Monday, 21 April 2014

Sabata (1969)

Clint Eastwood's 'Man with No Name' is the most famous of the Spaghetti western (anti-)heroes, but there were many others.  Quentino Tarantino's favorite is presumably Django, but if I were a betting man, I'd lay money on Robert Rodriguez having a passion for the steely-eyed Sabata.

There are just so many touches and embellishments that evoke a sense of Rodriguez's own films that I find it hard to imagine he never saw this.  From the quirky and quixotic characters to the funky gadgets, I defy you to watch this film and not see a blueprint for Desperado.  There's even a guy with a gun concealed in a musical instrument.

The plot here is simple enough: a bank robbery (featuring acrobats, because why not) is thwarted by the lethal gunslinger Sabata.  He picks up a tidy reward for his actions, but - suspecting there is more to the robbery than meets the eye - hangs around in case there is more money to be made.  This leads to a nice running thread where he quotes the villains a price they have to pay him to go away, and every time they attempt to double-cross him (and it's a lot), the price goes up.

The succession of hitmen hired to deal with Sabata are all memorably idiosyncratic characters, as are the entourage he assembles to assist him.  The two sides engage in a lethal albeit off-beat game of brinksmanship.  To be honest, Sabata never really seems like he's outmatched in any situation, but narrative tension is not really the point of the film.  Giggling at the genius of where Sabata hides his backup weapon is.

Fun stuff; I can see why it spawned a trilogy.

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