Terence Hill just could never make it into the upper echelon of western actors. Clint Eastwood always had more of a presence, Lee Van Cleef looked coolor, Eli Wallach was funnier and Franco Nero was seemingly more badass.
But Hill received the respect he deserved, mostly as a purveyor of the slapstick spaghetti western, like Sergio Leone’s underrated My Name is Nobody. Hill was plenty awesome, plenty badass and still had that on screen charisma necessary to convince audiences that he could quickly shoot you dead.
God Forgives…I Don’t seems like one of Hill’s forgotten acts. Directed by Giuseppe Colizzi, Hill plays Cat Stevens (I know, right?), but I just think of him as Pretty Face, which is what bad dude Bill San Antonio calls him. Who comes up with these names, anyways?
The film is first in a trilogy (followed by Ace High and Boot Hill) and was the first big Hill and Bud Spencer collaboration (the Trinity series is where they shine). Colizzi, who isn’t someone I’m familiar with, can be thanked for getting the two together. He didn’t work all that much as a director it seems. He had only six films starting with the debut of God Forgives…I Don’t in 1967 and ending with his final film Switch in 1979.
Because of how new Colizzi was to the job, God Forgives…I Don’t doesn’t really have much to offer that will blow you away. It’s certainly a film for the western completionist though, because it’s good enough to watch late, late, late at night when your sanity is gone and you need a taste of a new Italian western.
Leone’s The Good, The Bad and The Ugly came out on year prior to Colizzi’s film, which is sort of a grim and dark take on the greed triangle presented in TGTBTU. Like Leone’s film, there’s good, there’s bad, there’s ambiguous. There’s buried treasure and showdowns on the dust that covers that gold.
The film’s opening throws you off track. It shows a train full of murdered civilians and tells you gold has been stolen. Everyone died but one. You think: Oh, some hero is going to save the day and find out who did this terrible thing. WRONG! Instead, Cat Stevens, or Pretty Face, or whatever, gets wind of the news and along with his good buddy Hutch Bessy (Spencer) starts to figure out who it could have been because they want the loot!
Clearly, there weren’t many possibilities, because their minds gravitate towards old Bill San Antonio’s gang. But wait, Pretty Face remembers shooting old Bill down in a parlor game and leaving his body to be burned by a ravaging fire. Or did he?
And on they investigate. There’s showdowns, kidnappings, gunpoint conversations, brothels, more gambling, some drinking, threats being made, more gambling and more showdowns. This is a western, after all.
But this film doesn’t really have much to lean on. It’s run-of-the-mill and except for the leads and Bill San Antonio’s facial hair the characters are forgettable. There’s a lot of no name thugs and henchman who serve as nothing but a body count and a place for more worthwhile characters to take their aggression out. “And there’s an awful lot…” serves as old Bill talking about how many damn people will be out for Pretty Face. There’s lots! And they mean nothing.
What also struck me as odd in this film was how desolate its environment is. It exists in a weird world of its own. It obviously didn’t have a budget big enough to construct some kind of old west town. The film mostly takes place “on the road” and in hideouts and their favorite bars/gambling joints. Those were some of the best scenes though – especially the opening round the table camera shot of a fixed poker game, which is the moment we’re introduced to Pretty Face’s pretty face, blue eyes and lethal ability to kill a room full of bad guys.
So to kind of step back and re-evaluate, God Forgives…I Don’t is for the spaghetti western fan only. I can’t see anyone else getting much out of this average flick. If you’re new to the genre, check out Leone’s The Man With No Name trilogy. It’s the perfect entry into the style and weirdness of the genre. Then watch Django, because it’s badass and Franco Nero carries around a coffin with a secret surprise in it. Also Quentin Tarantino is planning to rip it off in his next movie.
Oh, by the way, God Forgives…I Don’t features one of my least favorite close-up shots of all time. Here it is for your enjoyment.