Monday, December 17, 2007

14th December 2007: Trinity double #2

14th December 2007: TRINITY double #2!

Trinity Is Still My Name (1971)

If there was ever a western that begged a sequel, it was They Call Me Trinity: a perfect blend of knockabout comedy and Italian western satire, featuring the blonde-haired, blue-eyed trickster Terence Hill and the sheer brute force of a bearded and deadpan Bud Spencer. Trinity Is Still My Name was released barely a year later in 1971, and by then director Enzo Barboni (here listed as “E.B. Clutcher”) had worked out which elements to amplify, and as such Trinity Is Still My Name is a series of comic set-pieces very loosely strung together with a plot.

Terence Hill as the iconic Trinity emerges from the desert, on the same stretcher tied behind his horse and the same pair of soiled long-johns from the first film. He heads to the family homestead and meets up with his reluctant brother Bambino (Spencer) and the rest of their crusty family: Mom’s a hooker with a heart of gold, Dad, who’s constantly issuing sage advice from his death bed, wants his sons to be more successful career criminals. He forces Bambino to take Trinity under his wing – first thing Bambino does is make Trinity to get rid of his stretcher, so instead Trinity rigs up a recliner on the back of his saddle. They head into San Jose and, in perhaps the film’s most perfectly timed comic scene, swindle a mountain of cash from a local card shark. Leaving a swanky restaurant (another deliriously perfect scene) in their new $50 suits, they’re mistaken as federal agents, and when local slimeball Parker hands them $2000 each to “look the other way”, they certainly don’t correct him. Meanwhile every horse thief, cattle rustler and gunslinger is heading into town, and it seems they’re up to no good at the local Catholic mission, where the locals are beaten up by, quote, “drunken monks”.

It’s grubby and low-brow, and as intoxicating as the cloudy brown whisky everyone’s constantly guzzling. In between slapping and the cracking of skulls there’s eating, eating, and more eating, and remember, someone had to do the sound effects on top of this. Then there’s the running gags: the constant reappearance of Bud’s brain-dead victim from the start of the film, and watching their new $50 suits slowly disintegrate through the mud and the blood and the beer (apologies to Johnny Cash). Plus there’s the farting baby in the wagon full of settlers (and cute daughter played by Finnish beauty Yanti Somer); the Trinity boys attempt to rob them, and instead hand over most of their money over and over again. “Strangest pair of outlaws I’ve ever seen,” says the father, and he’s right. They’re also the most memorable pair of opposites in spaghetti westerns since Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef, and ultimately, with over 20 films together, even more successful.

With Trinity Is Still My Name the template’s set in concrete for all future Trinity pairings: Watch Out We’re Mad, I’m For The Hippopotamus, Who Finds A Friend Finds A Treasure… these broad Italian comedies defined a generation of kids my age who grew up in the backseat of a Seventies drive-in or glued to the family’s Betamax machine. I saw this film when I was a kid – now, over 25 years later, I wet myself as much as I remember. Maybe it’s a case of “you had to be there”, but then classic comedy is timeless, and there’s something enduring and endearing about the unlikely duo of Hill and Spencer. I hope you enjoy as much as I do the 1971 Trinity Is Still My Name.

It Can Be Done…Amigo (1972)

These days it’s almost impossible to think of Bud Spencer, if you think of him at all, without him being tied with a Siamese umbilical cord to Terence Hill. The truth is, Bud spent more time on screen without Hill as with him, and in the amiable spaghetti western romp It Can Be Done…Amigo from 1972, proves he can hold up his own (admittedly hefty) end without Angel Eyes.

Bud plays Horse thief Hiram Coburn aka Cobra, a rambling horsethief who just manages to stay one step away from the hangman’s noose – and there’s a few with his name on it. In hot pursuit of Cobra is Sonny Bronston (Jack Palance), a slimy pimp with a wagon load of itinerant prostitutes known in the trade as “Sonny’s Girls”, including his own sister Mary (Dany Saval), who he’s determined to marry off to Cobra and make an honest woman out of her – before shooting him.

Busting out of jail for the umpteenth time, Cobra stumbles on a wagon ambushed by bandits, and a dying lawyer who asks Cobra to take escort his nephew Chip to claim his inheritance. Sensing an easy score, Bud takes the young lad to Westland, where he holds the deeds to a dilapidated ranch on the outskirts of town. Ah, Westland a forgotten dustbowl where even the railroad companies neglected to put a line OUT of town. The entire townsfolk want the property – the reverend-turned-sheriff, his army of enterprising goons, even the local dirt salesman (don’t ask) - but the kid refuses to sell, as his uncle told him it holds the key to untold riches. Cobra suspects they’re sitting on a mountain of gold… or is it something else?

Like many of Bud’s solo outings he plays an unwitting foil to a smarmy kid. This one’s sneaky and quickwitted – he definitely has lawyer’s blood in his veins – but isn’t nearly as annoying as most Italian screen brats, and the developing father-son dynamic is quite touching (but not in a bad way, mind you). The grinning skull-like features of veteran bad guy Jack Palace are always a welcome sight in a spaghetti western, and he did a few; Bud may be Cobra, but Jack as Sonny is lower than snake poo, as the old saying goes, and twice as twisted, and as for his sister… What a nightmare, deluded as hell and with a hair-trigger temper to boot. Subtle the characters ain’t, but they’re memorable and well-drawn, and of course the film rests squarely on Bud’s broad shoulders, whose gruff “ox with a heart of gold” routine never wears thin. And when the spectacles go on, watch out! He’s mad!

It’s a footnote in the Trinity filmography but a worthy one, likeable AND instantly forgettable at the same time. Directed by journeyman Maurizio Lucidi from a story by exploitation stalwart Ernesto Gastaldi, it makes full use of the glorious wilderness around Almeria in Spain, and I’m sure Sergio Leone has filmed at that train station before! Say farewell, so long and hasta la plasta to the Trinity boys for a while at least as Schlock Treatment says: It Can Be Done…Amigo.

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