Boot Hill

Year 1969

Terence Hill as  Cat Stevens
Woody Strode as Thomas
Bud Spencer as Arch Hutch
Eduardo Ciannelli   as "Judge" Boone
Glauco Onorato as Finch
Lionel Stander as Mami
Victor Buono as Honey Fisher
Directors - Giuseppe Colizzi  
Screenwriter - Giuseppe Colizzi

Boot Hill could have been just another spaghetti western. It's not a work of art, there are too many flaws, but it's a cut above things like God's Gun or Any Gun Can Play.

This movie must have twenty alternate titles. They all mean "Boot Hill" but in Spanish, or Italian, or Swedish. Swedish? Uh, yeah, I guess Swedish, too. In Sweden it was called De blodiga stövlarnas kulle. O-Ka-a-a-y.

Why did I like this movie? First of all, it had Woody Strode in it. The title credits named him as "Woody Stroode" but it's our Woody. You know, the man who looks like he has zero grams of fat on his muscular frame. The brooding, avuncular individual who can either be an imposing hero or villain. Secondly, it contained just enough strangeness to be unique. Thirdly, although the plot had been done to death before, it hadn't been done in quite this way.

You see, a mining company is forcing the miners to give up their mineral rights but continue to work for the company. Cat (Hill) and Arch (Spencer) come to the aid of a friend who is caught between the company and the desire to keep the gold he mines for himself.

Along the way, the two men pick up the members of a circus after one of the performers is killed by one of the company's gunmen.

With the exception of Finch (Onarato), all of the male characters are well drawn and unique. Finch, who I gather from conversations in the movie is the real sadistic enemy of the miners, isn't given much screen time to show just how bad he is. Oh, he orders people around but doesn't have anything to do that makes you really hate him.

But that's okay. There are enough other characters who are entirely disagreeable. That includes Honey (Buono) who doesn't get much screen time but does a good job with the time he's there. In fact, with all of the names flying around I didn't realize until near the end of the movie that Finch and Honey were different characters.

Was the movie too ambitious? Maybe there's something hidden away in the relationship of the characters? What am I asking again? It's a spaghetti western. It's only so deep. Yet, it seems a bit more profound that a casual viewing might indicate. I know that's it's the third movie in a trilogy. Maybe it's because of that this outing seems more layered. Maybe the relationss among the characters are continuations from a previous movie? Maybe not. It looks like the character Thomas, originally in an earlier film called Ace High, is being reprised.

If that's the case, it explains why Thomas (Strode in this movie) protects Cat early on. The two had crossed paths in an earlier movie. It doesn't explain why Finch and Honey are known to Cat and Arch, though.

The relationship among Finch, Cat, Honey, and Arch (Spencer) is both bad and good. It's good because there's a mystery about the history or the quartet. But it's bad because it's never fleshed out. If the movie had included some revealing flashbacks, or even stories, could've elevated this to being a very good movie indeed. Without them, it's still a good movie but not a very good movie.

The circus is pretty lame. I consists of a fortune teller named Mami or Mimi or something, dancing girls who sing, and a trapeze act called, "The Flying Men". The what? I know of the daring young man on the flying trapeze and the Flying Wallendas. At least try and be a touch original. "The Flying Men"? Later on they're called The Flying Miners so the name was probably chosen to make it easy to change just a single word and add a different meaning. But aren't there better titles than simply "Men". How about, "The Flying Proletariat" or "The Flying Hoi Polloi" if you're trying to make a social point?

The ending of the movie is a little too pat and the last scene is as unimaginative as "The Flying Men". But, there are nuggets strewn within. (Gold miners? Nuggets? Nevermind.)

The music will have you take notice. Sometimes it's western, sometimes it's film noir, and sometimes it's circus. It has to be circus because that's integral to the whole thing. Besides the dancing girls and "The Flying Men" there's also the circus orchestra. The orchestra consists of three midgets in clown make-up and attire. Sound surreal? It is.

And the editing is great. In one scene, one of "The Flying Men" has fallen. He's dying but the show must go on. There are a number of edits showing the audience, the dying man, the killer, and the other performers choreographed to the circus music. Because of its dark origins, the masterful handling makes it a wonderful scene.

The movie elevates its subject matter on occasion. Take the previous killing. It was racially motivated. The killer actually refers to the black trapeze artists as, "Monkeys," just before he shoots a rope causing the one artist to fall to his death. Now this guy you can hate. (And fear. That's some shooting.) And Thomas does hate the killer. So, not only do you have Cat's and Arch's altruism, you also get some pay-back motivation mixed in.

There are some funny lines and scenes that don't ruin the pacing.

Cat: Donkeys can't fly.
Arch: They'll do whatever it takes to get away from trouble.

Thomas: Is he a relative?
Cat: Worse. He's a friend.

There's one scene between "I am not a Judge" Boone and his unlikable assistant. They're sharing a hotel room. Boone is bored and awake while his assistant is sleeping. Boone starts experimenting and using his assistant as a guinea pig. He smacks his lips as if he's thirsty and then watches his assistant lick his own lips in response. The mischievious Boone is causing his assistant to be thirsty in his sleep.

The editing is great, the music fits even if it shouldn't, there's some well placed humor, the acting is good all around and so is the voice dubbing. Hill is no Eastwood, but he's no slouch either.

No nudity or blasphemy. If you like Italian Westerns, it's a movie worth watching for fun.

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