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Western films, from silent to today

Ace High (1968)

Buddies Cat Stevens (Terence Hill) and Hutch Bessy (Bud Spencer) discover a rich banker is behind a series of holdups and manage to blackmail him for a small fortune.

The banker helps an old friend (Elia Wallach as Cacopoulos) escape from prison to recover the money. Only this old friend has an old grudge.

Seems years before, both were among a gang of five who held up a bank. During the getaway, Cacopoulos’ horse was shot — by one of his friends. He was to hold off the posse; they’d return to break him out of jail. Of course, they never did.

Before you know it, the banker is dead, Cacopoulos has stolen the money from the blackmailers; then forms a sometimes uneasy alliance with Cat and Hutch in search of further riches and revenge.

He’s after a Mexican named Paco Rosa and a rich businessman named Drake. And he won’t hesitate to use some of the money Hutch and Cat think is there’s to find them.

Review:

Made before the series of spoof Westerns featuring Hill and Spencer, so it’s better than those. And Wallach is solid as ever as the fun-loving bandit with a thirst for revenge against those who have wronged him.

The three are eventually joined by a fourth, a black traveling acrobat named Thomas. Together, they engage in one of the more bizarre final showdowns you’ll see — nine men squaring off in a gambling hall, stepping over bodies of the cowering patrons as they wait for the ball on a roulette wheel to stop spinning.

One problem, for the material, it seems to take way too long to get to that gambling hall, with revoluntionaries, an extended Mexican fiesta scene and a boxing match (featuring Spencer, of course), thrown in for good measure.

Directed by:
Giuseppe Colizza

Cast:
Eli Wallach … Cacopoulos
Terence Hill … Cat Stevens
Bud Spencer … Hutch Bessy
Brock Peters … Thomas
Kevin McCarthy … Drake
Tiffany Hoyveld … Thomas’ wife
Livio Lorenzon … Paco Rosa
Remo Capitani … Cangaceiro
Isa Foster … Cacopoulos’ woman
Armando Bandini … Bank cashier
Leroy Haynes … Prize boxer

aka:
Four Gunmen of Ave Marie
Quattro dell’ Ave Marie
Have Gun Will Travel
Revenge in El Paso

Score: Carlo Rustichelli
Runtime: 122 min.

Memorable lines:

Cat Stevens: “Here’s all that’s left of him. Now for the reward.” He throws a pair of boots on the sheriff’s desk. “Our old friend died with his boots off.”
Sheriff: “No, I’m sorry. We need sure proof.”
Cat: “Unfortunately, I can’t supply you with sure proof as you call it. He got blown up.”

Cat Stevens: “If I’m right, I’ll make him spit up all the loose change. There’s enough of that for both of us to retire on.”

Cacopoulos to the banker: “You know, the idea of killing a deputy with my knife wouldn’t have come from the kind of people you sent (to help me escape jail), but from a more refined mind.”

Hutch, to a young man, as a gunfight appears imminent: “Even if you’re an idiot, I don’t know why you want to die so young.”

Hutch after watching Cacopoulus gun down one of the men he’s after: “Did you make him give back the money?”
Cacopoulos: “I forgot.”

Other tidbits:

This marked the only Spaghetti outing for Brock Peters, who came to fame when he played a black man accused of raping a white girl and defended by lawyer Gregory Peck in 1962’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.” He was also a longtime friend of Charlton Heston; the two appeared together in “Major Dundee” (1965).

This was also the only Spaghetti for Kevin McCarthy, a longtime TV actor. Here, he plays the role of Brock, the owner of a crooked gambling house and the last of the former “friends” Wallach visits. Much later, he would play bit roles in “Once Upon a Texas Train” (1988) and “The Rose and the Jackal” (1990).

When the long walk by Hutch and Cat winds up at an Irishman’s house, Spaghetti fans are likely to immediately recognize two of the children, Simonetta Santaniello and Enzo Santaniello, who played two of the McBain children in “Once Upon a Time in the West.”

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