The spaghetti Western was home to several familiar characters. Best known is certainly Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name but there were also Django, Sartana, Trinity and a handful of others scattered across dozens of films. One of the most memorable was Sabata; even though he was only featured in three films they made a strong impression and The Return of Sabata (1971) was the culmination of the series.
Let's start with the unusual story: Former Rebel soldier Sabata (Lee Van Cleef) now works as a circus stunt rider. When the circus pulls into a podunk town, Sabata encounters an acquaintance who still owes him $5,000. Naturally he's not going to let this debt go unpaid but Sabata also learns that the town's owner has heavily taxed the citizens for "improvements" that seem to end up in the corrupt official's pocket. This little revelation inspires Sabata to take matters into his own hands.
This was the third and final Sabata film and actually the second that same year (Yul Brynner played the character in Adios, Sabata) though it only became a Sabata film during the dubbing. All three were directed by veteran Gianfranco Parolini (sometimes under the pseudonym Frank Kramer). Lee Van Cleef returned in the role of Sabata. Van Cleef was a former accountant turned second-tier actor throughout the 50s, never breaking out of supporting bad guy roles. He'd more or less retired when Sergio Leone remembered Van Cleef from such films as High Noon (1952) and decided to cast him in For a Few Dollars More (1966). (The story is that Leone flew to the California desert with a suitcase of money when offering the part.) Van Cleef soon became a big spaghetti Western star in films like Death Rides a Horse (1968) (airing on TCM on June 16 at 2:00 am ET). He was always very professional (Leone remarked that Van Cleef always showed up on time with his lines memorized) and starred in numerous other films until his death in 1989. By the way, if Raynor Scheine (as Clyde) also looks a bit familiar, it's because he has been seen recently in such films as Book of Shadows: Blair Witch Project 2 (2000), My Cousin Vinny (1992) and even a Babylon 5 TV movie - In the Beginning (1998). Return of Sabata is listed as his film debut.
Producer: Alberto Grimaldi
Director: Gianfranco Parolini
Screenplay: Renato Izzo, Gianfranco Parolini
Production Design: Luciano Puccini
Cinematography: Sandro Mancori
Costume Design: Claudio De Santis
Film Editing: Salvatore Avantario
Original Music: Marcello Giombini
Principal Cast: Lee Van Cleef (Sabata), Raynor Scheine (Clyde), Giampiero Albertini (McIntock), Ignazio Spalla (Bronco), Annabella Incontrera (Maggie).
By Lang Thompson