In this first sequel to the hit spaghetti western If You Meet Sartana Pray for Your Death (1968), the North Western Bank lures potential investors by hiring a crack team of bounty hunters to safeguard their money. But no bank vault is safe from a gang of desperados led by that black-clad man of mystery, Sartana. He and his outlaws make of with the loot and soon every gunslinger and sharp-shooting hired killer in the west is on Sartana's trail. Problem is, Sartana (Gianni Garko) is not the man responsible. Understandably irked at being framed by an impostor, Sartana and his ragged sidekick Buddy Ben (Frank Wolff) set out to investigate whilst dodging bullets from such colourfully-monikered murderers as Hot Dead (Klaus Kinski) and Degueyo (Gordon Mitchell).
After series originator Gianfranco Parolini bailed out to direct Sabata (1969), Giuliano Carnimeo stepped in and stuck with the series through the next three sequels. Carnimeo lightens the tone somewhat and also changes the Sartana character away from the spectral avenger of the first movie into a sort of Houdini-like illusionist and trickster. This anticipates his increasingly over-the-top later adventures that would showcase ever more outlandish death-dealing gadgets, although here Sartana relies primarily on his trusty trick-shooting derringer. Gianni Garko breezes through the action with his usual, amiable nonchalant cool, but also relishes his increased amount of interaction with accomplished thespians like Klaus Kinski and Frank Wolf. Former sword and sandal star Gordon Mitchell is sadly given short shrift as someone just there to take a bullet from Sartana, but Kinski plays memorably against type as an affable bounty hunter whose day job funds his gambling habit. You are never entirely sure whether he is friend or foe and with Kinski that's always a good thing.
Of all the Sartana movies, this one comes the closest to being like a detective story, an intriguing new direction for the spaghetti western genre, with Sartana and Buddy Ben cast as a wild west Holmes and Watson. However, the plot proves as tortuous to navigate as its predecessor with the early stages somewhat episodic and sluggish in parts. Carnimeo and his cinematographer Giovanni Bergamini handle the action sequences with great flair utilizing fluid and often ingenious camerawork, but throughout proceedings viewers are left constantly waiting for things to kick into high gear. As before with Sartana, this has ideas and atmosphere by the bucket loads but no real sense of how to use them. Music is credited to Vasco & Mancuso a.k.a. Vassili Kojucharov and Elsio Mancuso and, like the rest of the movie, is agreeable without being inspired. Next up was Have a Good Funeral, My Friend... Sartana Will Pay (1970).