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Cherry Pop

'The Complete Sartana: Limited Edition'
(Gianni Garko, George Hilton, William Berger, Klaus Kinski, et al / 5-Disc Limited Edition Blu-ray / NR / 2018 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: Sartana tapped into more than just his Spaghetti Western predecessors. A mysterious figure, he has a spectral quality, aided by his Count Dracula-like cloak which also nods towards comic strip figure, Mandrake the Magician; with whom he shares he shares a penchant for card tricks.

He takes pride in his appearance unlike Clint Eastwood's dusty wanderer or Nero's mud-caked drifter. And there's also a dose of James Bond in his fondness for gadgetry and the droll sense of humor that abounds.

Unsurprisingly, this unique figure in the genre was treated to four official follow-ups. 'The Complete Sartana' collects all five films, presented here in brand-new restorations: 'If You Meet Sartana, Pray for Your Death,' 'I Am Sartana, Your Angel of Death,' 'Have a Good Funeral My Friend, Sartana Will Pay,' 'Light the Fuse, Sartana Is Coming,' and 'Sartana's Here, Trade Your Pistol for a Coffin,' in which George Hilton replaced Garko in the lead role.

Blu-ray Verdict: We kick off with 'If You Meet Sartana, Pray for Your Death' (1968), where crooked bankers plan an insurance swindle and hire a Mexican gang to steal the bank's gold - but they also pay Lasky's gang to kill the Mexicans.

Sartana (played superbly by John Garko) has one of the greatest entrances on screen of all the Spaghetti protagonists. When accused of looking like a scarecrow, he utters the classic line "I am your pallbearer" before gunning down all the bandits facing him. A classic moment, with the black clad Sartana setting the scene perfectly for this Gothic-tinged western.

The story itself is a very complicated affair, and one which I'm not completely sure I followed from beginning to end, sorry. In simple terms, the story evolves around a stagecoach robbery and murder (with the culprits themselves hijacked and massacred by Lasky - played by the ever brilliant William Berger - and his gang). Enter Sartana, in the midst of further double crossing and more double crossing. And cue bloodshed aplenty!

Next up is 'I Am Sartana, Your Angel of Death' (1969) where Sartana is falsely accused of robbing a bank, and must find the real robbers and clear his name.

Giuliano Carnimeo directs with a strong emphasis on action rather than simply trying to copy Sergio Leone. A fast moving picture with a large body-count and countless firefights, it doesn't stop to breathe even for a second!

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 comes 'Have a Good Funeral My Friend, Sartana Will Pay' (1970) where after witnessing a brutal massacre, the legendary hero Sartana is ready to do some investigating.

Almost everyone in the tiny town of Indian Creek seems eager to buy up the property left behind by the murder victims, and one of them could well be behind the killings. The sheriff himself is not above suspicion, so Sartana must uncover the culprit all on his own.

Gianni Garko is back as Sartana, and this time he's sporting a thick blonde Swedish- style mustache! I'm also beginning to think he's some sort of jinx, as yet again he witnesses the massacre of a bunch of miners by some bad guys and gets mixed up in some sort of land grab treachery involving crooked bank managers we've all seen a million times by now.

But who cares? It's Sartana, and it seems the longer the series goes on, the more ridiculous (and therefore enjoyable) the films get! He's still dressing in goth fashion and he still has his four chambered Derringer, but this time round he's also got a pack of cards with sharpened edges!

The crooked bank manager (and his many crooked employees) is pretty good too, sending wave after wave of hired killers after Sartana, only for Sartana to waste them, then pay for their funeral, only for the bad guys to use that funeral to try and kill Sartana.

Sartana also acts like some sort of ghost in this one, seemingly teleporting anywhere he wants to, which just adds to the strangeness. Plus he can light fireworks by firing a gun at them, at night.

That's followed by 'Light the Fuse, Sartana Is Coming' (1970), in which wily roving gunslinger Sartana arrives in a small town and tries to find a hidden fortune of half a million dollars in gold and two million dollars in counterfeit money.

Naturally, a bunch of other treacherous folks who include conniving widow Senora Manassas, shrewd fellow gunslinger Grand Full, and the vicious and unhinged General Monk are also looking to get their greedy hands on said fortune.

Sartana infiltrates a sadistic frontier prison in order to bust out an inmate accused of stashing half a million dollars in gold. However, getting the inmate out proves to be easier than uncovering the whereabouts of the missing loot, located somewhere in a town full of crooked characters with shady intentions.

