Boot Hill (1969)

(Cast: Terence hill, Bud Spencer, Woody Strode, Victor Buono, Lionel Stander, George Eastman, Luciano Rossi, Alberto Dell'Aqua, Neno Zamperla - Music: Carlo Rustichelli)

First things first: despite the presence of both Hill and Spencer, this is not a Trinity movie. Before these two actors became world famous as Trinity & Bambino, they acted together in three movies directed by Giuseppe Colizzi, in which they played friends, called Cat and Hutch. The films weren't comedies Trinity style, but (more or less) serious spaghetti westerns, and the two actors, although presented as friends, were not really used as a duo. It's a very loose trilogy so you don't have to worry about watching them in the wrong order. The three Colizzi movies (the other two being God forgives, I don't and Ace High) weren't very successful abroad, at least not when first released, but smash hits in Italy, and  probably the reason Enzo Barboni (E.B. Clucher) chose Hill and Spencer for his Trinity comedies. Former Olympic swimmer Spencer was a very limited actor (he always wanted to be dubbed by a voice actor in the Italian versions of his films), while Hill was a poor man's Franco Nero to most directors, and certainly not known for his talent for comedy, but the trilogy had made them box-office magnets stars in their homeland.

The opening scene of Boot Hill is very strong. Hill is stalked by several opponents outside a circus tent. Inside the tent acrobats are performing their dangerous show on the high wire and the flying trapeze. Cross-cutting between both actions, a strong feeling of menace is created. It's as if the wounded Hill is on a high wire too, in immediate danger of having a deadly fall. Hill finally manages to escape from his persecutors by climbing into one of the circus wagons. He is nursed back to health by the circus people, but his persecutors are still on his trail and when they enter the circus, one of the young acrobats is killed. Hill now teams up with the friend of the victim (Woody Strode) and his former buddy Hutch (Spencer) to face the perpetrators, a bunch of corrupt land grabbers, led by a man called Honey Fisher (Victor Buono, King Tut from the Batman series), who are chasing honest people from their properties.

Although the action scenes are competently staged, none of them equals the excellent opening scene. Ironically, this scene was not anticipated. Originally Colizzi would only write and produce the film, but he took over direction when Romolo Guerrieri was fired (for obscure reasons). Guerrieri had already shot most scenes inside the circus and Colizzi thought they were very good, but didn't know where to insert them in the movie, when suddenly he got the idea to cross-cut them with scenes of a wounded Hill, persecuted outside the circus tent. Being a rather straightforward and serious movie, Boot Hill (understandably) is a major disappointment to Trinity fans and therefore, on some blogs, ranked among the worst spaghetti westerns. On the other hand it has a small but devoted cult following, mainly among fans of the director. To me both the scorn and the praise seem undeserved. Boot Hill is flawed, but it's not a total misfire. The main problems are an underdeveloped mid-section, and a rather convoluted plot . Initially Hill is running from Fisher's men, but then, all of a sudden, he decides to start looking for them, and the about-face of his attitude is never really explained. The villain Honey Fisher has sent his men after him because Hill is in possession of a claim on a goldmine, but this story element is treated so vaguely, that many people who saw the movie, complained afterwards that they hardly had any idea what it was all about. There are also a lot of hints at homosexuality that seem all but subtle, notably during the scenes in which George Eastman is presented as Spencer's inmate. His name in the movie is "baby-doll", no less. Boot Hill also lacks a good villain. The fat and indolent Victor Buono might be a good villain for a Batman story, but spaghetti westerns need a showdown in the end, and when Hill and he finally meet face to face, nothing really happens. But if Buono is a drawback, Strode is an asset. This black American actor had a long career in his home country, but today he is most identified with his work overseas, in the first place of course the opening scene of Sergio Leone's Once upon a Time in the West. In Boot Hill he is both in great form and in great shape. It's hard to believe that he was 55 years old when he made this film. Another familiar face is the always reliable Lionel Stander, who was also in Leone's movie. The music by Carlo Rustichelli is very nice too. Boot Hill is not a top notch spaghetti western, but if you don't expect a Trinity-like comedy, it's a good pastime.

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