God forgives... I don't! Review
This was the first western movie with the duo Terence Hill & Bud Spencer (1). God Forgives, I Don’t (See Database page) was made in 1967, during the glory days of the genre, and is therefore not a comedy, but a sinister and violent western with strong thriller influences. It opens with a magnificent scene: a welcome party is waiting for the train to arrive, but the train doesn't stop at the station, it rolls on, and on, into a barricade. It looked like the train was empty, but it was robbed and all the passengers were massacred, except for one, a wounded man who was left for dead and seems to have lost his senses. He dies shortly after, but lives long enough to reveal the name of the bandit who masterminded the robbery to a man called Hutch, an investigator of the train company. The name, Bill San Antonio, belongs to a man who is believed to be shot in a duel by a gunman called Cat Stevens (2). Hutch reckons Cat also wants to find out what is going on, and proposes to join forces, but Cat prefers to work alone. He shakes off Hutch and sets out to find Bill San Antonio, with Hutch on his trail ...
Director Giuseppe Colizzi had been brooding on this movie for years, but the project only took shape after he had spent some time with Sergio Leone, both on the set and during the post-production of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. The working title was Il Gatto, il Cane & la Volpe (The Cat, the Dog & the Fox) and the first actor he contracted was the slender and good-looking Peter Martell as the Cat. He then started looking for a heavily-built actor for the part of the Dog. Colizzi thought of Carlo Pedersoli, a former swimming champion, who had represented his country at the Olympics, and had done some acting in the previous decade. He got Pedersoli’s wife on the phone, and asked her if her husband still looked like a swimmer. "No", she said, "today he looks more like a wrestler". That was exactly what Colizzi was looking for. When the crew was already in Spain, Martell broke either a toe or a leg. Officially Martell broke a toe when he kicked the leg of a chair, but according to some he broke a leg when he fell from the stairs of the Spanish hotel, after his wife had slapped him in the face because he had screwed a make-up artist (3). Martell was replaced by Hill, and the rest is history
The first half of the movie feels very much like a detective story disguised as a western. Through a series of flashbacks we learn what happened on that night, fifteen months ago, when Bill San Antonio was supposedly killed by Cat Stevens. It soon becomes clear that the whole thing was a set-up, but viewers will need all their attention to keep track of the story. All this can’t hide that the script is a kind of retelling of Leone’s For a Few Dollars More, with two men with contrasting methods joining forces (first reluctantly, then wholeheartedly) while persecuting a psychopathic bandit. However, the film’s conclusion, a so-called Mexican standoff in the desert, is closer to The Good, the Bad & the Ugly, echoing the triello at Sad Hill Cemetery (4). The movie’s original title was dropped, but the idea of the three contrasting characters, symbolized by animal’s names, is still perceptible: Hill is the cat, climbing on roofs, nosing about, agile and swift, Spencer the tenacious dog, following a trail, Wolff the fox, sly, perfidious and bloodthirsty.
Although Hill and Spencer are not really used as a duo yet, there are a few sparks of chemistry, announcing some of the great things to come, but the film belongs to Frank Wolff as the red-headed Bill San Antonio, one of the genre’s great villains. The story-telling isn’t always smooth (the convoluted first half may deter some viewers) but Colizzi’s direction is assured and the second half is top, a succession of violent and tension-filled moments, leading to the conclusion in the desert. Carlo Rustichelli’s score is very fine, especially the main theme, not your average assortment of trumpets, whistles and drums, but a gentle guitar, alternated with an orchestra and some very aggressive chants reminiscent of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana. Throughout the years, the movie's violent nature has given quite a shock to fans of the Trinity movies: a woman is kicked, another woman knocked out, several unarmed people are brutally slaughtered, and arms and kneecaps are perforated with bullets in order to paralyze an opponent. Not surprisingly, it’s the favourite Hill & Spencer movie of many fans of the diehard spaghettis.
- 1) They had been in the same movie before, the peplum Annibale (1959), but had not shared a scene or met on the set
- 2) The name varies in different versions; other names of the character are Hud, in some international versions, and (according to Giusti) Will Doc in the Italian version. Apparently Spence's character is called Earp Hargitay in the Italian edit
- 3) Marco Giusti, Dizionario del Western all’Italiana, 2007, Milano
- 4) Mexican Standoff : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mexican_standoff
When Martell broke his leg (or toe), Colizzi was in real trouble; he had only two months to make the movie and the works couldn’t be postponed. According to some it was Manolo Bolognini, the producer of Django, who told Colizzi to take a young Itlaian actor he had met on the set of Little Rita nel West. The actor was called Mario Girotti, had been in a few German westerns, could ride a horse and was both good-looking and agile, all the things Colozzi was looking for in the actor he needed. Mario Girotti and Carlo Pedersoli were asked to choose a name for the international market. Hill chose his name from a list that was handed over to him, apparently because T.H. were the initials of his mother (*5), Spencer didn’t need a list: Spencer Tracy was his favourite actor and he was holding a bottle of his beloved Budweiser when he was asked to invent a pseudo (*6).
- 5) Terence Hill - The Official International Website, http://www.terencehill.com/
- 6) Biografia di Bud Spencer, http://www.budterence.tk/biobud.php
Cast: Terence Hill, Bud Spencer, Frank Wolff, Gina Rovere, Tito Garcia; José Manuel Martin, José Canalejas, Remo Capitani, Rufino Inglés, Frank Braña, Roberto Alessandri - Director: Giuseppe Colizzi - Music: Carlo Rustichelli