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Boot Hill Review

From The Spaghetti Western Database


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The final part of the trilogy Terence Hill & Bud Spencer made with director Giuseppe Colizzi, prior to their famous Trinity movies. It's a rather serious movie, so like the other two entries, God Forgives, I Don't ! and Ace High, it will disappoint those expecting a comedy. But none of the films starring Hill & Spencer has divided fans of the genre more than this one. Many think it’s one of their worst efforts, even one of the worst spaghetti westerns ever, but it also has a small but devoted cult following, especially among fans of the director.

The opening scene of Boot Hill is very strong. Hill is stalked by several opponents outside a circus tent. Inside the tent acrobats are performing their dangerous show on the high wire and the flying trapeze. Cross-cutting between both actions, a strong feeling of menace is created. It's as if the wounded Hill is on a high wire too, in immediate danger of having a deadly fall. Hill finally manages to escape from his persecutors by climbing into one of the circus wagons. He is nursed back to health by the circus people, but his persecutors are still on his trail and when they enter the circus, one of the young acrobats is killed. Hill now teams up with the friend of the victim (Woody Strode) and his former buddy Hutch (Spencer) to face the perpetrators, a bunch of corrupt land grabbers, led by a man called Honey Fisher (Victor Buono, King Tut from the Batman series), who are chasing honest people from their properties.


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Ironically, this opening scene was not anticipated. Colizzi would only write and produce the film, but when the original director of the movie, Romolo Guerrieri, was fired (for obscure reasons), he took over direction. Guerrieri had already shot most scenes inside the circus and Colizzi thought they were very good, but didn't know where to insert them in the movie, when suddenly he got the idea to cross-cut them with scenes of a wounded Hill, persecuted outside the circus tent (*1). Overall Boot Hill is a well-directed movie. The scenes involving midgets playing trumpets, are of an almost surreal beauty, worthy of a Fellini. But it’s also a flawed movie. The main problems are an underdeveloped mid-section, and a rather convoluted plot. The villain Honey Fisher has sent his men after him because Hill is in possession of a claim on a goldmine, but this story element is treated so vaguely, that many viewers have complained that they hardly had any idea what it was all about. There are also a lot of hints at homosexuality that seem all but subtle, notably during the scenes in which George Eastman is presented as Spencer's inmate. His name in the movie is "Baby-doll", no less.

The circus scenes are colorful and lively, but the actual western story involving Hill & Spencer, is sinister and dark, even in a literal sense: most scenes are set at night. The combination is reflected in the score, which is alternately quirky and gloomy. The combination works in the opening scene, but not so well in the rest of the movie. The finale in the circus doesn't work and to make things worse it's not the end of the movie: it is followed by a Trinity-like barroom brawl that seems completely incompatible with the rest of the movie. As a western, Boot Hill lacks a good villain. The fat Victor Buono might be a good villain for a Batman story, but spaghetti westerns need a showdown in the end, and when Hill and he finally meet face to face, nothing really happens. But if Buono is a drawback, Strode is an asset. This black American actor had a long career in his home country, but today he is most identified with his work overseas, in the first place of course the opening scene of Sergio Leone's Once upon a Time in the West. In Boot Hill he is both in great form and in great shape. It's hard to believe that he was 55 years old when he made this film.

Notes:

  • 1) Marco Giusti, Dizionario del western all'italiana
  • Some words on the title:
    • The original in Italian title La Collina degli Stivali translates as The Hill of the Boots, or Boots Hill. There's no hill (except for Terence) of any importance to the plot, so it seems likely that the title refers to a cemetery. In the Old West a common slang for any town's public cemetery was "Boot Hill" (not Boots Hill), that’s why the film in the US is known by this title: Boot Hill. For this reason I also prefer the title with the singular to the one with the plural.

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Dir: Giuseppe Colizzi - Cast: Terence Hill, Bud Spencer, Woody Strode, Victor Buono, Lionel Stander, Luigi Montefiori, Glauco Onorato, Luciano Rossi, Romano Puppo, Enzo Fiermonte, Neno Zamperla, Alberto Dell’Acqua - Music: Carlo Rustichelli

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God forgives...I don't! (1967) | Ace High (1968) | Boot Hill (1969)
Simon Gelten
Simon Gelten is a long time contributor to the SWDb. "I'm not as old as Tom B. but I'm working on it. I hope to catch up with him by the end of the next decade.", he says. Simon saw all movies by Sergio Leone and several by Sergio Corbucci in cinema, most of the time in Eindhoven, the city where he was born. Currently, Simon is living in Turnhout, Belgium. Simon is active within the database as both Scherpschutter and his alter ego Tiratore Scelto.
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