Friday, January 8, 2016

They Call Me Trinity (1971)



          Despite originating in Europe, the spaghetti-western genre didn’t help many European actors become international stars; quite to the contrary, Hollywood actors ranging from Charles Bronson to Clint Eastwood to Lee Van Cleef, among many others, gained career boosts by slumming in foreign productions. The success of the man born Mario Girotti was an exception to this rule. Under his stage name, Terence Hill, the Italian/German actor gained such international notoriety by appearing in spaghetti westerns that he eventually landed starring roles in a handful of Hollywood features. That said, Hill’s signature film, They Call Me Trinity, is not among the finest examples of spaghetti westerns. It’s moderately entertaining, and the general looseness of the piece is as appealing as the comedic interplay between Hill and his frequent costar, Bud Spencer (né Carlo Pedersoli). Yet it's forgettable compared to, say, My Name Is Nobody (1973), the gonzo spaghetti western that Hill made with iconic Italian director Sergio Leone and American screen legend Henry Fonda.
          In They Call Me Trinity, Hill plays the title character, an easygoing bounty hunter whose slovenly clothes mask his superhuman skill with a six-gun. After capturing a wanted man through dazzling marksmanship, Trinity rolls into a small town where his brother, an outlaw named Bambino (Spencer), has assumed the role of sheriff under dubious circumstances. Bambino clashes with Major Harris (Farley Granger), a craven landowner trying to run a group of Mormon settlers out of a valley near Bambino's town. Trinity becomes friendly with the Mormons, especially two pretty young women who propose polygamy, so Trinity talks Bambino into helping him defeat the Major’s evil plans.
          Story-wise, this is all very familiar (think The Magnificent Seven, et al), so the mild charm of They Call Me Trinity stems from comic-tinged stunt work and wink-wink attitude. For instance, Hill’s most distinctive performance trope is keeping a childlike smile on his face even as somersaults through brawls and/or shoots people who are standing behind him without even looking in their direction. He’s a cartoonish swashbuckler. Similarly, Spencer incarnates the familiar archetype of the man-mountain who hides his conscience behind a gruff façade. Still, the anything-for-a-laugh cheerfulness makes it difficult to resent the picture’s shortcomings. What’s more, the target audience clearly got what it wanted from My Name Is Trinity, because the producers reteamed Hill and Spencer for a quick sequel, Trinity Is Still My Name (1972). FYI, although Hill and Spencer did many other movies together, there are only two “official” Trinity pictures. Nonetheless, distributors occasionally slapped the Trinity brand onto unrelated Hill/Spencer flicks, creating some film-history murkiness.

They Call Me Trinity: FUNKY

1 comment:

Steven Thompson said...

I have read that their final teaming (so far), the 1994 TROUBLEMAKERS aka THE FIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS, was originally planned as a third Trinity film but they didn't have and couldn't get the rights. Either Hill or Spencer--I forget which--said that they played it pretty much as one anyway, even if they couldn't call it that. Ruth Buzzi appears as the pair's mother!