The bizarre story of Simone & Matteo, the copycats of Terence Hill and Bud Spencer
Bud Spencer (Carlo Pedersoli) and Terence Hill (Marco Girotti) were a hugely popular and iconic pair in Italian cinema. The two actors starred in 18 films together, with their last collaboration being in 1994, a film directed by Terence Hill.
Featured image: the official movie poster of the movie Carambola!
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In the mid-1970s, the duo was incredibly popular in Italy and every film they released was a hit. Their spaghetti western film “Trinity is still my name” was a particularly huge success in 1972 and it is still considered one of the most watched Italian films, currently ranking at number nine.
Aetos Film production company aimed to capitalize on the fame of Spencer and Hill by replicating their formula for success, which was to cast a “big” and a “handsome” actor together in a light-hearted, action-packed western comedy. This formula had proven to be a hit in Italian cinemas and Aetos Film sought to implement it in their own movies. All of the elements that had made Hill and Spencer’s films so successful were meticulously replicated: the actors’ likenesses, the film titles, the settings, and even the soundtrack and dubbing, to the point where a strange sense of confused familiarity mixed with a whiff of deception overtakes the viewer upon casual viewing.
The idea came to film director Mauro Bolognini. In 1974 Carambola!, the first film of the Smith-Coby duo, was released in theaters, produced by Aetos Film, founded by Manolo, brother of director Mauro.
The actors in the film were handpicked to look exactly like Bud Spencer and Terence Hill. American actor Paul L. Smith, aka Adam Eden, and Italian Antonio Cantafora, aka Michael Coby, were chosen. They were cast as the “big guy” and the “handsome guy,” respectively. The former, a rugged and bearded just like Bud Spencer, and the latter bright-eyed blond in clear imitation of Terence Hill: a pair that represented the most blatant replica in the history of cinema. The partnership that did not stop at a single film. Their behaviour and their actions were directly influenced by the original duo: the first two films (Carambola! and Carambola’s Philosophy: In the Right Pocket) are two spaghetti western movies, with the “handsome one” being a pool player and playing the smart guy, and the “big guy” being a bungler with superhuman power. The same roles can also be seen in the films Convoy Buddies (1975, Simone and Matteo – Un gioco da ragazzi) and in The Diamond Peddlers (1976, Il Vangelo secondo Simone e Matteo). We Are No Angels, echoing the name Even Angels Eat Beans, finally, takes place around the turn of the twentieth century, with races between stagecoaches and automobiles.
Aetos Film, in their efforts to capitalize on the success of the Spencer and Hill duo, not only sought to imitate their formula of casting, but also their method of dubbing and soundtracks. Bud Spencer and Terence Hill, even though they were Italian actors, had their voices dubbed by voice actors Pino Locchi and Glauco Onorato respectively in the domestic versions of their films. Aetos Film thought of hiring the same dubbers and assigning them to their own actors, in order to create a similar feel and sound to the original films. The same methodology was applied in the production of the soundtracks, where the Oliver Onions (Guido and Maurizio De Angelis), who had set to music many of the original pair’s hits, were employed. This approach can be seen as an attempt to replicate the success of the Spencer and Hill films by imitating not only the actors and the story but also the technical aspects of their films.
During the short film production of Simone and Matteo, the couple’s pseudonyms are not entirely consistent. In fact, these names are used in the two films directed by Giuliano Carnimeo because, in the two films directed by Ferdinando Baldi, Paul L. Smith plays Len (or Len Rodovan) and Michael Coby is simply Coby, whereas in the one film directed by Gianfranco Parolini, they play brothers Raphael and Angel McDonald, respectively.
These films were also released abroad and their names were sometimes changed or retained: In Anglo-Saxon countries the names Len (or Butch) and Toby were used for the films directed by Carmineo and Baldi, while in Parolini’s film they retained Raphael and Angel McDonald. In Germany they used the names Butch and Toby for the same films as Baldi and kept Raphael and Angel McDonald for Parolini’s, while in the films released in Spanish they had the name Simón y Mateo, and in France, they were always called Butch and Coby.
Convoy Buddies was picked up by Film Ventures International for an American distribution, and producer Edward L. Montoro altered Smith’s name to Bob Spencer and Cantafora’s name to Terrance Hall. Smith filed a lawsuit, arguing successfully that an actor’s name recognition is critical to his profession. The court agreed and ruled against Film Ventures International, which paid Smith’s damages and court costs.
In France, to capitalize on the fame of the films “They Called Him Trinity” and “Trinity is still my name”, Carambola was given the title Mon nom est Trinita (“My Name is Trinity”); for the fourth movie (We Are No Angels) “Trinity, nous voilà” (“Trinity here we are”), and the last one made (Diamond Peddlers) was given the title Pour Pâques ou à la Trinita (For Easter or at the Trinity) despite having no connection with those played by Bud Spencer and Terence Hill and despite the fact that Smith and Cantafora’s films were not even related to each other. For the same reason, in the Portuguese language translation the title of the film Carambola’s Philosophy: In the Right Pocket the name Trinity e Carambola a dupla invencível (“Trinity and Carambola the invincible pair”).
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