The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Fistful of Lead

My only connection to the Sartana movies is not a good one, the "comedic" Trinity and Sartana, a cheap, poorly made spin-off. Sartana was one of many successful spaghetti western characters who spawned official and unofficial movies, but that one? Take a pass. It didn't take long to find a winner in the unofficial series, starting with 1970's Fistful of Lead or as it's more commonly (and much cooler) known 'I Am Sartana, Trade Your Guns for a Coffin.' 

A bounty hunter and gunfighter, Sartana (George Hilton) witnesses the robbery of a gold shipment, the attack led by a bandit named Mantas (Nello Pazzafini) and his gang. Looking for information, he rides into a nearby town and finds it. A local businessman/bank owner, Spencer (Pierro Lulli), runs the area and basically controls what gold gets out and what stays. An enormous shipment is set to depart under heavy guard soon, and Sartana sees the chance for a huge payday. The only problem? Spencer is expecting some sort of trick, and Mantas' gang is waiting to strike for their own chance. Double crosses, backstabbing, betrayals, twists and turns await, and no one is guaranteed to make it out alive.

The charm of so many spaghetti westerns comes from the weirdness factor, that low budget quality that allows you to enjoy it even knowing you're watching a bad movie. That's what this movie is. 'Lead' is more of a goofy spaghetti than the dark ones favored by Sergio Leone or Sergio Corbucci. Lots of gunplay, trick shots, general goofiness, and all the while it treads that fine line between fun and just plain stupid. Director Giuliano Carnimeo keeps it light and always entertaining, the score from Francesco De Masi unique and memorable without ripping off Ennio Morricone. The story is ridiculously convoluted, and the ending is beyond dumb but where others crashed and burned, 'Lead' manages to stay on the straight and narrow path. Dumb, even stupid, yes, but fun all the way.

Putting his own spin on the character first played by Gianni Garko, Hilton (real name Jorge Hill Acosta y Lara) certainly has some fun playing Sartana, a gunfighter who hasn't run into a shot he can't make. He throws one-liners whenever he's not gunning down bandits and in general is a quirky, eccentric fellow. Hilton's Sartana is constantly setting up little picnics for himself, eating a loaf of bread and one boiled egg. Style-wise, he's duded up to look like a younger Sabata in an all-black suit, and it even appears he's wearing some eye-liner! Hilton doesn't have to say much, but his spin on a familiar character keeps the story relatively focused (as needed) as Sartana navigates his way through killers and murderers all around him.

The fun in these movies can be the opposition though, the bad guys, and 'Lead' pulls out all the stops. Lulli is the most mainstream of the villains as Spencer, the polished businessman who's always pulling a fast one. He's smiling though as he betrays you so you'd never think it was him (Carlo Gaddi plays his main henchman). Pazzafini hams it up as Mantas, the ridiculously over the top bandit always ready with a maniacal laugh and a gang of disposable gun fodder for Sartana. The best though is Sabbath (Charles Southwood), the primmest and most proper gunman I've ever seen. A gay caballero? Maybe, clues pointing to yes with his parasol, immaculate white suit, and ever-constant book of poetry he quotes. His intentions though are less obvious because it's never clear what he's up to. Even Trixie (Erika Blanc), the saloon girl has some tricks up her sleeve. Some very worthy opponents for Sartana, and he gets a chance to face them all.

This isn't a hugely well-known spaghetti western, but considering the schlocky, truly bad entries to the genre that are out there, it's always nice to see ones like this. It isn't a classic on par with For a Few Dollars More or The Mercenary, but 'Lead' resists that temptation in making a mind-numbingly stupid comedic spaghetti western. How many movies will you see where a character -- Sartana -- throws a canteen into the air and shoots it over a fuse to extinguish said fuse? Or how about shooting a knife mid-throw and redirecting it? Yeah, not many. Just enjoy this one. I most definitely did.

Fistful of Lead <---full movie Youtube (1970): ***/**** 

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