Friday, 16 September 2016

I'm with the hippos (4 Stars)

This is a 1979 Italian comedy starring Bud Spencer and Terence Hill. I've translated the title literally. It was released in English as "I'm for the hippos", which changes the meaning, but not as much as the Dutch version, which is called "The four fists on safari". The French go all the way by calling it "Cul et Chemise", i.e. "Ass and Shirt". (I don't use the British word "arse" because it sounds too vulgar to me. I use the American word "ass" because it sounds funny). Today I watched the German version, which is called "The Crocodile and his Hippo". There are a few hippos but no crocodiles in the film, so what sense does that make? The Germans have taken great liberties with the film in their dubbing. In the original film the two main characters are called Slim and Tom, but in the German version their names have been changed to Crocodile and Hippopotamus. That's quite amazing. Are they making fun of Bud because of his weight?

Slim (Terence Hill) and Tom (Bud Spencer) are two cousins who grew up in Rhodesia, before the country changed its name to Zimbabwe. Rhodesia used to be the richest country in Africa, its opulent farms producing so much food that it could be exported worldwide. Zimbabwe is now the world's poorest country, and its population is starving. How did this happen in such a short time? One man is responsible for ruining his country: Robert Mugabe, who has been in power since 1980, first as prime minister, then as president. Zimbabwe is nominally a democracy, but he retains power by forging the election results and imprisoning anyone who dares oppose him. Originally he was considered a hero as one of the rebel leaders who opposed white rule in Rhodesia, but now he's hated by his people so much that they would beg the former white leaders to return. The biggest mistake he made was his land reform policy. Most of the country's farms were in the control of white farmers. At first he encouraged the farmers to sell their farms to black buyers, but when very few farms were sold he encouraged his supporters to ransack the farms and drive the white people out. Today the former Rhodesian farms are uncultivated weed patches. If anyone complains Mugabe sends his soldiers to slaughter whole villages.

"I'm with the hippos" shows Rhodesia in its affluent days. Slim returns to Rhodesia after spending a few years in Canada. He's an animal activist, and he's shocked to see that his cousin Tom is running safaris for foreign tourists. He sabotages the safaris by shooting the tyres of Tom's land rover. What he doesn't know is that Tom is also opposed to killing animals for sport. Tom gives his customers rifles loaded with blanks, and when the animals don't die he tells them they missed their targets. Bravo, Tom! I like your style.

Other entrepreneurs have less respect for animals. A millionaire called Ormond wants to capture thousands of animals to export them to Canada. As we see, Slim has returned to Rhodesia because he heard of Ormond's plan and wants to stop him. Most of the film is a series of comic scenes in which Slim and Tom battle with their nemesis.

I recently bought a box set of films starring Bud Spencer, to remember him in his death. His real name is Carlo Pedersoli, and he died on June 27th 2016. I would have rewatched some of his films which I already owned at the time, but as my regular readers know that was shortly before my move to Germany and I'd already packed most of my films. Now, after a three month delay, I can make up for it. Bud Spencer was one of the greatest actors of all time, and definitely Italy's greatest actor.

Many of Bud's films also starred Terence Hill, the blond-haired, blue-eyed Italian, whose real name is Mario Girotti. They were a perfect as a duo, their comedy bouncing off one another in more than 20 films.

Bud Spencer
31 October 1929 – 27 June 2016

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