Wednesday, July 30, 2008

They Call Me Trinity

Lo chiamavano Trinità; western comedy, Italy, 1970; D: E.B. Clucher, S: Terence Hill, Bud Spencer, Farley Granger, Steffen Zacharias, Elena Pedemonte, Gisela Hahn

Trinity is the fastest gun drawer in the West. He is an honest citizen who travels on a travois that is dragged by his horse and thus arrives at a saloon where he liberates an innocent Mexican from some bounty hunters. Trinity then arrives at his brother Bambino and discovers he presents himself as the Sheriff of the town because he wounded the real one and thus waits for his friends the bandits. Although Bambino is himself a bandit, he still decides to join Trinity and fight against the evil tycoon Harriman who plans to chase away the peaceful Mormon farmers and their representative Tobias out of the valley. Bambino hires Trinity as his assistant and they beat up and chase away Harriman and his bandits. Then he escapes from the real Sheriff and Trinity follows him.
Out of 17 films in which Terence Hill and Bud Spencer starred in together in their careers, "They Call Me Trinity" is probably their best since it was their first milestone that established all the standards for their future comic films, proving they have a special humorous chemistry that works better than in their serious films like "Boot Hill". This covert parody of "Rio Bravo" is directed by E.B. Clucher with a simple and energetic hand, offering humor that combines both for the subtle and the broad, yet, unlike other comedies of that comic duo, this one is both funny in dialogues and in the story, and not just in the final fist fights, thus becoming more thorough than usual: one key ingredient in its pleasure is to view it as a blend of pure 'hard-boiled' Italian western on one hand - similar to "Once Upon a Time in the West" - and pure spoof of it at them same time. 

The jokes that ridicule the western cliches are excellent - a bandit, who is leaning on a pillar, lowers his arm to take his gun, but Trinity shows up behind his back and uses his gun to slowly return his hand back on the pillar; Trinity shoots his attacker without looking at him; a cow on the roof in the opening (!) as well as the ontological sequence where the Mexican outlaw Mezcal enjoys slapping pacifist Mormon farmers because he knows their religion forbids them to fight, but Bambino (Spencer) anonymously "mingles" among the Mormons and thus slaps him back, throwing him off-guard: it is a major payoff. In a further extension of that gag, the puzzled Mezcal orders his henchman to slap Bambino again, the henchman gently pats his cheek while Bambino slaps Mezcal again. Spencer/Hill fans always enjoyed their films as a 'guilty pleasure' due to their chemistry and raw charm, yet this is one instance where they can enjoy them without any guilt, since it is a fine example of skillful narrative that exalts them in a very clever film about two unlikely heroes. The so called Italian 'Spaghetti Western' became so filled with repetitive, standard, too serious film clichees in the 60s - a villain wants to chase away some people to get their land; an unknown hero arrives in town to save the day; the finale always involves a bloody shootout - and then the completely fresh "Trinity" came and did every single cliche the opposite of expected - among others, in the end, everyone throws away their guns and they just slap each other without any blood - and thus gave it such a comic slap that it never recovered and collapsed from it a couple of years later. 

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