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Monday, July 12, 2010

Assorted Bits & Pieces: A Spaghetti Western Favorite Passes Away

Aldo Sambrell in one of, if not his most evil role as Duncan in NAVAJO JOE (1966)

I came home this afternoon and made a little time to read some of the posts from my blog roll and came upon some additional saddening news. Straight from the excellent blog, SPAGHETTI CINEMA, I learned that the great Italian character actor, Aldo Sambrell, 79, has passed away on July 10th, 2010 apparently from complications brought on by a stroke. Reportedly, it was said he would be able to return home, but as fate would have it, he would remain bedridden in an Alicante, Spain hospital where he would spend his last moments with his wife, Candida, by his side.

Sambrell (left) next to Gian Maria Volonte from FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE (1965)

Sambrell was an actor of some repute in his home country of Spain. Fans of spaghetti westerns and Italian cinema in general are very familiar with his name and his most interesting face which was featured in Sergio Leone's 'Dollars' trilogy among some 170 credits. I remember him best from his various spaghetti westerns where he excelled as villains, but did play a good guy role here and there. He also got to display a comedic side in the lighthearted Euro western, BAD MAN'S RIVER (1971) starring Lee Van Cleef and directed by Eugenio (HORROR EXPRESS) Martin.

Aldo played one of the good guys during the opening siege sequence from A BULLET FOR THE GENERAL (1966)

Sambrell played a good guy during the taut and violent opening train sequence of Damiano Damiani's major classic Zapata western, A BULLET FOR THE GENERAL (1966). Here, Aldo played Lieutenant Alvaro Ferreira who desperately tries to save a train carrying weapons and civilians which has been surrounded by a Mexican bandit gang. They have also blocked the train from moving by chaining Alvaro's superior to the tracks a short distance ahead allowing the gang to pick off Alvaro's men with ease.


Continuing with his westerns, he played Zachary Chase, Solomon Bennet's (played by Tomas Milian) subordinate who turns on him in Sergio Sollima's seminal political spaghetti western classic, FACE TO FACE (1967). There were many other SW roles for the ambitious actor who worked with all three of the titanic Triumvirate, the Three Sergios--Leone, Sollima and most importantly in my eyes, Corbucci.

Duncan scalps a beautiful Indian woman at the beginning of Sergio Corbucci's ultra violent, NAVAJO JOE (1966)

Duncan (Sambrell; left) confronts NAVAJO JOE (Reynolds) during the bloody finale

It was with Corbucci that Aldo Sambrell got the biggest, meatiest and most violent role of his career (at least out of everything I've seen him in) in the Dino De Laurentiis Italian-Spanish co-production of NAVAJO JOE (1966). Here, Sambrell (billed as Aldo Sanbrell) played Duncan, the nasty halfbreed Mexican bandit chief who butts heads with the title character played by Burt Reynolds. Sambrell's character is one of the most sadistic and unsavory SW villains. Sambrell also featured in a smaller capacity in Corbucci's HELLBENDERS (1967), one of the directors best works.

Aldo as Kamir (middle) alongside stuntman/actor Giovanni Cianfriglia (Ken Wood) from SUPERARGO & THE FACELESS GIANTS (1968)

This special actor also counted fantasy films among his repertoire with roles in films such as SUPERARGO & THE FACELESS GIANTS (1968), the sequel to the enjoyable SUPERARGO VS. DIABOLICUS (1966). In the sequel, Sambrell plays Kamir, the Arabic sidekick to Euro cinema mainstay, Ken (Giovanni Cianfriglia) Wood. Kamir teaches Superargo new abilities such as levitation and mind control.

Aldo Sambrell as Omar in THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1974)

Sambrell also had small roles in American movies like CANNON FOR CORDOBA (1970) and his role as Omar, one of Sinbad's ship hands in the classic fantasy spectacular, THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1974).

Omar survives the battle with Kali, but apparently his death scene at the hands of the giant cyclopean centaur had to be cut. His character simply disappears during the conclusion

In the latter, Sambrell makes it to the end, but his death scene at the hands of the giant one eyed centaur has mysteriously been cut out of the film. One minute he's preparing to fight with the others, the next shot, he's seen lying motionless behind some rocks.

From left to right: Aldo Sambrell, Klaus Kinski, Mario Brega, Lee Van Cleef & an unidentified actor

Duncan ruthlessly and brutally guns down a man and his wife. He puts more bullets into the woman after she's already dead

The world of cinema has lost yet another memorable and prolific personality. Aldo Sambrell was one of the most recognizable and welcome faces in Italian sagebrush sagas and his career spanned many more genres. Riding off into the sunset, he leaves behind many portrayals that European film fans will remember for years to come.


Sean M said...

I'm very sad to hear the news of Sambrell passing away and that's a excellent orbitary Brian.

He was one of the classic sw heavies,arguably as important to the genre as the star names.

venoms5 said...

Thanks, Sean. I must say I had seen GOLDEN VOYAGE more than several times before I ever realized he was in it! It must have been the shaven head. However, I wonder why his death scene is omitted? Must have been deemed too violent, I suppose.

Turnidoff Productions said...

He was my favorite bit parter next to Mario Brega. Now I have to see Golden Voyage of Sinbad again. It's been like 25 years since the last viewing.

venoms5 said...

Wow, 25 years. Yes, I'd say it's time to revisit that one. Great film! One of my favorites.

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