Wanted Sabata (1970), written and directed by Roberto Mauri
It might be said that by the time Wanted Sabata was made, the Spaghetti Western had declined market-wise while also, given the passing of time that usually precedes a decline, reaching such a level of confidence as to become a genre in its own right, all but entirely detached from the American films that had constituted its inspiration back in the pre-Leone early sixties. This modest Roberto Mauri offering (but then what Mauri offered was usually modest if not necessarily contemptible) is one of those seventies entries filmed entirely in Italy and depicting a film world lying somewhere between the American west and a generic rural setting that, but for the presence of English names and Italian actors with Mexican sombreros, could (almost but not quite) stand in for any European background one could think of. Add to this some modern-looking jeans, blatantly seventies hairstyles and an inexplicable fetish black costume worn by the sheriff and the self-containment is complete.
Such is the setting for the story, written by Mauri himself. Sabata this time is an honest gunslinger (played by Brad Harris) who has been framed for murder by the evil Sparrow (Vassili Karis), who passes for a regular citizen. Duly arrested and sentenced to hang by the beer-drinking judge, Sabata awaits the day of his execution in his cell when an unseen personage passes him a gun through the window and indicates a hiding-place for him in an old, disused mine. After Sabata holds the deputy at gunpoint and makes his getaway, someone kills the deputy, thus augmenting the escapee’s bounty. Sabata remains in hiding in the mine, where he is only attended to by a mysterious mute girl. Soon, the jurors that declared him guilty are being murdered one by one…
Unexceptional but watchable fare, made better by the (to me) attractive look of the latter-day, pure-bred Italian oater: lots of green grass, colourful wardrobe, geographically universal shacks and an ineffably characteristic lighting style. Karis (who I enjoyed in the same director’s Holy Ghost movies) overacts as the heavy but at least has a degree of animation only wishful thinking could project onto Brad Harris’s impenetrable Sabata. Despite Mauri’s zoom-happy insistence on sending the message home, the technical credits are fine, and this also applies to Vasili Kozucharov’s score, even if, at one point, the music slips into a melody that incongruously recalls Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town.