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It was "Wild West in Vienna" in 1981, when Bud Spencer visited the city to promote his latest film "A Fist goes West", a return to the film genre that had made him a star in the first place. An Austrian teen magazine would present him with its readers' "Star of the Year" award, celebrating "slap-dance without equal - Watschentanz ohne Gleichen." Even Austrian singer-songwriter Ludwig Hirsch would work a Bud Spencer movie into one of his songs about everyday violence, at bit exaggerating the nature of harmless film punch-ups, where nobody ever got hurt.
"At the movies it's playing a Bud Spencer film. The little boy has already watched it five times, because there skulls are bursting and bones are cracking, in slow motion necks are breaking, in colour and G-rated - Im Kino drüben spielens an Bud Spencer Film. Den hat der Burli-Bua schon fünf mal gesehen, weil da zerbersten die Schädel, da splittern die Knochen, in Zeitlupe werden da Genicke gebrochen, in Farbe und jugendfrei."
(Ludwig Hirsch, 1983, Jugendfrei - General Admission)
Hello Spencer (and Hill)
"The Menu, Please!" We were at a small Vietnamese restaurant in a small business hotel outside of Munich, which became famous among us for its small (bath-)rooms. When the waiter asked us for our orders, a colleague took some time as he moved his finger across the menu page all the way down to the main course, which he picked. My initial reaction was: "You want to order the whole page?" The situation reminded me of an anecdote in the autobiography of Italian comedy actor Bud Spencer, which I had finished reading the evening before: Bud would describe, how he gave the request "Bring me the menu!" a completely new meaning. The waiter brought him the menu book, but what Bud actually wanted to tell him was "Bring me every dish that is on the menu!"
Angry Autobiography. The Italian title of Bud Spencer's autobiography "Altrimenti mi arrabbio: La mia vita - Otherwise I get angry: My life" is a direct reference to one of his most successful movies with his congenial partner, Terence Hill, "Altrimenti Ci Arrabbiamo - Otherwise we get angry (Watch out, we're mad)". In his book "heavy" Bud (the opposite of Bud Light, I suppose) revealed that he had been entering the movie business initially as an extra to pay off debts. Coincidentally, he was cast next to Terence Hill in the Italian Western "Dio perdona... Io no - God forgives… I don't (Blood River)". The rest is movie history. The comedy "Lo chiamavano Trinit - They call me Trinity" gave the brutal Western genre the final blow and established them as a highly successful film duo. Soon Spencer was typecast as the strong, who revenged the poor by slapping the arrogant villains. Personally, he saw himself always as a "marziano (Martian)", an eccentric Neapolitan who is capable of the crazy reactions, following the typical motto "Futtetenne - Who cares". His typical, irritated facial expression, which he always made when Terence said something, he had copied directly from Oliver Hardy, who made this face, whenever Stan Laurel annoyed him.
Western Reanimation. By the end of the 1960's, pathetic US-pioneers and sinister, nameless outlaws had outlived their entertainment value and were replaced by two screen-heroes, whose ease let the Western genre flare up one more time. In the course of their career they varied their formula of success in numerous parts from pirates and priests to policemen. The chunky Olymics-swimmer Carlo Pedersoli and Mario Girotti, blond, blue-eyed and known to some from German Karl May-Western movies, evolved into an unstoppable film duo from "bella Italia." Teaming up for the first time in the Giuseppe Colizzi-film "God forgives, I don't (1967)" as Django-look-alike and the heavy, they perfected their interaction under director Enzo Barboni, also known as E.B.Clucher.
Dusty Dream. It had all started with a dream. The dream of Terence Hill, sleeping on a makeshift stretcher, which is dragged by his horse through the desert in the introduction of "They call me Trinity (1970)," in German released as "Die rechte und die linke Hand des Teufels - The right and left Hand of the Devil." Isn't it relaxing to watch him lying there, all dusty and stretched out in the sun, relying on his horse to know the way. And then the soundtrack: "You may think, he's the sleepy type guy, always takes his time..." Does it make you tired as well?
Bullet Trio. Hill's film name "Trinity" may be an English girl's name, but in Italy "(Santa) Trinita" clearly and only describes the doctrine of God's unity. It had been avoided in the German version by calling him "the tired Joe" next to Bambino "Bambi" Spencer. The English trailer used a reoccurring theme of three bullets and a "threeness" of shots cracking, while - as a religious allusion - the hero would support Mormons and monks. The sequel "Trinity is still my Name (1971)," in German titled "Vier Fäuste für ein Halleluja - Four Fists for an Alleluia," became the top grossing film in Italian cinema history, leaving earlier Western epics by Sergio Leone behind. Cashing in on the success, an earlier movie was re-released under the new title "Boot Hill: Trinity Rides Again".
