We Are No Angels

We Are No AngelsCast: Micheal Coby [Antonio Cantafora] (Angel), Paul Smith (Raphael MacDonald), Evelyn Kaye (Evelyn Sutton), Fiona Florence [teresa Alcini] (Linda Sutton), Renato Cestiè (Willy), Franco Pesce (Professor Herbert), Fausta Avelli (Polly), Walter Villani, Massimo Vanni (Shark henchman), Giovanni Bonadonna, Franco Ukmar, Elio Bonadonna, Augusto Funari, Armando Bottin, Emilio Messina (Shark’s man), Max Turilli, Amedeo Timpani, John Barta (the sheriff), Maria Tedeschi, Stefano Cedrato, Teresa Rossi Pasanti, Woody Strode (Black Bull), John Ireland (Mister Shark)
Uncredited: Roberto Messina (boxing referee), Artemio Antonini (shark henchman), Pino Mattei (Shark henchman)

We Are No Angels continues in much the same vein as Gainfranco Parolini’s previous film, This Time I’ll Make You Rich, which also featured an odd couple of protagonists caught up in a slapstick adventure. The inspiration for this kind of nonsense, of course, were the hugely popular Terence Hill / Bud Spencer films, which kicked off with The Call Me Trinity in 1970 and went on to clean up at the box offices throughout the 1970s and early 80s. It was a model that encouraged the creation of other, similar, little-and-large double acts, and amongst the best known of them were Paul Smith and Micheal Coby, who first paired up in Ferdinando Baldi’s Trinity rip-off Carambola. This proved popular enough to provide them with a brief period of stardom, which they rapidly cashed in on by appearing in a whopping four films – including We Are no Angels – in 1975.

When Raphael MacDonald (Paul Smith) bumps into his long absent younger brother, Angel (Antonio Cantafora), he’s not particularly happy; the last time they met he’d skedaddled with a cool $1500 of his money. Before Raphael can beat the the bejesus out of him, though, Angel explains that he’s used it to buy a car and a concession in an outpost town called High Falls City. His intention is that they should set themselves up as a transport service, ferrying rich customers around the territory for a hefty fare. Although their relationship is far from patched up, the two of them head off to make their millions.

Their money-making scheme, however, soon runs into some problems. A dotty old professor (Franco Pesce) has dug up half their just-purchased land in his crazy search for molasses, which he believes is buried deep underground, and High Falls City turns out to be under the control of a dotty town boss called Shark (John Ireland), who takes an instant dislike to them. Meanwhile, an old nemesis of theirs, an angry wrestler called Black Bull (Woody Strode), is on their trail, aiming to recoup a load of money that they’d cheated him out of some years previously.

It turns out, however, that Angel also has other reasons for coming to High Falls City: firstly there’s Evelyn (Evelyn Kaye), a girl he’s taken a shine to. And then there’s also the fact that the town hosts an annual race, complete with a considerable cash prize as a reward. As the owners of a fancy new motor, it should be theirs for the taking. Shark, however, has different ideas.

Although essentially a rip-off of the Spencer / Hill films – if not specifically They Call Me Trinity – I guess Parolini can be slightly forgiven for doing something so lacking in originality. After all, he’d been peddling a similar format for some years; for Angel and Raphael you can easily ready Joe Walker and Tom Rowland (from the Kommissar X films) or Sabata and Banjo (from Sabata). In fact, most of his films feature an uneasy partnership (between two or three characters) at their heart, as well as a lot of humor and action, which were pretty much the key ingredients of the Spencer / Hill films. In fact, it could be argued that Parolini was a natural at this kind of thing, and it was inevitable that he’d end up making them.

Unfortunately, the problem is that whereas his previous films were often juvenile, they were never entirely childish. Both This Time I’ll Make You Rich and We Are No Angels, though, are pretty hard to take for an audience with any degree of sophistication. The action sequences are brilliantly choreographed, undoubtedly, but there are only so many times you can see someone getting boxed on the head before it becomes a bit wearing. The humor itself is very much of the vaudeville variety, albeit allowing for a couple of half decent gags: the virginal Evelyn mistaking Angel and Raphael’s discussion of their car, Caroline, for banter about a prostitute (‘Our Caroline has a great body, we both jump on one at a time, then together’), or the protagonists’ desperate search for a toilet after eating some dodgy food. Furthermore, the script is rudimentary, to say the least, with little in the way of characterization of plot development. Although both Renato Izzo and Giovanni Simonelli were capable of penning some utter dross, they seemed to form a more productive writing partnership with Parolini than Abronio Corti, who appears completely unable to curb his whimsical excesses.

Still, if you’re willing to switch your brain onto standby, it’s not unenjoyable. It certainly bumbles along at quite a pace, and it’s entertaining to spot the ‘Parolini-ish’ touches: a crazy henchman with a half metal head, the politician villain with a thing for crazy slogans (‘progress is regress’). And Coby and Smith make for perfectly tolerable protagonists, even if they’re very much Hill and Spencer lite (and Hill and Spencer were pretty damned lite in the first place). Actually, both of them went on to have much more interesting careers after the disbanding of their screen partnership. Smith went on to work as a supporting actor for the likes of Alan Parker (Midnight Express, 78), Arthur Hiller (The In-Laws, 79), Robert Altman (Popeye, 80), David Lynch (Dune, 84) and Sam Raimi (Crimewave, 85). Coby, whose real name was Antonio Cantafora, briefly tried to break into the international market with his appearance in the Joan Collins vehicle The Bitch (79), before appearing in numerous Italian films.

Parolini remembered both actors kindly: “They were nice guys, especially Micheal Coby… He was vivacious, and had a great desire to do things. Paul Smith was an Israeli, very easy-going, a bit of a scoundrel. I remember I met him one time at the airport, when we were both going to Switzerland, and he said: ‘I’m just carrying some cash into Switzerland… quite a lot actually’ And it was about 100 or 200 thousand dollars, which Amati had given him for his work in Italy! I was going to pick up a small sum for my work on a job and he was going to deposit god knows how much…”

Paul Smith and Micheal Coby in We Are No Angels Paul Smith and Woody Strode in We Are No Angels Paul Smith and Micheal Coby in We Are No Angels

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