Of the many Italian-made wild-west westerns of the 1960s & 1970s, anyone who had only seen the works of Sergio Leone might wonder why such films are sometimes made light of, as Leone captures a sense of the west as well as any American director ever did, & the dubbing of international casts isn't inevitably strange sounding, when done at the level of a Leone or even a Fellini.
But get past Leone, the dubbing done for lesser directors just about always mars the production values of spaghetti westerns. Still, the west was not settled primarily by English gentlemen, & the international casts frequently look, face by face, more like the American west than the Hollywood versions acknowledged.
Boot Hill (La Collina degli stivali, 1969) for instance is entirely aware that a great many black cowboys were scattered throughout the west, & the dark Mediterranean types who fill out the cast certainly look authentic for the actual historical western environments from the Southwest to southern California.
The original Boot Hill was the graveyard by Dodge City, & perhaps could be extended to indicate any similar graveyard of the west. But for the film of that name, it's meaningless. It's neither about Dodge nor about graveyards. Though like all speghetti westerns there'll be a hefty bodycount before it's over, in this film we don't even get the token undertaker running about gleefully gathering up the dead for ten dollars per box.
The alternative title Trinity Rides Again is even more nonsensical since Boot Hill is not related to the whimsical Trinity films. It's much more serious than the Trinity films, for Boot Hill strives much more slavishly to be a Sergeo Leone type of pokerfaced shoot-em-up, & might've pulled it off with a better soundscape.
Yet when spaghetti western fans abuse this film, I think it's because they didn't like to see Terrance Hill as a Clint Eastwood impersonator instead of playing Trinity. It doesn't help that of multiple releases, the film is never properly restored, & the visual value of the film is enormously hampered by the poor transfers. If a remastered widescreen version can be found, that'd be a grander experience.
Set colorfully in a travelling carnival with midget clowns (Antonio De Martino, Adriano Cornelli, Arnaldo Fabrizio), the film cannot help but be colorful. The story of bad vs chivilarous gunslingers, & evil mining interests vs independent miners, struck me easily as credible as westerns ever are, & more imaginative than most due to the addition of circus characters.
Boot Hill is the third film in a trilogy featuring Terrence Hill as Cat Stevens aka Trouble, the first two in the series having been God Forgives, I Don't (Dio perdona, Io no!,1968) & Revenge at El Paso (I Quattro dell'Ave Maria, 1968).
His partner is Thomas, played by Woody Strode, an ex-gunslinger who has a trapeze act in a travelling circus. With character names like circus manager Mami (Lionel Stander), Hutch Bessy (Bud Spencer) & his companion Baby Doll (George Eastman), & a villain named Honey Fisher (Victor Buono), not to mention the opening scene of the guys-only barn dance, there seems to be a gay undertow to Boot Hill.
And Thomas's (perhaps merely fatherly) love of his young companion (Maurizio Manetti), who is coldly gunned down by a racist gunfighter (Glauco Onorato), is his motivation for leaving the circus & setting out for revenge.
It's a character-rich action-packed film with a script deserved higher production values. It doesn't take too much forgiveness, however, to appreciate the finer points of Boot Hill, & the very notion that the circus cleans up the town is just so winning.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl