Written by: Michael Den Boer on November 10th, 2004
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1968
Director: Giuseppe Colizzi
Writer: Giuseppe Colizzi
Cast: Eli Wallach, Terence Hill, Bud Spencer, Kevin McCarthy
DVD released: November 9th, 2004
Approximate running time: 122 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: Paramount
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $14.99
“Well, no. Money corrupts men, it softens him. So to keep you young and pure, I think I’ll take everything.” – Cacopoulos
Cacopoulos (Eli Wallach) on the day of his execution is visited by an old friend who offers to help him break out of jail if he returns the favor by killing two men who recently took a lot of his money. Cat Stevens (Terence Hill) and Hutch Bessy (Bud Spencer) are the two men Cacopoulos has been hired to kill instead he lets them go and takes them money they stole. Through a series of events their paths continue to cross as Cacopoulos exacts revenge on those who had him put in jail for fifteen years of hard labor. Cat and Hutch are forced to help him if they ever want to see their money again.
Ace High is the second in a trilogy of films that involve the adventures of Cat Stevens and Hutch Bessy. The other two films are God Forgives… I Don’t! and Boot Hill. Giuseppe Colizzi only directed a handful of films most them starred Terence Hill and Bud Spencer. They would go on star in the hugely successful trinity series. By the late 1960’s spaghetti westerns had started to lose their appeal and some director’s like Giuseppe Colizzi started to inject more humor into this genre giving it a second life through out the early 1970’s.
One of the stables of the Spaghetti western genre has been that they are also buddy pictures. Terence Hill and Bud Spencer make the most unlikely pair of them all. Hill is a lean laid back suave while Spencer’s imposing size often lands him in the role of a brute or the brunt of the joke. They are polar opposites that balance out the other perfectly and they never really achieve on their own the success they found together. Eli Wallach is the real star of the show and his Cacopoulos is similar in many ways to the character of Tuco which he played in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Even though he never really achieved leading man status in his career there is an undeniable presence that he possesses as he steals every scene he is in. The most memorable scene in the movie involves Cacopoulos who is in a nurse of sorts as babies in baskets are hanging form the roof. Hutch wants his money back and he wakes the babies with load voice. Cacopoulos proceeds to tell him how he can get his money back as they swing the baskets back and forth calmly not only the babies down, but he manages to calm down Hutch in the process.
The film ends like most Spaghetti westerns with a final showdown. Sergio Leone set the stage with his dollars trilogy and Once Upon a time in The west films out doing himself each time by coming up with new and clever ways to stage Mexican standoffs. In Ace High, Giuseppe Colizzi comes up with one of the most inspired standoffs that I have seen to date. It takes place in a gambling house were they use the roulette table as their single to draw and as the goes round and round classical music plays in the back ground adding to the scenes grandeur. Carlo Rustichelli wrote the films score that was conducted by Bruno Nicolai a frequent collaborator of Ennio Morricone. While the score never achieves the quality of Morricone’s work with Leone, Rustichelli’s score still has some beautifully composed moments that add class to the film. Giuseppe Colizzi uses the techniscope frame to the fullest as he composes shots that are always inventive and interesting. Ace High doesn’t take itself as serious as other spaghetti westerns which rely on more political backdrops as their plots. This film focuses more on the characters just having a good time which is a refreshing take on the genre.
Ace High is presented in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the films original scope aspect ratio. There is some minor print damage mostly in the first five minutes and grain is kept to a minimum. The colors are good, still at times they appear a little faded and the detail is exceptional through out.
The only audio source on this DVD is an English dubbed track that is presented in a Dolby Digital mono. The overall quality of this audio track is very good with all the action predominately focused on the front and center speakers. The dialog and action is always clear and easy to follow.
Not a single extra included for this classic spaghetti western. This seems to be a common trend concerning the releases of spaghetti westerns. It is great having the film in its original aspect ratio, still it would be nice if more of these release from this genre would have some sort of extra content included.
Paramount’s Ace High DVD gives fans a chance to see this film in its original aspect ratio in its best home video audio/video to date. Ace High is one of the genres stand out films and it is now available at an affordable price, highly recommended.