Monday, March 30, 2009
Spaghetti Western Review
SONORA aka SARTANA DOES NOT FORGIVE (1969) d. Alfonso Balcazar
Gilbert Roland was perfectly suited to the spaghetti western; he seemed to GET it, the rituals, pauses, steely glances, the ambiguity of his characters. You're never quite sure of his motives; is he the hero or the villain, on the hero's side or against him? Already elderly when the Italian western made its debut, he was in remarkably good shape and looked a good decade younger than his actual age. He made several Italo-oaters including BETWEEN GOD, THE DEVIL, AND A WINCHESTER, GO KILL AND COME BACK, THE RUTHLESS FOUR, JOHNNY HAMLET,and this one, SARTANA DOES NOT FORGIVE, my favorite of these.
He plays Kirchner, a veteran gunfighter who may or may not be an adversary of Uriah Sartana, (George Martin), who is searching for a man, Slim (Jack Elam) who raped and killed his fiance. Standing between Uriah and his vengeance are the Mexican bandidos led by Reyes who are allies of Slim, and a Mexican rancher, Jose (Alfio Caltabiano) who wants vengeance against Slim for his own reasons.
There is the usual maneuvering of gunfighters, a fun Laurel and Hardy-type routine between Kirchner and Uriah with cigarillos being put out in drinks, drinks poured into dishes of food, dishes of food spilt onto boots...they don't mix up their hats, thank goodness. Martin is good as the steely-eyed avenger who typically gets the snot beaten out of him without losing his good looks. Elam is slimier than ever as Slim, who doesn't regret the rape/murder of Uriah's fiance and even taunts him about her. The lovely Rosalba Neri makes an appearance to get some of her clothes ripped off and instigate a gunfight, and a nicely set up duello at the end will keep you in suspense (even though you KNOW how it's going to come out) and this turns out to be an entirely satisfying entry in our favorite genre. And of course the music by de Masi is outstanding, as well.
This cries out for some attention from Wild East or Franco Cleef. The version I saw was from SBS in Australia, nicely letterboxed (if not the O.A.R.) but dialog was in Spanish with English subtitles. Does an English track of this one exist? If not, too bad, because Elam's voice is definitely missed!