Sartana does not forgive Review

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Sartana does not forgive (Sartana non perdona/Sonora) - See Database Page

A Spanish-Italian co-production, with George Martin as a pseudo-Sartana tracking down a gang of outlaws, led by the cock-eyed Slim Kovacs, who raped and murdered his wife. While pursuing the bandit, Sartana runs into an old friend, Kirchner, a hired gun who (in his own words) 'always does what he is paid for' and who might - or might not - be interested in joining forces with him. Another player in this game of death, is a Mexican farmer José, who was duped and shot in the back by Kovacs and now wants to get even with the piece of vermin. In meantime Kovacs has joined a gang of Mexican cutthroats who have taken over a small town across the border, in order to intercept a gold transport ...

Martin’s character in this movie is an avenger, not a fortune seeker, and if he’s supposed to be a black-clad spaghetti western hero, he’s closer to the Django than to Sartana. It’s even more likely that he was modelled with Colonel Mortimer in mind, since the script seems to reshuffle various characters and situations from Sergio Leone’s For a Few Dollars More. The essential difference is that the black-clad avenger is now the younger man, while Roland’s middle-aged Kirchner is the arbiter overlooking the final confrontation between Sartana and Kovacs, a role fulfilled by the younger of the two bounty hunters in Sergio Leone’s movie. This final confrontation is by the way not your usual spaghetti western duel, but a rather bizarre variation on Russian roulette, involving two guns, one loaded with a real bullet, the other with a blank.

Some think this is Alfonso Balcazar’s best movie; it opens with a truly horrendous flashback, a soft-focus reverie, nearly completely filmed in slow-motion, of Sartana remembering his lost love, but the action picks up with the arrival of Roland and a scene in which he asks the undertaker to propose possible types of coffins to three men he’s about to shoot. Looking at the director’s records, Sonora is a surprisingly atmospheric and stylish movie. But if style and atmosphere are among its assets, the story-telling is a liability: some subplots are underdeveloped (what happened tot this gold transport?) and Rosalba Neri enters the movie for only one scene. José, the Mexican character duped by Kovacs, recovers mighty fast from what must have been a very serious injury: Sartana saves his life by removing the bullet from his back and takes him back home, more dead than alive, but the brave man catches up with him only a couple of days later, as fresh as a daisy!

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The film was released in Italy before Once upon a Time in the West, but according to Marco Giusti, it was made afterwards. As a madman, rapist and murderer Elam’s character is close to El Indo, but he’s dressed more like Frank. Elam has the ideal face to portray a vicious scumbag, but I couldn’t really picture him as the incarnation of evil. In the end Sonora/Sartana does not forgive is basically three tremendous faces in a so-so story, but the movie offers enough close-ups, zooms and ritual build-ups to create a spaghetti western atmosphere so thick you can almost taste it, as one viewer described it (*1). Being a Balcazar production, the outdoor scenes were shot in the North of Spain - the Fraha region - but the cinematography has all the sweatiness of a production filmed in the hot Almeria desert. The action scenes - including an incredible fall from a roof - are okay, but I don’t know what to think of this Russian roulette thing, the more so because it’s used twice: it’s a neat idea, but it works a little anti-climactic, especially during the film’s finale.


Special Note:

The decision to retitle the movie in some countries has caused confusion among critics and scholars. Giusti thinks Martin’s character was called Sonora in the original plans, but to my knowledge, Sonora is the name of a county in Mexico. I thought for a moment that the place taken by Elam and the Mexicans was called Sonora as well (maybe the capital of the region), but according to Giré it is called San Juan. Martin’s character is Sartana in the Italian language version, in the Spanish language version he’s called Uriah.

  • Marco Giusti, Dizionario del western all’italiana
  • Jean-François Giré, Il était une fois le western européen, p. 211

Dir: Alfonso Balcázar - Cast: George Martin, Gilbert Roland, Jack Elam, Tony Norton, Gérard Tichy, Donatella Turri, Rosalba Neri - Music: Francesco De Masi

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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