Return of Sabata (1971)
“The man with gunsight eyes is back!”
Director: Gianfranco Parolini
Cast: Lee Van Cleef, Reiner SchÃ¶ne, Giampiero Albertini
Synopsis: Master gunslinger Sabata arrives in Hobsonville, a town completely owned by McIntock, a robber baron who is taxing the inhabitants for the cost of future improvements to the town.
Spaghetti Western stalwart Lee Van Cleef returns to play the role of Sabata after Yul Brynner stepped into his shoes for the sequel to the original movie. In The Return of Sabata he pitches up in a travelling sideshow, taking part in a bizarre, staged gunfight against a half-dozen rivals whose ‘deaths’ are recorded by a cabal of green-tinted men dressed as undertakers. This opening sequence pretty much sets the scene for the rest of the movie: a somewhat confusing melange of ideas that sometimes border on the surreal, but which never really grab the audience’s attention.
Sabata is actually on the trail of a group of counterfeiters, and this trail leads him to a small town run by the ostensibly benign Joe Mcintock (Giampiero Albertini), who is actually bleeding the townspeople dry by charging exorbitant taxes, the proceeds from which he claims will be ploughed back into building the town. For a large part of the movie nothing much seems to happen; there’s just a bunch of apparently random scenes which introduce us to a number of off-centre characters. There’s Clyde (Reiner Schone), a former lieutenant who stole from Sabata while they were in the army and who continues to attempt doing so as he’s forced into a makeshift partnership with him.
There’s Angel and Bionda (Nick Jordan (Aldo Canti) and Karis Vassili), a pair of bowler-hatted acrobats who team up with Sabata after he catches them picking his pocket. Then there’s Bronco (Ignazio Spalla), a bear-like bearded man who bangs a big drum and smokes evil-smelling cigars.
Quite how all these characters interact with one another is a little confusing, but the movie trundles along at its own steady pace, apparently certain of the direction in which its headed and the bases it needs to touch. There’s not really a great deal to recommend The Return of Sabata. It lacks the elegiac majesty of the Leone movies, and its comedy is too broad to be effective or amusing. Every now and then there’s a fist fight and someone’s fist flies straight at the camera as if it were a 3D movie. There are also a lot of unlikely tiny handguns concealed in unexpected places, and Van Cleef gets to smile a lot more than he normally does.
The Return of Sabata is the type of movie that polarises opinion largely because of the iconic nature of both its leading man and its sub-genre. If you’re a fan of either then you’ll probably think it’s a blast, but if you can take it or leave it, you’ll probably only take it once at most.
(Reviewed 8th July 2013)