With Gianni Garko briefly departing the role of Sartana, it was up to George Hilton to step into the gambling, gun-toting shoes of this western star. Sartana’s Here… Trade Your Pistol for a Coffin marks the midway point for this pentalogy released by Arrow films, their brush up of these forgotten westerns is frankly remarkable. Hilton teams with director Giuliano Carnimeo to bring another formidable, strong western to the screen. My doubts surrounding this third instalment were tremendously high, but I’m comfortably surprised by much of the film, which blends the tropes of the genre with the clandestine nature of Sartana as a bringer of justice and murky hero.
Carnimeo’s second Sartana directed film feels like a complete shift in tone and style to that of I Am Sartana, Your Angel of Death. Far more comical than the Garko starring features, Sartana’s Here… Trade Your Pistol for a Coffin looks to polish the Sartana brand, making it friendlier to passing audiences. The inclusion of some rather comical scenes and lighter storytelling elements make for an easier indoctrination into the Hilton and Carnimeo pairing. We open with our titular character munching down on a boiled egg whilst surveying a group of bandits. From there, the topic of food is never really dropped. Sartana is obsessed with eggs, uses loaves of bread to distract his enemies and the importance of food within the film feels rather surreal on the whole.
I didn’t hate it though. This flutter with comedy works rather nicely since it doesn’t overwhelm the simplistic story of gold shifting hands between various groups of outlaws in abandoned western towns. More or less your expected pacing of a spaghetti western, with set pieces to glue together a story that isn’t trying to break from the acceptable mould set years before it. The first half-hour of the film provides us with an extremely lengthy build-up, a gamble that ultimately pays off rather well. Throwing the now-infamous Sabata character into the mix (sadly not played by Lee van Cleef, but by the solid Charles Southwood) and you have two big names colliding in one grand film. A common trope of the spaghetti western genre, and Sartana’s Here… Trade Your Pistol for a Coffin sadly doesn’t benefit from having two heavy hitters appear at once.
The relationship between Sabata and Sartana comes out of the blue, a tremendously random addition to a film that would’ve been equally as entertaining with a nobody in the role. A convoluted introduction paves the way for a rather mismatched series of events that never take off as well as they should have done. We lose out on interesting supporting performances just so Hilton and Southwood can have a few face-offs that never surmount to anything in particular.
Not as engaging as Garko, but Hilton steps up to the plate and has his strong moments. There’s a noticeable difference in what Garko and Hilton each respectively bring to the table, and neither have overwhelming negatives. Hilton is strong in the lead, providing a just as consistent performance as the previous two in the series. Going into this one, Hilton was my main concern, but he more than holds his own, offering up a few lighter moments in an otherwise unflinching series of spaghetti western classics.