For the longest time, some of the greatest products of the western genre have been notoriously difficult to find in the UK, with many out of print on DVD and never released on Blu-ray. However, in recent years, Eureka! have been righting this wrong and releasing some of the greatest and some of the most underrated westerns in the UK. Movies such as Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dynamite, John Ford’s Straight Shooting & Hell Bent as well as the upcoming release of Sergio Corbucci’s The Great Silence. But now is the release of The Sabata Trilogy, the iconic spaghetti western trilogy released on Blu-ray for the very first time in the UK.
The trio of films packaged within Eureka’s latest release come in the shape of Sabata, Adiós Sabata and Return of Sabata. The first and third of which both star western legend Lee Van Cleef as the titular character, with the second film featuring Yul Brynner as Sabata.
The extras within the box set are admittedly a little weak, featuring your bog standard audio commentaries, trailers and still galleries. Of course, these special features are not necessarily bad, more just that they are the least one would expect from a Blu-ray release. What must be applauded is the inclusion of video essays on each film. Eureka seems to be one of the few companies including video essays in their releases and it truly does add some prestige and importance to both video essays and those making them. A smart move from the company, one that does seem as though they may be ahead of their peers in that respect.
As for the trilogy itself the three films are inexhaustibly fun and the imagery looks gorgeous; brilliant cinematography and great use of costumes. Each film does seem to lose a little bit of that something that made its predecessor as good as it was – although the middle picture, Adiós Sabata, may be the best looking of the three – but there is a reason that the Sabata movies are up there with the likes of famed Spaghetti Western series’ such as the Dollars trilogy as well as the Django and the Sartana series’ and that is because of the character. The character of Sabata, similar to the likes of western heroes of the above mentioned movies, is tough, charismatic, insanely cool, impeccably dressed, and merciless. An iconic western character if ever there was one. The above list is essentially the five must-haves for any archetypal spaghetti western hero.
It is because of this archetypal main character that the first Sabata film is as good as it is. Lee Van Cleef simply embodies the character and, although the film is great within its own right, featuring brutal and gory action, Cleef is its greatest selling point.
That being said, the replacement of Lee Van Cleef to Yul Brynner for the sequel is definitely a misstep in the trilogy. As mentioned before, Cleef embodies the character. His cold glaze and his cool demeanor make him the perfect leading man to play the merciless killer, whereas Brynner seems more of a heroic John Wayne in Stagecoach kind of cowboy. Due to this, the change in actors makes it harder to watch Adiós Sabata as a Sabata flick, seeming more like one of the rip off Sabata pictures released around the same time. Brynner is a strong leading man and is himself a legend of the genre, but Sabata he is not. This, coupled with a poor execution of an already weak plot, means that there is a lot left to be desired in Adiós Sabata.
When Cleef returns for Return of Sabata, it does feel as though things are back to the height of the series. Cleef certainly does carry the third and final release of the trilogy, but there is no denying that by this stage the trilogy has fallen far from what once made it great. All of the ingredients are there; Lee Van Cleef, terrific action, brutal gore, and yet something is missing. Perhaps the only way to describe it is the law of diminishing returns. Sabata was terrific but with the misfire that was Adiós Sabata, this sequel has to fight to gain back its audiences love and attention. It manages to gain back a little but things are never quite on the same level, though it certainly tops Brynner’s turn as the titular character.
Though the trilogy as a whole is far from perfect – with one terrific western, one misfire and one okay movie – The Sabata Trilogy is not inherently a must-have. However, the first picture alone is a must see for Western fans and the other two movies of the trilogy have their strong moments for sure.
Eureka’s latest release may not be a must have but it is not necessarily a bad investment. Buyers are sure to get their money’s worth through enjoyment alone.
The Sabata Trilogy is now available to buy on Blu-ray in the UK