The so-called "spaghetti westerns" are not everyone's cup of tea, but I like them and the film "Adios Sabata" of 1971 stands out in many ways. The film was directed by Gianfranco Parolini, produced by Alberto Grimaldi and stars Yul Brynner as "Sabata". It was not made to be a sequal to the previous "Sabata" movie starring Lee Van Cleef but was so popular in Europe and so similar that it was re-packaged as one with the Brynner's character (originally named Indio Black) being renamed "Sabata". Filmed in Spain it is set in the Second Mexican Empire with a focus on the Austrian Corps. In fact, so little of the French is seen in this movie one would be tempted to think it was the Austrians who had conquered Mexico. Like most, if not all, of these movies, the imperialistas are definitely portrayed as the 'bad guys' and the Juaristas as the heroes. Like most Maximilian is not seen (other than his portrait) and like most the uniforms are all wrong, the weapons totally wrong and so on, but things like that (like Maximilian's army having gatling guns!) have to be put aside because almost every movie of this period have these same mistakes each and every time.
Yul Brynner is Sabata, a soldier of fortune who his hired by the Juaristas to steal a treasure in gold from the Austrian Colonel Skimmel (played by Gerard Herter) who is the drippingly evil villain of the movie. He has a colorful gang of Mexican revolutionaries to assist him as well as a 'wild card' American named Ballantine (played by Dean Reed). The gold is then supposed to be taken to Kingsville, Texas to buy guns for the revolutionary cause -though that sort of gets lost in the shuffle at times. Colonel Skimmel is no easy prey however, being a very shifty fellow himself, who may have his own designs on the treasure purportedly for the cause of Maximilian. There is a lot of action in the movie, a lot of intrigue and a little humor, mostly from the character of Escudo, played very well by Ignazio Spalla.
There are alot of twists and turns, many of them unnecessary in all honesty, but it does keep you guessing, keep you paying attention and it's all in good fun anyway. Some aspects do get pretty close to crossing the line of absurdity though. Sabata's costume makes him look like some sort of 70's frontier version of Elvis, "Septiembre" (Sal Borgese) killing people by flinging balls off the toe of his boot was a bit absurd and I thought the 'Flaminco dance of death' which happens two or three times was a bit on the silly side. I'm sorry but I cannot conjure up feelings of dread when someone is dancing the Flaminco -maybe it's just me. The Austrian spies should probably not be shamed too much for constantly failing considering that they all have blonde hair and wear black frock coats and black bowler hats walking around northern Mexico -sort of stick out like sore thumbs. Just to make sure you know who the bad guy is and that he is an Austrian they put them all in white tunics and give the colonel a Franz Josef-style set of whiskers and a monacle for good measure. The feel of the movie is very spaghetti western in the sound, the score, the setting and so on; if you don't like the genre be forewarned!
There is not a whole lot of character development, but if there were it would take away from the constant surprises or near surprises -you never know who you can trust in this movie. Again, given that these movies always portray the side I prefer as the 'bad guys' I still like it and find it a fun, entertaining movie -though I am a sucker for spaghetti westerns and any film set in Maximilian's Mexico. Others might be inclined to be less kind and though I wish I could try to unravel the plot, it would be impossible to do so without giving alot a way. As far as I know this is the only "Max Mex" western to feature the Austrians. This was good at least for a change (they get nothing at all 'right' about them) but given that and the number of films that feature the French as the bad guys I am still watching and waiting for a movie to show the little Belgian Legion in a prominent role. Anyway, that's "Adios Sabata" in a nutshell and there will be more reviews to come in this series on the movies dealing with Maximilian's Mexico. Adios!