Yul Brynner & Lee Van Cleef Tag-Team ADIOS, SABATA and RETURN OF SABATA

Quirky Spaghetti Western sequels hit Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics — Review with DVD Screen Comparisons

Sometimes history has a funny way of unfolding.

Western aficionados are of course familiar with the Yul Brunner-fronted The Magnificent Seven. Brynner returned for a sequel but was succeeded by George Kennedy in the role of frontier vigilante Chris Adams. For the fourth and final film The Magnificent Seven Ride, Lee Van Cleef stepped in.

While Van Cleef was taking over a role that Brynner had made famous, an ironic reversal was also taking place. Van Cleef’s quirky 1969 spaghetti western Sabata, produced by Alberto Grimaldi (of Leone’s Dollars Trilogy fame), proved to be something of a hit.

Spaghetti Western eponyms were parodied in Bob’s Burgers with “Banjo” — in actuality the name of a character in Sabata.

Italy has historically been a fertile ground for rampant IP infringement, and as with popular spaghetti western characters like Django, Trinity, and Sartana, Van Cleef’s Sabata was quickly hijacked into unauthorized sequels, mounting pressure to move quickly on an official one. With Van Cleef committed to Seven (or demanding too much money, depending on which version you hear), Grimaldi landed on another solution.


Yul Brynner was teamed with the producer and Sabata director Gianfranco Parolin on another spaghetti western called Indio Black. In the wake of Sabata’s success, it was hastily retooled as a Sabata tale and is considered the second film of the trilogy, though oddly its Italian release retained the Indio Black moniker.

Perhaps because of its different genesis, it is the least interesting of the Trilogy. It’s also unsurprisingly the most off-brand. Yul Brynner is definitely a badass, but he plays the role more stoically, without Van Cleef’s sly smile and wily sense of mischief.

The story is standard stuff — a cruel and oppressive Austrian occupational presence is headed up by Colonel Skimmel, a devious and morally deficient commanding officer. Sabata and his revolutionary partners plot to steal a horde of gold from the Austrians, only to find that the Colonel has beaten them to the punch.

The series’ affinity for cool gadgetry is indulged here with Sabata’s unique multi-shot rifle and the Colonel’s novel method of execution, a contraption hidden within his office’s decor. The sequel also continues to establish the throughline of an untrustworthy ally who may or may not be a dirty double-crosser, and features a handful of returning actors in new roles.

While probably the low point for the franchise, it’s still pretty entertaining and a cut above most of the nameless and little-remembered Italian westerns that were churned out during this era.


Van Cleef returned for the character’s trilogy closer, and he’s clearly more at home with the material than the awesome but misplaced Brynner.

Another movie, another town. Sabata quickly makes his presence known — he outright refuses to pay their outrageous taxes. The townsfolk resent him immediately — those taxes are earmarked to to build out their ambitious expansion plan and really put them on the map. Sabata knows better, of course. The duplicitous baron in charge of their urban planning project is stealing the money and will soon make his exit with their combined wealth.

Van Cleef’s smarmy charisma is on full display here and adds a sense of fun that was missing in Adios. He’s always one step ahead of everyone else and not particularly humble about it, calling out the bad guys and demonstrating his formidable gunplay skills at every opportunity.

The cast once again includes a bunch of recurring actors from the prior films, and the unusual gadgets make a return as well. Sabata brandishes a couple of different concealable specialty pistols, but that’s nothing next to his acrobatic allies, one of whom straps a rubber cord to his feet to turn himself into a deadly projectile weapon.

Ah, that old spaghetti western staple — the POV human slingshot.

Return Of Sabata is at times downright silly, yet unquestionably entertaining, and a culmination of the offbeat style of the series. By this time the genre was definitely waning, but it’s interesting to imagine how absurd future entries might have become.

The Packages

Kino Lorber Studio Classics has released both Adios, Sabata and Return Of Sabata on Blu-ray, following up their prior release of the original Sabata. Both packages feature reversible artwork.

Visually, the new Blu-rays handily trounce MGM’s earlier 2006 DVD Trilogy box set. The clarity and attention to grain are a big improvement. Additionally, the DVDs were interlaced and exhibited combing effects.

Disappointingly though, neither of the new discs has subtitles (a downgrade from the MGM DVDs).

Adios, Sabata — Old DVD
Adios, Sabata — New Blu-ray
Return Of Sabata — Old DVD
Return Of Sabata — New Blu-ray

The discs don’t have much in the way of extras. Each includes a different trailer gallery, with all three Sabata trailers appearing on both.

Special Features and Extras — Adios, Sabata

Theatrical Trailers
File Of The Golden Goose (2:37)
Invitation To A Gunfighter (2:14)
Kings Of The Sun (3:43)
Sabata (1:37)
Adios, Sabata (2:04)
Return Of Sabata (2:08)

Special Features and Extras — Return Of Sabata

Theatrical Trailers
Barquero (2:36)
Sabata (1:37)
Adios, Sabata (2:04)
Return Of Sabata (2:08)

Parting Thoughts:

The Sabata sequels continued to build on the franchise’s quirky traits: tons of gadgets, shifty allies, acrobatic stuntwork, and a stable of recurring cast members.

I watched all three Sabata films about ten years ago and while I recalled liking them, I have to admit that I forgot them entirely. Having watched them again, I find this both surprising and understandable — while not always great, these movies are pretty wild. They exhibit a lot of quirky gimmicks and characters and a bit of comedy, but at their core the stories are common, forgettable western fare. The recycling of actors and plot points also makes them a bit difficult to differentiate, and they start to blur together, especially if watched in quick succession.

A/V Out.

Except where noted, all 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the disc(s) in question with no editing applied, but may have slight compression inherent to file formats. All package photography was taken by the reviewer.

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