Now Playing: RETURN OF SABATA
With the baseball season over with, I can now get back to watching some crappy movies. Tonight I finished up MGM's new SABATA TRILOGY box set, which I'll be reviewing for The Hub in a couple of weeks. SABATA; ADIOS, SABATA; and RETURN OF SABATA are Italian-produced westerns made around 1969-1971 that have just been released in a nicely designed package on DVD.
SABATA is a fun movie starring western legend Lee Van Cleef (the "Bad" of THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY) as Sabata, an expert gunfighter with a sense of humor who nabs the thieves who pulled off a nicely choreographed gold robbery in the town of Daugherty. This actually pisses off the town leaders, since they were the ones who actually organized the robbery. Sabata finds out and blackmails them, including Stengel, the arrogant boss man who resembles a gay Michael Caine and sends a succession of assassins to (unsuccessfully) silence Sabata permanently. What makes SABATA stand out is its gimmicky attitude, unusual for a western, like Sabata's ragtag team of assistants, who include a mute Indian acrobat and a conman with a rifle concealed in his banjo, his trick firearms, and his penchant for flipping coins with deadly accuracy.
ADIOS, SABATA finds Yul Brynner (THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN) playing the title role. Or is he? Common wisdom is that Brynner shot a film called INDIO BLACK, which also was the name of his character, but when the English soundtrack was dubbed, it became a Sabata movie. However, the actors' lips appear to be saying "Sabata", so I think the INDIO BLACK story may be an urban legend (although, admittedly, the film was titled INDIO BLACK in some overseas markets). Considering ADIOS, SABATA was made by the same director, Gianfranco Parolini (credited as "Frank Kramer"), using the same supporting cast and a similar storyline, it figures that it would have always been intended as a Sabata movie. That said, it's also pretty fun and adds a few more gimmicks, including a mute named Septembre whose deadly weapons are his feet, which he uses to toss ball bearings.
Van Cleef returns in, well, RETURN OF SABATA, which is not as good as the first two, despite its nutty theme song ("Sa-baaa-taaaaaaaaa!") and a very loose performance by its star. Once again, Sabata is involved with a gold theft, a colorful assortment of accessories (two acrobats this time), a snide villain, and several doublecrosses. This one, again directed by Parolini, has less action and mostly takes place in town or inside buildings, as opposed to the vast open spaces normally associated with Italian westerns.
All three are presented in their original 2.35:1 aspect ratios with their original English soundtracks. If you're into "spaghetti westerns", you need to pick this box up.
My car saga is dragging longer than I hoped. I received a phone message from the insurance company today saying they had not yet had a conversation with their client, the girl who hit me, and that they have not yet "accepted liability." I finally managed to get the USAA General agent on the phone, so I could ask her what has taken them so long to contact the girl. She said that she and the client had been playing phone tag, but she did not have a correct telephone number for the girl, who had been calling in and leaving messages, but somehow the agency was not getting her number. They should have asked me--I have her number right here on the police report. Hopefully they will talk tomorrow so we can get the ball rolling. The agent, who sounded like a young woman, sounded defensive and not terribly professional when I talked to her, even calling her colleagues "irresponsible" in regards to their not getting a correct telephone number for their client. I wasn't rude to her, so she had no call to act defensive, but I don't believe that people in the insurance business are the most pleasant anyway. The first time I called USAA General to inform them of the accident last Friday morning, I spoke to an older woman, who also got sharp with me and even scolded me about what I should do with my car and where I should take it before they would send an appraiser to look at it. Here I was going out of my way to help them out and give them a heads-up, and she's acting in a condescending manner. I suppose if she was a nice person, she would probably also be honest, in which case she wouldn't be working for an insurance company's claims department anyway.