Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Boot Hill

La collina degli stivali; Western, Italy, 1969; D: Giuseppe Colizzi, S: Terence Hill, Woody Strode, Bud Spencer, Eduardo Cianelli, Glauco Onorato, Victor Buono

The Wild West, 19th Century. Cowboy Cat Stevens is persecuted by a mysterious gang led by criminal Finch. Wounded, he hides inside a wagon of a traveling circus. He is found by Thomas, an African American trapeze artist who becomes his friend. A couple of members of the gang intercept a caravan, but Thomas shoots them. Cat figures what is going on: he was given a share of land in a goldmine town, but the permit has to be renewed every year, so the mayor there, Fisher, supported by Finch, has the goal to either force or kill every land owner to give up their share of land to him. Finding reinforcement in the large Hutch and his pal Babydoll, they organize a play in the circus that exposes Fisher's dirty game. They kill his gang and leave him to the people.

The first three films with which Terence Hill and Bud Spencer started their careers were completely different than the last 14 which ended them. Since Hill and Spencer demonstrated exceptional comic chemistry from the 70s onwards, Giuseppe Colizzi's western "Boot Hill" retroactively gained a negative backlash for showing the duo in a serious edition. He discovered them, but not in the formula that the public loved. Precisely because it is always necessary to have an open mind in a retrospect of films which are unpopular for being "out of character", "Boot Hill" gained cult status and needs to be seen. Surprisingly, it is a quality Italian western with a heavy Leone influence (huge close ups of faces; stylish details like the gang of outlaws slowly descending from a hill to the circus caravan or a flying ant leaving a streak after walking through blood on a hot stone) that blends "Once Upon a Time in the West", just replacing the cause of greed, the railroad, with a goldmine, and a traveling circus. Hill is serious, but completely natural throughout the film, whereas Spencer shows up some 40 minutes into the film, playing his pal Hutch, and manages to 'squeeze' a few moments of humor, mostly in the semi-serious fist fight towards the finale. A few of Colizzi's directorial interventions are also quite clever, like in the sequence where the greedy mayor and his whole gang attend the circus show while the protagonists deliberately place a "Hamlet" like act that exposes his dirty game: an actor who plays a man who finds gold in sand is slapped a dozen times by another actor playing a outlaw to force him to hand it over to him, and in doing so the film shows a montage of all the real cowboys who were slapped by the real outlaws, which all contribute to a good, never excessive film.


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