Sartana In The Valley of Death Film Review

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One of the many spaghetti westerns with a Sartana in the title, but none in the movie. It’s not the best of the lot, but not the worst either. William Berger’s character is called Lee Calloway throughout, but he’s dressed in black and with a sinuous storyline full of deceit, back-stabbing and beautiful women (some of them as duplicitous as the men) the movie even has some Sartana feel. Some.

Sartana/Calloway (William Berger in a rare lead role) is asked to spring three brothers from jail; in return he’ll receive fifty percent of the loot from a bank robbery. Of course he’s double-crossed by them and after a series of incidents, the brothers end up with all the horses and water, while Calloway ends up with all the guns. Calloway will now have to cross the valley of death without a drop of water; he is saved from dehydration by a beautiful young widow, but note what I’ve said about some of the women in this movie ...

Some have called it director Roberto Mauri’s best western. It often (literally) feels like a second-hand spaghetti western: the idea of the track through the desert - one man in possession of a gun, the other(s) in possession of water - was used before in Death Sentence; there’s a sultry scene with a girl and a guitar that is remisniscent of a scene featuring Daniella Giordano in Find a Place to Die, and the interlude with Pamela Tudor reminded me of the (in)famous widow sequence from The Big Gundown. But there are a couple of original (or semi-original) ideas as well, such as a deadly scorpion interfering in a gun duel and a collection of musical clockwork dolls, stolen by the brothers after slaughtering the doll maker.

The movie is a bit short on action but it has an eventful (if episodic) storyline and the beautiful women - the widow, the guitar player, the doll maker’s daughter and others - make up for the lack of excitement. Mauri even makes the best of the ugly-looking gravel pit passing for the valley from the title, using low angles to suggest the effect of the sun beating down on the wanderers, but he’s not helped by the weather conditions: most actors are wearing winter clothes and Aldo Berti is even wearing a Davy Crockett bonnet in the middle of the desert! The sparse gunplay is alright, but there’s a very odd scene in the beginning of the movie, with Berger being trapped in the middle of a town street, causing some explosions by simply shooting at the ground. What the hell was the idea behind this?

# An arrest and the death of Berger’s wife

The release of this movie almost coincided with an incident that - indirectly - caused the death of Berger’s wife. Read all about it on the William Berger actor page (scroll down to private life for a description of what happened):

Dir: Roberto Mauri - Cast: William Berger, Wayde Preston, Pamela Tudor, Aldo Berti, Franco De Rosa, Betsy Bell, Federico Boido, Franco Ressel, Luciano Pigozzi, Jolanda Modio - Music: Augusto Martelli

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Simon Gelten
Simon Gelten is a long time contributor to the SWDb. "I'm not as old as Tom B. but I'm working on it. I hope to catch up with him by the end of the next decade.", he says. Simon saw all movies by Sergio Leone and several by Sergio Corbucci in cinema, most of the time in Eindhoven, the city where he was born. Currently, Simon is living in Turnhout, Belgium. Simon is active within the database as both Scherpschutter and his alter ego Tiratore Scelto.
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