Another fast-moving entry in the official Sartana series, starring Gianni Garko, there's a lot of twists and turns, with Sartana seemingly able to read minds, tell the future and see in all directions at once!

There's loads of gun-play and a fairly interesting mystery regarding who exactly has the gold. It's not quite groundbreaking cinema, but it'll do very nicely!

Lastly, we get 'Sartana's Here, Trade Your Pistol for a Coffin' (1970) where are favorite bounty hunter and gunfighter witnesses the robbery of a shipment of gold. He finds his way into town where he meets with a lot of suspicious stares from the locals.

He also meets with Samuel Spencer, who seems to own the company in this company town. The gold shipments are being stolen, so Spencer agrees to hire Sartana to protect the next gold shipment.

Numerous dull-witted villains make attempts on Sartana's life, but he survives. Eventually, Sartana's nemesis Sabbath (he of the white coat and parasol) rides into town. With a showdown inevitable, Sartana and Sabbath square off to settle the score.

This is a fun movie with interesting characters, and lots of spaghetti western style. I found it very entertaining, although it has some story elements that don't seem to make a lot of sense.

George Hilton does a fine job of portraying Sartana for this final outing, more often played by Gianni Garko. Hilton's style is slightly different, but he plays the part equally as well as Garko.

However, the real show stealer here is Charles Southwood as Sabbath, a bounty hunter who dresses in all-white, carries a white parasol, and lives by the values taught to him by his mother!

Sartana and Sabbath are both oddballs, each in his own way, but Sabbath is so eccentric he makes Sartana look normal! One of the many amusing parts of the film is when Sabbath comes riding into town with his parasol, and one of the townsfolk sees him and says, "What's the West coming to?"

Sartana and Sabbath play off of each other quite well, and their interactions are fun to watch, especially when they square off near the end of the film. Well worth the price of admission into this fantastic new Blu-ray 5-Disc Limited Edition Box-Set, out now via Arrow Films UK and MVD Visual US. These are all Brand New 2K Restoration presentations enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the Special Features of:

Brand-new 2K restoration of 'If You Meet Sartana, Pray for Your Death' from original film materials, carried out by Arrow Films exclusively for this release
Brand-new 2K restorations of 'I Am Sartana, Your Angel of Death,' 'Have a Good Funeral My Friend, Sartana Will Pay,' 'Light the Fuse, Sartana Is Coming,' and 'Sartana's Here, Trade Your Pistol for a Coffin' from original camera negatives, carried out by Arrow Films exclusively for this release
Original Italian and English soundtracks on all five films
Uncompressed mono 1.0 PCM audio
Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
Audio commentary on 'If You Meet Sartana, Pray for Your Death' by filmmaker Mike Siegel
Audio commentaries on 'I Am Sartana, Your Angel of Death' and 'Have a Good Funeral My Friend, Sartana Will Pay' by Spaghetti Western experts C. Courtney Joyner and Henry Parke
Gianfranco Parolini on 'If You Meet Sartana, Pray for Your Death,' a brand-new interview with the writer-director
Fabbio Piccioni on 'If You Meet Sartana, Pray for Your Death,' a brand-new interview with the writer
Sal Borgese on 'I Am Sartana, Your Angel of Death' and 'Light the Fuse, Sartana Is Coming,' two brand-new interviews with the actor
Ernesto Gastaldi on 'I Am Sartana, Your Angel of Death' and 'Light the Fuse, Sartana Is Coming,' two brand-new interviews with the writer
Roberto Dell Acqua on 'Have a Good Funeral My Friend, Sartana Will Pay,' a brand-new interview with the actor
Sartana Lives, an archive featurette on 'Light the Fuse, Sartana Is Coming' featuring interviews with actor Gianni Garko and director Giuliano Carnimeo
Sartana Shoots First, a brand-new interview with George Hilton on 'Sartana's Here, Trade Your Pistol for a Coffin'
Erika Blanc on 'Sartana's Here, Trade Your Pistol for a Coffin,' a brand-new interview with the actor
Tony Askin on 'Sartana's Here, Trade Your Pistol for a Coffin,' a brand-new interview with the actor
Brand-new video essay on the major actors and supporting players in the official Sartana films
Galleries of original promotional images from the Mike Siegal Archive for all five films
Limited edition packaging with reversible sleeves featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin
Limited Edition Blu-ray collection of all five official Sartana films (2500 copies)
Illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing on the films by Roberto Curti and more!