The fourth entry into the Sartana series sees much-needed balance make its way into the seams of the writing and direction. Giuliano Carnimeo brings refined vision to his third Sartana film and his second pairing with a returning Gianni Garko. An unstoppable reunion, esteemed and consistently creative collaborations between the two. Audiences could expect two craftsmen who were comfortable in the company of one another. Have a Good Funeral, My Friend, Sartana Will Pay is a realisation of such chemistry, and it serves as both a fine entry into the series, but also the point of no return.
Garko is, as expected, a true delight on the screen. Improving tremendously over his work in the second feature, I Am Sartana, Your Angel of Death, it’s nice to see Garko return to the series once more. He’s aged rather rapidly in-between, his dark brown hair and youthful, eye-catching attire lost to a rather miserable, middle-aged looking cowboy. He is changing with the times around him, and the toll it takes on the character brings a surprising layer of depth. This is not a depth that can later be utilised, not because it is bland or tasteless, but because the series would devolve rapidly into a tale of strange happenings and stranger scenarios. It is nice to see that Garko is given more to work with regarding his character, but he is still the same gunslinger the spaghetti western came to know and love. Had Garko been placed in a film more grounded in reality, he may have had a shot.
Filled with some fun, rather over the top moments, it’s nice to see that the series doesn’t lose its style or unique sense of humour. A samurai-sword wielding villain that quotes Confictus lingers in the background, backstabbing his way into holding onto the deeds of property and thousands of dollars. Exceptional creativity is the bread and butter of the western. In a genre so defined by its dusty boots and six-shooters, it is up to the director, writer and cast to bring larger-than-life spectacles into the fold. Have a Good Funeral, My Friend, Sartana Will Pay does this well enough. Some moments do jump the shark, but at least Carnimeo is toying with the fabric of acceptable western tropes. The core of established symbolism and narrative points are still there, but they are twisted and pulled apart at times. It is a nice change to see.
Have a Good Funeral, My Friend, Sartana Will Pay has such an intense focus on its action, more so than any other in the series. Its blatant disregard for health and safety leaves us with a great deal of memorable, action-packed moments. Brawls in a casino, log dodging bandits, coffin rising villains and everything in-between make for some intense and well-directed moments. It lacks a certain level of coherence, but we often turn to westerns for gritty, dirty cowboys shooting one another, not thickly layered stories that weave narratives of careful craft. Carnimeo does that best, he is happy to throw everything at the wall to see what sticks. What sticks here is strong, action-packed fun.