Tuesday, June 29, 2010

In short: Light The Fuse…Sartana Is Coming (1971)

aka Cloud Of Dust…Cry Of Death…Sartana Is Coming

The gunman Sartana (Gianni Garko) and his organ come into one of these deadly, corrupt Old West towns. First item on Sartana's agenda is to kill three members of the local army of corrupt sheriffs and deputies, and turn himself into the local penitentiary for the deed.

Of course, this is part of a harebrained scheme of Sartana's to bust an old buddy out of prison. Granville (Piero Lulli), as the man is called, is held captive by evil Sheriff Manassas because Manassas thinks he knows the hiding place of five-hundred thousand dollars in gold that have disappeared during a highly illegal transaction between the Sheriff's brother, Granville's partner, and a follower of the local bandit general Monk (Jose Jaspe).

Stupid as his plan may be, Sartana breaks his friend out without much of a problem. Granville professes not to know anything about the gold or the murders connected to it, so Sartana decides to send him off to safety, and make his own way to town to see if he can't find out where the gold is hidden.

Sartana's job is not going to be easy. He will have to juggle quite a few different factions, the widow of the dead Manassas brother (Susan Scott/Nieves Navarro), the "best gunman in the west", a mysterious killer wearing gloves, a shady one-eyed character and assorted armed thugs. Fortunately, our hero is rather clever, the best gunman in the west without ironic quotation marks, and owns a very interesting secret weapon that will make Django intensely envious.

Light the Fuse is supposed to be the best of Giuliano Carnimeo's Sartana films, and this might very well be the case.

As is the case with other of Carnimeo's movies I've seen, this one too suffers a bit from being a light piece of fluff that doesn't want to really engage with the darker sides of humanity or the political themes the Sergios of the Spaghetti Western often liked to ponder. That doesn't mean the darker sides of humanity aren't in here at all. In fact there's torture, betrayal and untrustworthiness in spades, and the film's body count must lie at about fifty people, but Carnimeo treats it all as a lark, avoiding any attempts to make an emotional impact above the feeling of "fun".

Luckily, I am able to cope with a film that doesn't want to take sociopathy and mass murder seriously, especially when it is so hell-bent on being entertaining as Light The Fuse is. Carnimeo ensures that there is never a dull moment on screen. When Sartana isn't in one of the film's rather inventive shoot-outs, he might very well be seen pole-vaulting onto the back of his horse or using a little mechanical Indian as a booby trap. The film's certainly not afraid of silliness, but utilizes it with such a well developed sense of timing that it never feels preposterous, but rather delightful. If you want to call an organ that moonlights as a cannon and a machine gun delightful, that is.

An abundance of shady and slightly bizarre characters - all well played by the usual suspects - helps keep the film's pacing up and the action varied. While there's never a deep or moving moment on screen, there's also never a dull one.

Add to that Carnimeo's sprightly, zoom-loving direction and a nearly absurdly typical Spaghetti Western soundtrack by Bruno Nicolai, and you have yourself an excellent ninety minutes of fun.


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