They Call Me Hallelujah

aka On m’appelle Allejula (Fr), … Man nennt mich Hallelujah (WG), Heads You Die… Tails I Kill You (Int), Testa t’ammazzo croce… sei morto! mi chiamano Alleluja (Int)
Dario Sabatello for Colosseo Artistica
Director: Anthony Ascot [Giuliano Carnimeo]
Story & screenplay: Tito Carpi
Music: Stelvio Cipriani (C.A.M.)
Cinematography: Stelvio Massi {Eastmancolor – Colorscope Spes}
Editor: Bruno Micheli
Set design: Giacomo Calò Carducci
Cameraman: Sergio Rubini
Release information: Registered 03.04.71. Italy (08.04.71, 98 mins), France (12.04.73), West Germany (04.02.72, 96 mins)
Cast: George Hilton (Hallelujah), Charles Southwood (Alexej Kopenkin), Agata Flory [Flori] (Lt. Donavan, aka Sister Anna Lee), Roberto Camardiel (Emilio Ramirez). Paolo Gozlino (Fortune), Andrea Bosic (Johannes Krantz), Linda Sini (Gertrud), Aldo Barberito (Victoriano Pacheco, aka ‘The Priest’), Franco Pesce (Ebenezer), Rick Boyd [Federico Boido] (Frank Slocum), Paolo Magalotti (Krantz henchman at laundry), Ugo Adinolfi, Lino Coletta (Jake, a Fortune henchman), Fortunato Arena (the sheriff), Freddy Unger [Goffredo Ungaro] (Butch), Lerro Rocco, Gaetano Scala, Claudio Ruffini (Krantz henchman at laundry)
Aldo Berti (Fortune’s man), John Bartha (man killed in laundry), Luciano Rossi (Ross), Furio Meniconi (Gluck)

They Call Me Hallelujah
They Call Me Hallelujah

Despite featuring many of the same people both in front of and behind the cameras (cinematographer Stelvio Massi, scriptwriter Tito Carpi, actors Barberito, Sini & Southwood), They Call Me Hallelujah represents a considerable evolutionary step from the previous Carnimeo / Hilton production, A Fistful of Lead. Whereas that film had been – on the whole – a serious Western with comic touches, this represents the first of their collaborations to be an all out comedy, albeit with enough drama and tension to make the transition less jarring. The next character they were to create – ‘Tricky Dicky’ in The Crazy Gang and A Man Called Invincible – would see them taking the farcical elements a stage further and, some would argue, losing the plot altogether.

As such, They Call Me Hallelujah really demonstrates how Carnimeo was the true master of this type of thing: his direction is stylish, macabre, filled with comic book touches and, although self-indulgent, never oppressively so. Curiously, he took a break from making this and it’s sequel by filming His Name was Holy Ghost (72), which again saw the Sartana character taken in a similarly humorous direction (but featured the original star of that series, Gianni Garko).

Amidst the chaos of the Mexican revolution, rebel leader Ramirez (Roberto Camardiel) hires a bounty hunter, Hallelujah (George Hilton), to recover a bag full of jewels which have been ‘appropriated’ by the authorities, with the intention of exchanging them for machine guns smuggled from the US. He manages to get hold of the jewels without too much trouble, apart from having to fight off the attentions of a band of (hopeless) bandits. There’s only one problem: they all happen to be fake. Realizing that somebody must have changed them along the way, Hallelujah begins trying to work out exactly who the guilty party could be.  So he decides to work backwards, his first port of call being Krantz (Andrea Bosic), the man who was selling the guns in the first place. It seems his suspicions are correct: no sooner has he begun his investigations than he’s framed for murder. Thank the Lord for explosive buttons, how else would you escape from jail without them?

It turns out that Krantz has been getting greedy, and had been working with the aforementioned daft bandits to get hold of the jewels for himself. The authorities, however, have been clever. The bag was a red herring and the real booty is being transported by some other means. The most likely suspect is a handy nun (Agata Flori), who seems to have an unholy interest in everything that’s going on.

This takes the revolutionary trend of the genre – and most particularly Sergio Corbucci’s The Mercenary (68) and Companeros (70) – as a starting point, interweaving it with the detective scenarios of the Sartana films. That it gets somewhat lost along the way is understandable: at times there’s simply so much going on that it’s virtually impossible to keep track of just what’s happening. Although messy and as far from the (supposed) pared down origins of the Spaghetti Western as could be, it’s never less than honest good fun and well enough made to keep even the most skeptical of viewers happy.

Turning up the curtains in They Call Me Hallelujah
Turning up the curtains in They Call Me Hallelujah

When watching a number of these films, certain things do start to blur into one another. Here you have several staples of the genre, early seventies vintage: false teeth gags, laxative ingestion, incongruous nun action, a big fight in a laundry (complete with people having their bottoms ironed). There are some mildly amusing dialogue cuts that wouldn’t be out of place in a Carry On film (‘that’s not fit for me to wipe my…’, ‘the ass is ready’) and a number of ridiculous gadgets. The most prominent of these is a sowing-machine-gun, which also doubles as a handy dandy rocket launcher. Worryingly, this actually makes some kind of sense when taken within the context of what’s going on, on-screen.

As with A Fistful of Lead, Charles Southwood turns up, two thirds of the way through, as an entirely eccentric bounty hunter (a balalaika playing Russian Duke in this case). And, once again, the film kicks up a gear with his arrival. As well as displaying a deadpan sense of humor, he also shows some nimble footwork in the inevitable ‘Russian Dancing’ sequence. He makes a suitable foil for Hilton, whose languid coolness is the perfect counterbalance for his somewhat po-faced ridiculousness. Interestingly, in a recent interview, Southwood suggests that the film was subject to substantial re-editing that reduced his part; which doesn’t seem entirely unlikely. Whatever, Return of Hallelujah would suffer from his absence, with Lincoln Tate proving to be a rather ineffectual stand-in. Further down the cast, there are amusing performances from Paolo (One More in Hell) Gozlino, Andrea (Two Mafiosi Against Goldfinger) Bosic and Rick Boyd (who here has a fiendish playmate, Horace the horrible scorpion).


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