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They Called Him Trinity

By: jkatz
Ah, the western. Easily my favorite film genre, and you could make the case that it's the most American one as well. After all, the settings and characters that make up these movies by and large belong to the point in history when the United States was expanding westward. Ironically, some of the greatest westerns were made in Europe, mostly Italy. Colloquially known as "Spaghetti Westerns", these continental offerings had a reputation for being nastier, grittier, and more morally ambiguous than what we were used to stateside. Spaghetti Westerns really took off in the early 60's, based on the Italian movie industry's time honored principle of "copy whatever's popular in America". Many an actor unhappy with his career in the US found a bigger audience and more consistent employment after making the move to Italy around this time, and their first new roles were often in these movies.

I wonder whatever happened to the last guy. I hope he didn't leave behind a successful TV role for nothing.

I could go on forever about Spaghetti Westerns. Point is, for a while they were a very successful, very popular genre that had its share of hits, misses, and everything in between.
As with anything else though, they slowly started to outstay their welcome. It's no secret that the longer something stays in public consciousness, the more vulnerable it becomes to parody and satire, which is exactly what started to happen in the late 60's and early 70's. Western comedies and spoofs began to overshadow the straightforward stuff (which was on its last legs anyway). Blazing Saddles would be the peak, but the movie credited with igniting the trend would be a little flick called THEY CALL ME TRINITY.

Trinity (played by Terence Hill) and Bambino (Bud Spencer) played off the classic "Big Guy, Little Guy" trope that we all know so well. Bambino's all brawn with no brains. Trinity relies on his quick wits (and his gun) to save his hide. Together they can save the west..if they don't kill each other first. That basic premise made for a surprise hit when TRINITY was initially released in 1971. The slapstick comedy and good-hearted jabs at the conventional Western made for a big hit. At the start of the movie, Trinity's asleep, being dragged by his horse. What little clothes he has are barely a step above rags. Just what kind of a gun-slinging hero is this anyway? There had been Westerns that defied the conventions before, but never like this. 

The Trinity movies were huge in Europe. HUGE. I can't find the numbers to confirm this, but in Italy, TRINITY out-grossed every other movie released that year, except for Last Tango in Paris. As previously mentioned, it revived interest in a dying genre and launched a new one - the comedy western. And of course, there were would be plenty of other westerns with suspiciously similar premises(The Italians weren't above ripping themselves off). A sequel, TRINITY IS STILL MY NAME, was released the following year. I don't think these ever really took off here the way they did in Europe. If they did, wouldn't more people talk about them? Somebody in the comments help me out here. Do you remember watching the Trinity movies in the 70's and 80's? 

In the first movie, Trinity and Bambino pretend to be sheriff and deputy in order to steal a herd of horses but end up defending Mormon settlers from a greedy Major who wants their land for himself. There's never a dull moment, and almost each scene is marked by a few gags or a cartoonish fight. At times it reminds me of The Stranger, also known as "that movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Kirk Douglas in cowboy costumes". The whole thing culminates in a huge, free-for-all fight between the two brothers, the Mormons, and the Major's men. All in all, TRINITY is a good time and is worth watching at least once.

I wish I could say the same for the sequel, but in my opinion, it's not nearly as good. There's not much of a plot this time, so it almost feels like a chore to wait for the next funny part, and when it happens it's not really that funny to begin with (farting babies are funny, right?) The set up is admittedly pretty great: the boy's dying father wishes for his sons to become successful outlaws, so naturally they get mistaken for federal agents and end up doing more good than harm! This one does have a cuter love interest, though (Coincidence? Hmm...).

Both TRINITY and its sequel have catchy, infectious opening tunes that you'll be humming for days! Remember the song that played over the ending credits of Django Unchained? It was Tarantino's way of paying a little tribute to Trinity, which he's doubtlessly seen hundreds of times.

The Trinity movies were massive hits and made megastars out of Hill and Spencer, who made many more buddy comedy movies together well into the 90's (!). Apparently watching them in Italy on Christmas morning is something of a tradition over there, and I can think of no better way of introducing your children to something you loved when you were their age, a passing of the torch, so to speak.

They may be forgotten by most of the world, but there's still a place for the Trinity movies. As far as I see it, they matter to two groups of people: cult film fans who obsessively track down every genre movie known to man, and people for whom these movies are a fond childhood memory, and a reminder of simpler times.
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Vaporman87 Posted on Jul 07, 2015 at 02:08 AM

@jkatz - Or something in the pasta.

mickyarber Posted on Jul 06, 2015 at 10:00 PM

I remember watching the Trinity movies right after VCRs became popular. My uncle (who was my neighbor) had a VCR, and when the first video store opened in out little town, he was renting a movie every other day or so. My cousin and I watched them during the long summer days with him, and Trinity movies were some we watched that summer. I thought they were good then, but have not watched them since. I'll have to give them another look now. Thanks for the reminder. Good article choice.

jkatz Posted on Jul 06, 2015 at 09:44 PM

Vaporman, all I can say is if you love old cheesy b-movies (and who doesn't?), you're cheating yourself by not watching more Italian titles. It's actually quite amazing how one country can be responsible for both highbrow, arthouse cinema and some of the most shameless, trashy schlock possible. Must be something in the water...

Vaporman87 Posted on Jul 06, 2015 at 07:14 PM

Wow. I've never heard of these actors or these movies, but to discover how popular they were even into the 90's boggles my mind.

They're like the David Hasselhoffs of Italy! I've watched a few movies out of Italy, but they were mostly dreadfully awful sci-fi schlock starring Antonio Sabato (not Jr., but his dad).

I didn't even know why they were called "Spaghetti Westerns" until just now. Is that sad? LOL

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