Adios, Sabata (DVD)

Yul Brynner replaces Lee Van Cleef in the title role for 1971’s Adios, Sabata, the second and best entry in producer Alberto Grimaldi’s spaghetti Western trilogy about the mysterious stranger with an unknown past and a penchant for righteousness, as long as there’s serious cash involved. While some fans will miss Van Cleef’s iconic performance, Brynner is just as good, even without the tongue-in-cheek attitude affected by the once and future Sabata (Van Cleef took over the part again for Return of Sabata, also released in ’71). In fact, with his all-black outfit (replete with open-necked, fringe-bedecked shirt and a ten-foot scarf draped over one shoulder) and gold-plated rifle (equipped with a machine gun-like clip that only enhances his jaw-dropping marksmanship), this is a very cool Yul indeed, notwithstanding a somewhat androgynous vibe (not that there’s anything strange about a gunslinger who plays Schubert on the piano, but…). What’s more, the film is several notches above both its predecessor (1969’s Sabata) and its successor in almost every way; it’s wittier, the editing and continuity are superior, the direction’s more assured (Gianfranco Parolini, aka Frank Kramer, helmed all three installments), the stunts are more convincing, and the action comes fast and furious (though the fighting scenes aren’t especially graphic, the body count is very high). Many of the same actors from the first one reappear here, albeit in different roles, and the story is formulaic–like Sabata, this one involves our hero and his trusty sidekicks attempting to relieve the bad guys of a load of loot that the villains stole in the first place. But Adios, Sabata also has a political element, insofar as the enemy, led by the truly evil Col. Skimmel (Gerard Herter), are occupying Austrians trying to suppress some noble Mexican revolutionaries fighting to keep their country free. As is the case with MGM’s DVD releases of all three Sabata movies, there are no bonus features. –Sam Graham
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