was never offered another Sartana.
Either Mr. Garko's memory is rusty or all of the research I have gathered, which contradicts Mr. Garko's story, is false.
I lean towards Mr. Garko's story seeing that he was actually there.