Starring: Terence Hill, Bud Spencer
Director: Enzo Barboni
Mood: If you’ve had a tough week and want to unwind with a slapstick Western starring an entire cast of stuntmen literally pulling every punch.
I had a pretty good idea what to expect from They Call Me Trinity, because I discovered it after watching My Name is Nobody – and this movie is that same delicious flavour of Italian Western ridiculousness.
I didn’t call it a Spaghetti Western on purpose.
Spaghetti Westerns were like the content noise of the 1960s. They started out strong; Sergio Leone’s Dollars trilogy launched the epic career of Clint Eastwood, and Sergio Corbucci has earned the reverence of modern directors like Tarantino.
But the most prolific directors of the genre made multiple movies per year, and 500+ Spaghetti Westerns were cranked out in just one decade.
So yeah, people got oversaturated and sick of the whole vibe. But They Call Me Trinity is the antidote to Spaghetti Western burnout. This movie is LAUGHING at the genre, and at classic Westerns, and at itself.
If you love the massively physical comedy of Mel Brooks movies and 1960s Batman, this is for you.
While many old Westerns use the opening credits for a bunch of scenic shots, or panoramas of people on horseback racing from one place to another, They Call Me Trinity uses every moment for subtle laughs.
Trinity (Terence Hill) is sleeping on a travois, being carted along by a pretty damn reliable horse. They cross desert land, rivers, and more to end up in a Mexican village – at which point the horse wakes him up.
Trinity is quickly established as a cheeky drifter, akin to Hill’s Nobody character. He’s reunited with his brother Bambino (Bud Spencer), a huge, ham-fisted outlaw posing as a sheriff who is definitely NOT thrilled to see his deadbeat sibling.
But no Western would be complete without a bad guy overpowering a meek community. In this case it’s the one-two punch of rich white dude Major Harriman (Farley Granger) and slap-happy Mexican leader Mezcal (Remo Capitani). They’re both obsessed with harassing a large Mormon farming community for their fertile land and their beautiful horses.
The whole thing is so silly and the leads are so unheroic that you really can’t tell what’s going to happen, except that people will keep getting slapped and it will be hilarious.
I defy anyone to name a more gloriously choreographed fist fight than the end of this movie.
Terence Hill and Bud Spencer did all of their own stunts, and pretty much everyone else among the sea of minor characters is a stuntman. It’s nonstop brawling eye candy.
- Fun Fact #1: Hill’s stunts included fasting for 24 hours so he could shoot his opening scene in which he devours a full pan of beans, loaf of bread, and bottle of booze in one take.
Hill as Trinity is so easygoing that it’s obnoxious. He says nothing for long periods and is generally the kind of unmotivated person I find grating, but he can make you burst out laughing with a single facial reaction.
His physical comedy translates easily to both horseback work and fights. Whether he’s sitting backward in the saddle or shooting people from behind his back, he’s like a one-man show. It reminds me of my fiancé, which makes me question my life choices…
Bud Spencer says even less as Bambino, communicating mostly in grumbles and grunts, but he wound up as my favourite character.
Spencer never smiles, yet he fills the entire scene with his presence. And he can knock down ten men with one punch! You can’t help but be enthralled.
- Fun Fact #2: Hill and Spencer (real names Mario Girotti and Carlo Pedersoli) were already a famous comedy duo in Italy when Trinity was made, but My Name is Trinity officially launched their careers – and they made 18 movies together.
The two Mormon love interests are unsurprisingly played by hot young women with lots of smoky eye makeup. It was 1970, after all.
The rest of the cast is mostly there to fill the action sequences, although Remo Capitani delivers some PRIME comedy as Mezcal. The ‘Mexicans’ (all Italians) reminded me so hard of the weasels in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? They never stop giggling, even when being slapped to the ground by their leader. Or a Mormon. Or anyone.
They Call Me Trinity is seriously enjoyable if you love a good comedy brawl, and you know that’s my jam.
From Mezcal’s obsession with slapping people, to Bambino’s stoic resilience to being slapped, to a massive fist fight between, of all people, Mormons and Mexicans… there’s so much insanity going on.
The only problematic part, really, is that you have Italians playing Mexicans, using cheesy stereotypical accents. But my guess is that these underpaid stunt guys had NO idea what an actual Latin American person sounded like, and were basing their characters off of Westerns of the ‘50s and ‘60s.
They Call Me Trinity also paved the way for tons of films Western fans know and love today, and apparently earned more at the box office than any actual Spaghetti Western.
- Countless “They Call Me…” movies in various genres were inspired by the catchy title
- It literally pokes fun at the genre-defining Dollars trilogy (aka the Man With No Name) by stating Trinity’s name in the title
- Other Spaghetti Westerns were released using the name ‘Trinity’ in the title or a main character, or intentionally featuring actors who look like Hill and Spencer!
- Trinity’s sequel Trinity is Still My Name is the fourth most popular Italian movie of all time (by box office admissions), after the serious Spaghetti Western A Fistful of Dollars and right above For a Few Dollars More
- The cinematic style was also huge in shaping the way Spaghetti Westerns and other European films were shot, many copying the way Trinity used characters facing away from the camera while speaking or covering their faces to allow for more humorous English dubbing
- Tarantino used the Trinity theme song in Django Unchained
I was so stoked to discover Bud Spencer that I’ve already ordered another of his Westerns. Trinity may not be a revolutionary movie, but it gives you an easy-breezy kind of Western that you can throw on any time to you want to roll your eyes and laugh.