Luggage in Hongkong. How to properly eat Italian pasta is explained at the end of the movie "Buddy in Hongkong (Piedone a Hong Kong, 1975)." In the final scene Bud Spencer and his little Asian friend have lots of Italian pasta together. As the little guy struggles getting some spaghetti on his fork, the big guy growls: "Yoko, can't you eat well-mannered? What are you doing now..." In response, the boy puts the silverware to the side, takes out chopsticks from under his shirt and eats the noodles with those. Apart from that lecture on table manners, the mid-1970's film out of the Flatfoot-series features familiar locations in Bangkok as the first stopover on the trip Far East, including scenes at the Grand Palace garden and a Thai village cultural show. Later in Hongkong, you see a bike taxi driver struggling with his heavy load, the ferry boat to Macao, the colourful street signs, the smelly smog... oh, it's only a movie, I almost forgot. Cosmopolitan through and through with "breakfast in New York, noon in London, luggage in Nairobi," as Buddy put it in "Charleston (1976)." The big guy must have realized how well he plays next to children, besides teaming up with his alter ego Terence Hill.
Harmless Hammer-Blows. Watching the Hill movie "Renegade (1987)," I mistook the soundtrack theme for the Scorpions song "Always Somewhere (Miss you where I've been)." It turned out to be Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Simple Man," with almost identical accords in the beginning. The lyrics advice a young boy: "Troubles will come and they will pass... and don't forget son, there is someone up above!" On the occasion of Bud Spencer's 80th and Terence Hill's 70's birthday, the new book "The right and the left Hand of Parody" delighted a still existing German speaking fan base. It analyzed and wrapped up a cultural-historical phenomenon of light entertainment, paired with youthful memory of fun, lots of. In times when corpses pave our bloody way to the "slipper movies" we enjoy in our living room, we fondly remember the harmlessness of those "slapper movies," where crooks usually got a good spank. Or how would you translate the German sentence: "In Zeiten, wo Leichen unseren blutigen Weg ins Patschenkino pflastern, erinnert man sich gerne an die Harmlosigkeit von solcherart Watschenkino." So much anbout entertainment of best pedagogical value and cultural-historical relevance.
This is not our baby! What a cute little guy Buddy was in "Zwei sind nicht zu bremsen (The Unstoppable Two)", a 1978 comedy, which ran under the Italian title "Pari e dispari (Even and Odd)", in reference to its gambling scenes.
Trinity, Novotny and Flatfoot
Fighting Time. The "Trinity"-project really kicked off the Spencer-Hill cooperation. The plot sees them protect peaceful Mormon settlers against Mexican bandits. As the marauders run into Trinity & Bambino, Brother Tobias explains: "Brother, I tried to warn you that my two guests here belong to another belief. They rigidly observe the law 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth!'" Reading the Old Testament (Ecclesiastes 3, 1-2), the peace loving farmers draw strength to defend themselves: "In the Words of Qoheleth (the preacher), Son of David, King of Jerusalem: There is a time to be born and a time to die, to love and to hate... Brothers, it says here there is a time to fight and a time to win. To win, brothers!" So they fought on...
Nobody or Novotny? One day a friend called, asking whether I'd like to go out with him in the evening. Unforgotten is the answer of my Grandma, who had picked up the phone: "He can't go out tonight for he wants to watch the Novotny." The Czech family name "Novotny," most common in the eastern part of Austria, seemed close enough to "Nobody". It turned out that the family of the friend had a VCR and so we went out anyway, and ended up watching Terence Hill in "My Name is Nobody" on the next day. A parody on all "man with no name"-movies. No name, no trace, no responsibility, no justification, just independence, freedom to do what we want, and a little loneliness as a side effect. And plenty of baked beans to eat, the musical fruit (the more you eat, the louder you toot). As we all know, "Even Angels Eat Beans."
Bud's Voice. Filmed in Zimbabwe, the unforgotten "I'm for the Hippopotamus (The Crocodile and his Hippo, 1979)," a sort of anti-"Hatari," sees the animal-loving heavyweight wear a necklace with a pacifier and explain: "Weißt Du, warum der liebe, kleine Schnuller nicht blau ist? Weil meine Mama wollte, dass ich ein Mädchen werde. Bin ich ja auch fast, 'ne Braut mit Vollbart! - Do you know, why the dear little pacifier isn't blue? Because my mom wanted me to be a girl. Which I am almost, a bride with a full beard!" Very loosely based on the Italian original, Rainer Brandt's German dialogue book added quick-witted remarks such as "Auf Wiedersehen, aber es eilt nicht - Until we meet again, but there is no hurry!" Puffing cigars and drinking cold beer, Wolfgang Hess achieved the rough-sounding German voice of Bud Spencer, who was also synchronized by "the voice of John Wayne," Arnold Marquis. Next to them, Thomas Dannenberg was the usual speaker of Terence Hill as well as Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Bud's Burning Thumb. Bud had fun with thinking up film titles himself. Praising him as a special, very down-to-earth person, the original Italian title of the 1979 film "The Sheriff and the Satellite Kid" goes back to a wordplay: "Uno sceriffo extraterrestre, poco extra e molto terrestre - An extraterrestrial sheriff, a little extra and very terrestrial." In the same movie Bud Spencer demonstrates a classic Laurel & Hardy scene. Lacking matches to heat up the obligatory can of beans, he mumbles: "Now Stan Laurel should be with us!" Asked by his alien kid friend, who Stan Laurel was, he explains: "You know when I was as little as you, at the movies I liked best watching two actors, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy... Well, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, they were two comedians. Oliver, he was full figured like me. And Stan, he was as skinny and thin as my little finger. And when dear Ollie once wanted to make a fire and had no matches, in thought he clasped around one finger of Stan's hand, rubbed the thumb on the palm and it burned like a matchstick." Buddy is speechless, as his own thumb starts burning due to alien biokinetic energy!
