Once again directed by Gianfranco Parolini, the same man who gave us the first two films in the series, 1971's The Return Of Sabata sees Lee Van Cleef return to the title role after Yul Brynner stepped in to play the titular gunslinger in the first sequel, Adios Sabata.
When the movie begins, Sabata is hot on the trail of a group of counterfeiters. His chase brings him to the small town of Hobsonville which he soon learns is ruled with an iron first by a robber baron type named McIntock (Giampiero Albertini). He uses his cronies to strong arm the local populace into paying taxes promised to go toward infrastructure improvements that never seem to happen. Instead, it seems that the funds go towards lining McIntock's own pockets. Tisk tisk!
As luck would have it, an old friend of Sabata's named Clyde (Reiner Schone) just so happens to call Hobsonville home these days. When he fills the gunslinger in on what McIntock is up to, they decide that together they can outsmart McIntock and easily make what is his their own. Unfortunately, as they set about putting their plan into action, they quickly remember that they never really trusted one another all the much in the first place.
The weakest of the three Sabata pictures that Parolini was responsible for (like Django and Sartana the character name was used in quite a few unrelated Spaghetti Westerns to cash in on its success), The Return Of Sabata is pretty goofy stuff. Again, there is some pretty broad humor here and some weird gimmicks at work: Sabata using a miniature pistol small enough to hide in the palm of his hand, a pair of gun toting acrobats that shoot as they jump and spin, and a rather ridiculous shoot out that takes place on a seesaw of all things. The first two movies definitely did not lack in attempts at humor and broad comedy but this third film ramps up that aspect of the story in a big way and it isn't better for it.
In addition to taking a lot of the gags too far, the story is also pretty lacking here. Rather than try to do something more interesting with the character, Parolini (who not only directed but wrote the film and the two that came before it) is content to coast. Once again we see Sabata team up with some rascally types to con a rich, powerful and corrupt man out of some serious loot. Granted, this same formulaic story trope was also used in a lot of others Spaghetti Westerns but here it really is watered down to the part where it's just too simplistic to be all that interesting.
What the movie does have going for it is the presence of Lee Van Cleef. While he and Reiner Schone have about as much chemistry together as oil and water, Van Cleef's screen presence cannot be undersold, even if he's clearly wearing a toupee in certain scenes (yeah, it's painfully obvious, it's not even a good toupee). Van Cleef oozes cool. He's tough, he's charismatic and he carries the movie. It's his work in the lead role that makes this watchable. It never elevates it much beyond that, mind you, but as far as lower tier Spaghetti Westerns go, this is at least passable, dopey entertainment.The Blu-ray:
The Return Sabata arrives on Blu-ray in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 2.35.1 widescreen and it looks about the same as the other two Sabata Blu-ray releases that have come out from Kino. Some shots look a little on the soft side and there's some minor noise here, but overall this is an okay transfer if never reference quality. Detail in close ups benefit the most but medium and long distance shots improve here too. Black levels aren't quite reference quality but they are certainly solid enough and overall this high definition presentation surpasses the previous DVD from MGM in some very noticeable and appreciable way.Sound:
The English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track sounds fine. It's also the only option, there are no alternate languages or subs of any kind provided on the disc. Dialogue is pretty clear, easy enough to follow, while the score has a reasonable amount of depth to it. The sound effects, gun shots in particular, are a little bit thin sounding but the movie has always sounded like this on DVD and VHS before it so that's really not a shock. There are no issues with any hiss or distortion and the levels are properly balanced. This isn't a fancy track but it gets the job done.Extras:
Extras are slim here, limited to a trailer for the feature and a few bonus trailers. Menus and chapter selection are included.Final Thoughts:
The Return Sabata isn't a particularly good movie but Van Cleef diehards will appreciate seeing the man with the best stare in movie history doing his thing in the picture. There are a few decent actions scenes here but the humor is hockey and the story completely by the numbers. Not one for casual fans, but if you're in its target audience Kino's Blu-ray release, while lacking in the extra features department, at least looks and sounds decent enough. Recommended for those who know they like the movie, everyone else should rent it first.