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  Ace High Casino Caper
Year: 1968
Director: Giuseppe Colizzi
Stars: Eli Wallach, Terence Hill, Bud Spencer, Brock Peters, Kevin McCarthy, Tiffany Hoyveld, Federico Boido, Armando Bandini, Livio Lorenzon, Steffen Zacharias, Remo Capitani, Bruno Corazzari, Dante Cleri, Antonietta Fiorito, Isa Foster, Franco Gulà
Genre: Western, ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Two bounty hunters ride into town, Cat Stevens (Terence Hill) and Hutch Bessy (Bud Spencer), seeking recompense. Eyeing the locals as they slowly travel along the streets, they are here for the gold they are owed and end up asking for the cash for the boots of a wanted, now dead, man they have on their person, though at the relevant office this is not enough to secure them their profit. Therefore they travel to the bank to meet with the President, introducing themselves rather forcefully and leaving with what they believe is their due, thousands of dollars in gold which they plan to invest. However, actually hanging on to that fortune is going to prove more difficult than they had imagined...

That is because of the character played by the top-billed star in Ace High, Eli Wallach, who was patently brought onboard to remind audiences of a far better known Spaghetti Western, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, especially when he was pretty much playing exactly the same man under a different name, not Tuco this time but the harder to remember Cacopoulos. Wallach may have been drafted in as the celebrity draw, but if anything Hill and Spencer were becoming his equals in this genre; he had become a fixture of a few Westerns thanks to his memorable turn as a Mexican bandit leader in The Magnificent Seven, but his co-stars were fast making their names as a big attraction, that rare double act in the field.

Hill and Spencer would go on to coast on the fame they found together in a number of other films, usually comedies and as often apart as they were united, but it was the trilogy of Westerns under the direction of Giuseppe Colizzi - God Forgives, I Don't, this one and Boot Hill - which brought them to the attention of the public and they remain a much admired team to this day, particularly among those who prefer their entertainment unpretentious and easygoing. The addition of Wallach to this mix suited their buddy chemistry well, his ostensible bad guy being too mischievous to truly be hateful thereby making him an ideal foil to the duo while just as credible when they eventually set aside their differences to combat a common foe, in this case Kevin McCarthy's Drake.

Before that point, there's a bunch of convoluted plotting to get through: it's nearly half an hour into a two hour plus movie before we get to establishing Cacopoulos has nicked Cat and Hutch's money and they will go to great lengths to retrieve it. Incidentally, it's curious that Hill's character should share the name of the famed sixties singer Cat Stevens, and they appear to have emerged into the world stage at the same time, so was it a coincidence or was Colizzi impressed with the future Yusuf Islam's then-new material and wished to pay tribute? Anyway, back at the plot, the pair of bounty hunters find themselves traipsing through many a dusty desert and dusty desert town for that matter in search of the wily Cacopulous who we have seen escape an execution.

He wants recompense too, and more than that revenge on those who have slighted him and set him up to die as an outlaw, not a status he is entirely happy with though he's willing to keep up the pretense if it means he gets what he wants. Also along for the ride was another American star, Brock Peters as the ex-slave, now acrobat Thomas who is making his way through the land with his wife (Tiffany Hoyveld) and his tightrope act (or Peters' stuntman's tightrope act); he becomes a valuable ally when eventually all four of them join together for the movie's real setpiece, the finale where the heist of Drake's casino is staged. This is by far the best sequence, as though the previous hour and a half has burbled along pleasurably enough there hasn't been enough to make an impression, not a strong one at any rate, but once Wallach is at his most Tuco-like fooling the casino as the others assist him in his cheating then the mood cranks up a few notches. This probably wasn't going to be anybody's favourite, but the final gunfight was vividly rendered. Morricone-esque music by Carlo Rustichelli.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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