Movie Fan Man: Cinema Connoisseur

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He Made Being Hammy Work:

A Look at George Hilton

by Tony Nash

(All opinions are of the author alone)

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When a good number of Cult film fans think of George Hilton, they think of an actor who took his work to too high theatrics and overplayed the majority of his roles.

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While in many cases they weren’t wrong, very often his over theatrics served him well in making his parts believable and interesting. Often Hilton tended to play his roles lightheartedly, but when the role called for him to be serious, he could play it straight like a seasoned veteran of the stage. Like with anything else, sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t, but when it did, it was always a fun ride. Due to Hilton being mostly recognized for his contribution to the Comedy leanings of the Italian Westerns, the notion he was a ham actor stuck with him for the majority of his life, which wasn’t necessarily fair to his talents. In films like Lo Strano Vizio della Signora Wardh (The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh), La Coda dello Scorpione (The Case of the Scorpion’s Tale), Il Corpo Dolci di Deborah (The Sweet Body of Deborah), Mio Caro Assassino (My Dear Killer), and Perche Quelle Strane Gocce di Sangue sui Corpo di Jennifer (What’s That Strange Bloody Flower on Jennifer’s Body/The Case of the Bloody Iris) showed Hilton could be serious, deadly and average, when he chose to be. His long gaze, especially in Deborah and Tutti I Colori del Buio (All the Colors of the Dark) can be read as either neutral, or hiding something, which was one of the limitations Hilton had but could still be effective.

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Like actress Rosalba Neri, Hilton also had the distinction of appearing almost every known genre of film, with the exception of Adult films, a feat few actors can say they’ve reached. Now while this seems like an overstatement, Hilton and Neri did in fact pull this off in that they didn’t conform to one particular genre of cinema, even with Hilton being mostly known for the Westerns and Giallos, he never limited himself, nor was he typed to one particular type of role or genre.

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In the Western Il Tempo degli Avvoltoi (The Time of Vultures/Last of the Badmen) Hilton does very well in the straight part of Kitosch, though some of the character’s motivations can sometimes be undefinable and misguided. Hilton was able to convey a kind of sympathy for the character even with audiences often disagreeing with many of his choices and not seeing the obvious in his new companion. In spite of these continuity issues the character manages remain likeable and maintain a kind of nobility. The majority of his other Western roles, particularly his early 70’s ones, consisted mainly of parody, or borderline parody versions of the classics of the mid 60’s, which in the cases of his takes on the Sartana and The Stranger characters and his original character of Alleluja worked well for the story, but other times things got too silly, which was an injustice to his talent as an actor. When the Giallos came into popularity, Hilton rose in prominence with them. He often played either the heroic lover having to play detective when the woman he loves is in danger or the detective tracking down a serial murderer. Even if his acting was on overload some of the time, Hilton was, and still is, a dedicated actor who took his craft seriously and always brought his “A” game, even if the picture itself wasn’t up to par.

(I highly recommend seeing many of George Hilton’s early Italian Westerns and Giallos, particularly the ones mentioned in this write up. I know he’s very theatrical and his style may border a little on the silly, but he’s still very good when it comes down to a fine performance. He’s still active in the industry today and gladly gives interviews for DVDs and Blu Rays on his versatile career, always happy to regale fans with stories about interactions with other actors and what filming in Italy was like in the old days. What’s especially refreshing about him is his honesty when speaking. When he spoke of the Westerns, he admitted the genre wasn’t his favorite, but certainly loved the enjoyment it gave fans, and was happy to be have been a part of it’s colossal  impact. To my readers, give this guy a chance and you’ll be surprised.)

All images courtesy of Images and their respective owners

For more information

IMDB/George Hilton

Wikipedia/George Hilton

Spaghetti Western Database/George Hilton

Grindhouse Cinema Database/George Hilton

Many of Mr. Hilton’s films are available on Blu Ray and DVD from The US, UK, and Germany

Filed under: Film: Actor/Actress Spotlight

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