ACE HIGH (I quattro dell’Ave Maria)

(director/writer: Giuseppe Colizzi; screenwriter: Raffaele Mattela; cinematographer: Marcello Masciocchi; editor: Marcello Malvestito; music:Carlo Rustichelli; cast: Terence Hill (Cat Stevens), Eli Wallach (Cacopoulos), Kevin McCarthy (Drake), Livio Lorenzon (Paco Rosa), Brock Peters (Thomas), Tiffany Hoyveld (Thomas’s Wife), Bud Spencer (Hutch Bessy), Stephen Zacharias (Harold), Bruno Corazzari (Deputy Charlie), Frank Brana (Harold’s henchman), Rick Boyd (Foster); Runtime: 123; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Bino Cicogna/Giuseppe Colizzi; Paramount; 1968-Italy-dubbed in English)

“A lukewarm spaghetti western.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A lukewarm spaghetti western, filmed in Almeria, Spain, by Italian writer-director Giuseppe Colizzi (“Boot Hill”/”God Forgives…I Don’t!”). The film is the second in a trilogy started with “God Forgives…I Don’t!” and ending with “Boot Hill.”

It’s put together like a poor version of a Sergio Leone film, and without Clint Eastwood the film lacks star power. Eli Wallach plays the same type of character he played in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, but because the film is lackluster his performance suffers. Also it’s awkwardly dubbed.The drama never materializes and the story is muddled, while the comedy it tries so desperately for is very thin and spotty.

Two bad hombre bounty hunters ride into El Paso, Cat Stevens (Terence Hill) and Hutch Bessy (Bud Spencer), and head for the office of the crooked bank president (Stephen Zacharias).They force him to write a check to overlook the bank robberies he engineered when partnered with one of the wanted men they just killed.The rough-house boys work the banker over and come away with a small fortune in gold when they cash the banker’s check.

The crooked local bank president is miffed and thereby breaks the wrongly convicted Cacopoulos (Eli Wallach) out of jail, where he has served so far for 15 years and is about to be executed tomorrow. The banker wants him in exchange for his release to gun down Cat and Hutch.The man hired to free Caco kills the deputy (Bruno Corazzari) and lets him go free. But instead of fleeing with the gunman, the wily Cacopoulos kills him with the deputy’s gun and then kills the banker in his office. The banker with two others betrayed him 15 years ago and thereby sent him wrongly to prison. Later Cacopoulos catches up with Cat and Hutch on the trail and robs them of the money they took from the banker. Cacopoulos spreads the money he just took among the poor in the nearby dusty town, while the incredulous brutes chase him down and are prepared to do anything to get the money back. When they catch up with him, they get roped into taking part in the Greek’s outlandish escapades to go after another so-called friend, the second party who betrayed him 15 years ago. Caco promises to give them back the money he robbed from them when he gets it back from his betrayer, Paco (Livio Lorenzon) — a ”revolutionary” presiding over a kangaroo court condemning men to death for ”not fighting for country and freedom.”  After defeating and killing Paco in a massive shoot-out in his outdoor court, he forgets to get back the money he promised the bounty hunters. So they put Caco in jail. But he escapes and winds up in Memphis, where he locates Drake (Kevin McCarthy), his third betrayer, running a casino.

Brock Peters plays Thomas, the gritty ex-slave, now an acrobat, who is crossing the country with his wife (Tiffany Hoyveld) and are supporting themselves with his street, passing-the-hat-around, tightrope act. He now works in Drake’s casino but was befriended by the bounty hunters and thereby joins them and the Greek for the final set-piece in the casino, where Caco gets his revenge on Drake with the help of Cat, Hutch and Thomas. This shoot-out is the highlight scene and the one that worked the best.

Aside from having too many dull spots and a story too contrived to be believable by even the most naive viewer, the B film is too long and at over two hours is not an enjoyable watch.

REVIEWED ON 7/24/2019       GRADE: C