Return of Sabata (1971) – By Roger Carpenter


The last installment in the official Sabata Trilogy, Lee Van Cleef returns to reprise his role from the original film as Sabata, the “James Bond” of the post-Civil War west. As ridiculous and outlandish as the second film was, director and co-writer Gianfranco Parolini manages to up the outrageous quotient for this take on Sabata’s exploits.

Sabata has been robbed of $5,000 and makes his way to Hobsonville, a town fully owned by McIntock, a kind of robber baron who has instituted excessive taxes on the citizens in the name of making improvements and expanding the town. But the only thing expanding is McIntock’s own bank account. In rides Sabata who has followed fellow Civil War veteran and thief Clyde (Reiner Schone). But Sabata refuses to pay the exorbitant taxes (20% on luxury items and a whopping 50% for a whore), thus bringing down the ire of the pious but violent Irishman, McIntock (Giampiero Albertini). McIntock can’t stand violence so he surrounds himself by henchmen to do his bidding even as he looks away, clutching a jewel-encrusted gold cross and praying. But, as is typical of life in reality and in film, greed conquers all and McIntock will do anything to save his gold.

The basic formula remains the same even if the premise and the character’s names change. Clyde is a friendly rogue you can’t help but like, even if he is a loyalty-changing snake in the grass. Pedro Sanchez, who played the leader of the Mexican revolutionaries in Adios, Sabata, returns as a prominent character who helps Sabata defeat McIntock (as if there was ever any doubt to the outcome of this conflict). And, as with previous installments, the cast of supporting characters proves to be outlandish as well.

The film opens with a highly stylized and beautifully-colored scene that reminds one of Mario Bava’s generous use of colored lighting gels. Sabata works in a circus performing feats of gunslinging accuracy. When he leaves the circus in search of his stolen savings, some of the circus performers tag along. Their talent is creating trampolines of rubber straps, thereby allowing them to access bad guys posted at the tops of buildings and walls, as well as one who can shoot a slingshot using a huge rubber band attached to his feet. He pulls the band right to his crotch and lets fly, always hitting his target.

The shenanigans continue as Sabata searches for his missing money—and McIntock’s gold—with occasional forays into the town whore’s boudoir, which incites McIntock to no end with Sabata’s refusal to pay the local tax. Of course, Sabata isn’t going to pay because he has plenty of gadgets and tricks up his sleeve…and on the heel of his boot…and inside a drum…and under a table. Well, you get the point. The film’s purpose is less about plot and story and more about crazy set pieces that showcase Sabata’s ingenuity or the talents of his merry band of acrobats. The whole thing is essentially outrageous yet good, clean fun as the violence is limited to red paint on clothing while the characters’ language is stopped short of cursing by a well-placed, upbeat, quirky musical score. This is action for the matinee masses and never offends.

The Blu-Ray is astoundingly clear and exceptionally colorful, even more than the second film. This version is pristine and simply wonderful to look at. As with Adios, Sabata, this release is a bare-bones version with only a few trailers as an extra feature, but the film itself is a fun ride that is safe for the entire family and can be purchased at Amazon or directly through Kino-Lorber at