The Weight of the Hat

He wears his famous black hat and black cloak but is that all it takes to be Sartana? Decidedly not, as evidenced by 1969's I am Sartana, Your Angel of Death (Sono Sartana, il vostro becchino). The sequel to If You Meet Sartana Pray for Your Death, this tale of Sartana hunting down his imposter is less focused than its predecessor but still a lot of fun, in no small part because of a much bigger, more amusing role for Klaus Kinski.

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The opening credits feature a close-up of Sartana (Gianni Garko) doing card tricks—appropriate considering how much of the movie is about tricks, some cleverer than others. Sartana has his hands on a deck of cards more than once in the film, most effectively when he manages to surreptitiously swap the deck for a gun from the man guarding him.

Despite the straight forward premise, this film works a lot like a series of vignettes as Sartana drifts into rooms and sheriff stations, appearing suddenly to get the upper hand. As in the first film, there’s something more supernatural about this Spaghetti Western hero than any other. The Man with No Name, Django, and Ringo all have mystery and faintly sadistic guile, but Sartana tends more than any other to do things that are clearly impossible. My favourite in this film being when a gunman spots Sartana’s hat and cloak on a rack in a barber shop. The wouldbe killer scans the shop only to look back and see Sartana’s gotten the drop on him because the hat and cloak have transformed into the man himself.

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Kinski, who played a petty thug named Morgan in the first film, here plays a dangerous gunman called Hot Dead. He doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the bank robbers who’ve framed Sartana or the plot of the film in any other way. A scene of Hot Dead in a train car lazily foiling a card sharp but promising to “lose anyway” is presented without any apparent connexion to Sartana. When the two finally meet, Hot Dead maintains his intriguing tendency to show his skill before deliberately backing down. Kinki’s irrepressible natural energy makes this low energy character trait fascinating.

I am Sartana, Your Angel of Death is available on Amazon Prime.

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