Ace High Review
From The Spaghetti Western Database
The second entry in the trilogy Terence Hill and Bud Spencer made with director Giuseppe Colizzi, following God forgives… I don’t, followed by Boot Hill. I saw it back in the seventies, when they tried to sell it as a Trinity movie, and scored a full house with it. I must have been one of the very few people in the audience who liked it. Only a (rather short) fistfight early on in the movie has some Trinity feel, otherwise the movie is closer in spirit to Leone than Barboni. Remo Capitani (who plays a character called Maurice il Cangaçeiro) has revealed that his part originally was far more important, but that Collizzi was forced to cut most of his scenes (1). As it is, the film already feels longish, so maybe the cuts weren't a bad idea. Marco Giusti thinks the Leonesque influences (and pretensions) do the film no good: it wants to be epic, but lacks the necessary story elements to be epic about.
The film starts with Cat & Hutch (Hill & Spencer) riding into town with a wagon load of gold and trying to collect the bounty on the head of Bill San Antonio, the villain from the first part of the trilogy, who was literally blown to eternity with the help of tons of TNT. When they fail to make out their claim (they only have Bill’s boots and hat to do so) they simply decide to blackmail the local bank owner (who was in league with San Antonio) into giving them a fortune. The bank owner, Harold, saves an old friend from the gallows, in the hope he will help him to get his money back. Not a very bright idea: this old friend, Cacopulos (Eli Wallach), was deserted fifteen years earlier by the bank owner (then a bank robber) and two others after a successful robbery. Cacopulos not only wants the money, he also wants revenge on the men who had betrayed him, so after killing Harold, he sets out to find the other two: one is a Mexican who has become some kind of revolutionary bandit, the other the director of a casino.
If God forgives… I don’t was a sort of retelling of For a Few Dollars More, this sequel, with its changing alliances and episodic structure, is closer in spirit to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, only this time the loot is not hidden on a remote cemetery, but changes hands repeatedly. As soon as Hill and Spencer are out of town, they’re robbed by Wallach, who loses the money, at his turn, at a gambling table in the casino of his old friend McCarthy. Eventually the three men team up with a fourth person (an acrobat played by black actor Peters) to get the money back. Some story elements, among them the grand finale, set around a gambling table, are taken from the American novel The Hoods by Harry Grey; it was Colizzi’s favourite novel and he had brought it to Leone’s attention two years earlier, on the set of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Sergio Leone would of course use it as a base for his own Once upon a Time in America.
The film’s main problem is that the different story motives don’t harmonize. Most constituent parts are well-directed, but several sequences (especially the Zapata sequence halfway into the movie) are needlessly drawn-out, slowing the already deliberately paced movie further down. But that grand finale is a wonderful scene, exciting and bizarre. It has the four protagonists facing McCarthy’s gang, in the middle of his casino, over the bodies of the visitors who have dived to the floor in fear, an orchestra playing a gentle waltz in the background.
This is Spencer’s favourite movie of the ones he made with Hill. This is not completely surprising: it’s more his film than Hill’s (whose part almost feels like a cameo), probably because he had a much better relationship with Wallach (who was top-billed): Spencer has confessed in several interviews that he had learned everything he knew about acting from Wallach. He also seems to be in very good shape here. Wallach himself gives an excellent Tuco impersonation. He has a nice scene (the one that gives the film its international title Ace High), in which he cheats at playing cards in true WC Fields style. Brock Peters’ part feels a bit redundant, I have no idea why he was added to the trio (unless Colizzi absolutely wanted to have four protagonists because of Grey’s novel, which focuses on four New York gangsters). McCarthy, on the other hand, is great as the snobbish casino owner, ever-smiling, dressed in white, as trustworthy as a rattlesnake. A pity that he wasn’t asked more often to play a spaghetti western villain, he would’ve been perfect for a Sartana movie.
- 1) Marco Giusti, Dizionario del western all'italiana
Cast: Eli Wallach, Bud Spencer, Terence Hill, Brock Peters, Kevin McCarthy, Livio Lorenzon, Remo Capitani, Tiffany Hoyveld, Stephen Zacharias, Rick Boyd - Music: Carlo Rustichelli - Director: Giuseppe Colizzi