They Call Me Trinity (1970)

1970 Dir: Enzo Barboni - Cast: Terence Hill, Bud Spencer, Farley Granger, Steffen Zacharias, Dan Sturkie - Music: Franco Mizzalizzi

poser for They Call Me Trinity

Generally known as the film that saved the Italian film industry and killed the spaghetti western, this film did for the comedy western what A Fistful of Dollars had done for the die hard spaghettis: it spawned an entire army of false sequels, loose sequels, pale imitations, lame imitations and some nice sequels and colorful imitations as well.

The story of They call me Trinity is surprisingly traditional: it's a about two men coming to the aid of a defenseless group of people who are threatened by a corrupt land owner and his henchman. Viewers who know anything about westerns, will know that it's a story that has been told numerous times before, and also that it's more American than Italian in nature. After all, the motto 'a man's gotta do what he's gotta do' is more identified with John Wayne than with, let's say, Lee van Cleef. What made this movie look so fresh, was the presentation of the two Trinity brothers as all but ideal American heroes: they're unwashed and unshaved, they have very bad table manners, they're lazy, unreliable, unwashed and unshaved, and most of all they're crooks, small-time crooks maybe, but with no wish to repent. In other words: director Barboni combined a typical American western story with two typical Italian western heroes, suffused it with a comical sauce and created a winning new western dish.

In this first movie we're introduced to Trinity (Hill), a good-for-nothing, lazy and ever-smiling gunslinger who accidently discovers that his fat, grumpy, horse-thieving brother Bambino (Spencer) has become sheriff of a small western town. Bambino has of course taken the place of the real sheriff because he wants to steal the horses of rancher Harrison. To keep his smiling brother happy, Bambino makes him deputy, a particularly stupid decision. Within a few hours all things are at sixes and sevens! In the meantime Harrison tries to chase a group of Mormons who have settled in the valley, but they get help from Trinity and Bambino. The good-for-nothing, but good-looking Trinity has his eyes on two pretty Mormon girls, who have told him that their religion permits polygamy. Trinity is so fast with his guns and fists, and Bambino so strong, that all plans of the corrupt Harrison are frustrated. Eventually it comes to the settlement of all accounts in a massive fistfight between the two warring factions.

Comedy had been an ingredient of the Italian western from the very first days. Immediately after Leone's first genre entry, the popular duo Franchi & Ingrassia had 'answered' with comedies like Two sergeants for general Custer and For a fist in the Eye (both 1965). Franco Giraldi's two films about the Scottish family McGregor, Seven Guns for the MacGregors and 7 Women for the MacGregors had strong comical ingredients, and Enzo G. Castellari had always had a good eye for comic relief in his movies: Any Gun Can Play (1967) is half serious, half tongue-in-cheeck, and the loose sequel I Came, I Saw, I Shot (1968) comes close to slapstick. What set They Call me Trinity apart was the experience of most people involved in the movie - not only director Barboni, but also the stuntmen - and the interplay between Hill and Spencer. The duo had already made a trilogy with another director, Giuseppe Colizzi, and knew the public loved the contrast between them, so this was emphasized. And then the film had some excellent jokes: Hill shooting three opponents behind his back without looking over his shoulder, the Mexican bandit leader who can't knock out Spencer and is knocked out himself all the time, the Mormons who discover in the bible that there's also a time to fight! Those fights are among the most elaborated ever filmed, and were the result of the years of experience of the Italian stuntmen with barroom brawls in more serious spaghetti westerns. Virtually every stuntman available was present in the movie. Director Barboni had worked as director of photography on movies like Django, Texas Addio and many others, and had thought of making a comedy western for years. The previous year, 1969, had shown a decline in the number of westerns made in Italy, so he guessed it the time was ripe for a radical change.

Watched today, They call me Trinity is still a lot of fun probably even for those who normally don't like comedy westerns but might seem a bit slow here and there. It's a movie that takes its time to tell its story. For this reason, some fans prefer the sequel Trinity is still my Name, that doesn't waste to much time with a consistent story and has even bigger set pieces. The films have some mild profanity and a few (slightly) raunchy jokes, but nothing to worry about. All in all they're excellent family entertainment and as such warmly recommended.

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