"Eine Faust geht nach Westen - A Fist goes West" - Spencer's first Western in a while marked the end of an era. The ad of his film "Bomber" was quick to point out that it was the only entirely new release planned for the same year, not to be confused with re-releases of older films, issued around the same time.
Confusing Re-Releases. Lacking enough new productions to satisfy the increasing demand, Spencer & Hill's older film appearances were newly dubbed with corny jokes, cut to reduce brutal scenes, re-titled and reissued as "new" Western comedies. Among others, "Boot Hill (1969)" was turned into "Two whoop it up (Zwei hauen auf den Putz, 1978)" and their first cooperation "God forgives... I don't (1967)" became "Two going bananas (Zwei vom Affen gebissen, 1981)."The announcement of the German release of Bud's solo film "Bomber" cleared up any confusion: "The only genuine and brand-new Bud Spencer super hit is playing in movie theaters... and stays the only one for 1982."
Madman's Game. "It's clobbering time - Hier geht's rund" describes the plot of these films best, as they were announced using tag lines like: "Da bleibt kein Auge trocken und kein Zahn im Gebiss - Not a dry eye left in the house and no tooth in the denture!" An Italian film title from 1973 would threaten "Altrimenti... ci arrabbiamo - Otherwise... we get mad!" Similar to the board game "Aggravation", a family game for grey winter afternoons, in German popular under the name "Mensch ärgere dich nicht - Man, don't get angry/don''t aggravate", which is called "Non t'arrabbiare - Don't get upset" in Italy. But now to a completely different lesson.
Laurel & Hardy Study. Spencer & Hill were said to have spent numerous hours in projection rooms, to study the harmony of Laurel & Hardy's quick-witted and punchy partnership, to get one another into trouble and still reach a common methodology of destruction. From time to time, they use similar mimic and gestures. Hill puts on Laurel's silly grin on his face after being caught in a stupidity. Or Spencer sheepishly reaches behind her ear like Hardy, when he does not know the answer to a simply question. Even Hill's travois, the plank bed his horse drags in the entrance scene of "They call me Trinity", originates from "Way Out West". Especially the bowler hats they wear in the sequel "Trinity is still my Name" are a direct reference to the kings of slapstick. And they kept some of their animal characteristics from their very first film partnership in "God forgives, I don't". The original title for the film had been "A Cat, a Dog and a Fox", an animal fable and reference to Eastwood's "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly". The main characters were not only named "Cat" Stevens and Hutch "Bessy", Hill also moved smoothly and catlike, while Spencer acted clumsy like a bulldog. On a private level the best of friends, on screen Spencer & Hill were connected by a love-hate relationship, mimicking two brothers and two enemies, who want to fight constantly, but are also willing to give their lives for each other.
Last XXL-Laughs. Up to the early 1980's Spencer & Hill films were the entertainment highlights in movie theaters, including re-releases of their older films and Sunday afternoon reruns. In particular I remember "The Sheriff and the Satellite Kid (The Big One with his Alien Little One)" and its sequel "Everything happens to me (Buddy hits the Lukas / Buddy rings the Bell)," "Odds and Evens (Two that cannot be stopped)," "Soldier of Fortune (Hector, Knight without Fear and Reproach)," "Super-Snooper (Supercop)," "Buddy goes West (A Fist goes West)" and ultimately "Big Bomber (The Bomber)." In the mid-eighties, TV stations started broadcasting old movies of the duo big time and attracted a new generation of fans, children of those who had earlier applauded them in movie theaters. However, this had the side effect that old movies were cheaply rerun for the umpteenth time rather than financing costly new films. As Spencer's movie career slowed down, he reoriented himself toward television series, including "Big Man", "Extralarge" and "We are Angels" with ex-"Miami Vice"-Cop Philip Michael Thomas. In 1994, "The Troublemakers" reunited Spencer and Hill on the silver screen for a final encore. Their first collaboration in a decade brought back great memories of eating beans with a good punch up, but from box office results it also became apparent that their time had passed.