Yul Brynner is the lead, following Lee Van Cleef, in the second movie of the Sabata trilogy. It was made in Rome's Cinecittá Studios. As such, it is difficult not to discern European elements, as well as certain sequences that are, to a degree, copied from other films, known to us, colloquially, as Spaghetti Westerns. In general, these movies are pure machismo, unapologetic about grossing out both eye and ear. But this one stays within reasonable bounds, at least in comparison to what it might have been, produced and directed by the venal search for a more vulturous audience. In fact, the result is somewhat picaresque, as Sabata, in league with four others, whose malicious talents vary widely, hunt a stash of gold, meant to be turned into revolutionary arms.
Revolution has differing connotations, depending upon how it is contextualized. In this version, it has to do with Mexican freedom from European intervention -- something possibly intended for American audiences on which to chew. The Austrian Emperor, Maximilian, is defended by Colonel Skimmel, who systematically executes poor Mexicans. He shoots them in the back as they make a fatal run for it. He is the bad guy for sure, but the contrast between good and bad is blurred by the fact that almost every character is into the killing game. The only difference has to do with who they shoot, knife, or bludgeon. Targets might be rotten or redeemable. This off-beat brand of the western genre allows for a great amount of diversity, and variations on a theme. Thus, Skimmel can take a sip of soup -- back straight, head up -- and then say, "traitors should be shot in the back." Someone else, as though from opera buffa, looking high brow and effete, remarks on the bad smell of others, less manicured and tailored, at a bar, before being the recipient of a deadly rebuke: gunplay and hijinks over the top.
The filmmakers are footloose and fancy free, unconstrained by convention, when it comes to cinematography or audience expectations. In one scene, the screen "spins" like a cartoon, a psychological comment on how crazed men get at the very thought of gold. This sequence includes an extreme close-up of an eye, together with lots of rapturous excitement. There is always at least one spot in a film such as this when it looks as though the jig is up, which is the case when three, including Sabata, are lined up in front of a firing squad, commanded by Metternich, another Teutonic martinet like Skimmel. Although Escudo, who is a loyal revolutionary, can be trusted, it seems unlikely that any of the additional misfits are apt to recall "the cause" after the gold is located. Only Ballantine, whom Escudo calls Blondito, knows where it is, and he does not hide his greed. On several occasions he attempts to cut a 50-50 deal with Sabata.
There is also bad blood, personally, between Sabata and Col. Skimmel. Once, in Louisville, of all places, Skimmel lost to Sabata in a marksmanship contest. But these kinds of setups are familiar enough. Still, they work as well as can be expected. And the presence of a true Hollywood star helps move the plot ever onward. Adios, Sabata is probably not everybody's favorite choice when shopping for dvds or downloads, but it is far from a loser, judged in its own terms, among its own kind. It could even be re-done, by anybody so inclined.