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Twelve years ago, Sartana framed his brother Johnny for murder and stole his girlfriend. Now the town's undisputed boss and doted over by his possessive mother, Sartana seems safe - until, his sentence served, Johnny rides back into town.
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It's true that the spaghetti western genre isn't one to brag about originality. Movies from it often borrow thematic elements from one another and most of the time that results in one very unsuccessful imitation of the real thing. But sometimes a director is able to look past the genre's obvious limitations and instead of just trying to blindly emulate he focuses on creating something that stands good on it's own. Such is the case of Giuliano Carnimeo's "Sartana the Gravedigger".
The whole movie revolves around it's main star and character, namely Gianni Garko as the crafty, nearly legendary gunslinger, Sartana. Whom soon after the opening scene finds himself framed for a bank robbery and chased by a never-ending wave of bounty hunters. This of course prompts him to track down the people who were actually involved in the robbery and have wrongfully framed him for it. From then on this becomes a fast ride, never slowing it's pace. It doesn't try to be anything more than entertainment and it works. Garko's character is an obvious Eastwood look alike both in physical looks and in terms of behavior, but then again this has already become an accepted feature to most Spaghetti westerns and for all the good it does, Garko has captured (if only partially) that mysterious "man with no name" persona that made Eastwood famous. The support cast is equally good in their respective roles with Klaus Kinsky playing a down on his luck bounty hunter and Frank Wolf as the comedic sidekick to Garko's Sartana.
Giuliano Carnimeo directs with a strong emphasis on action rather than simply trying to copy Sergio Leone. "Sartana the Gravedigger" is indeed a fast moving picture. With a large body-count and countless firefights it doesn't stop to entertain even for just a minute. Some of the action scenes are particularly well done, with the battle in the church making the biggest impression. It is by far one of the most unique showdowns I've seen in an Italian western. There Carnimeo employs, complete darkness with the only visible light coming from aimless fire of dozens of guns that are trying to hit Sartana while he himself silently kills them off one by one. The battle is accompanied with an atmospheric musical piece by composer Vasco Mancuso that further helps in establishing a claustrophobic no escape feel of the scene.
The movie does have it's share of problems and it, as a lot of others in the genre suffer from low production values. Typical example would be the not so good costume designs, especially in the opening bank robbery where we saw guards wearing some very un-western like clothing.
All in all "Sartana the Gravedigger" is a very good spaghetti western that is sure to please fans of the genre, with it's non-stop action, good music and characters
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