The Sabata Trilogy – Review
By Sarah Morgan
More than 600 European westerns – now dubbed Spaghetti westerns – were made during the genre’s heyday, which ran from 1960 to the late-1970s.
Only a handful remain popular in the UK and the US today. Sergio Leone’s Dollars trilogy, starring Clint Eastwood, overshadows them all, but there are other notable additions, including another Leone offering, Once Upon a Time in the West, Sergio Corbucci’s Django and the two Trinity movies.
Whether The Sabata Trilogy deserves to be added to that list is open for debate. It begins with 1969’s Sabata, starring Lee Van Cleef as the titular anti-hero. The actor was, of course, no stranger to the genre, having starred in the last two entries in the aforementioned Dollars trilogy.
Sabata is a mysterious gunslinger who arrives in a lawless town where he proceeds to bring the ruthless local money-grabbing businessmen down a peg or two.
Van Cleef was unavailable to make the sequel, Adios Sabata, in 1970, so Yul Brynner stepped in, wearing pretty much the same outfit he donned as both Chris in The Magnificent Seven and the relentless robot in Westworld.
This time, Sabata is hired by a group of Mexican revolutionaries to rob an Austrian garrison of its gold so they can use it to buy weapons. However, the leader of the garrison, the brutal Colonel Skimmel, has other ideas…
Finally, Van Cleef returns for the aptly titled Return of Sabata, originally released in 1971, in which the character sets out to take revenge on a baron who stole his money.
There are echoes of Leone’s work throughout all three films, from Sabata himself, a steely-eyed man of few words, just like the character played by Eastwood in the Dollars trilogy, to the use of a musical watch as a plot device.
Deaths pop up seemingly every few minutes too, which apparently upset some critics of the day, although the violence in places is more cartoon-like than gruesome.
The first film is undoubtedly the best, with the last by and large forgettable. It feels as if director Gianfranco Parolini, credited here as Frank Kramer, had run out of ideas, so it comes as no surprise to learn that no further Sabata movies were made, despite their popularity at the Italian box office.
Van Cleef is always watchable and perhaps enjoyed playing a more heroic figure than usual, but it’s Brynner who really stands out. I for one would have liked to have seen him lead his own Spaghetti western franchise.
‘The Sabata Trilogy’ is released on Blu-ray by Eureka, £39.99