Love and Bullets (1979)

Country: United Kingdom
Director: Stuart Rosenberg (and allegedly John Huston)
Starring: Charles Bronson, Jill Ireland, Rod Steiger, Henry Silva, Michael V. Gazzo, Strother Martin, Bradford Dillman
Music: Lalo Schifrin

Love And Bullets is a good detective thriller, made just before Bronson started making all the gratuitously violent crap in the 1980’s. That’s not to say, that Love And Bullets isn’t violent. It contains it’s fair share. But most of the violence follows the story and is not there simply to titillate. This time Bronson plays Charlie Congers (fantastic character name).

Congers is a Phoenix detective. But what separates this film from the usual detective dramas is that Charlie is recruited by the F.B.I. to go to Switzerland and retrieve a witness for the indictment of a mob boss. Why Charlie? Firstly, he is involved in the case after a fellow police officer is blown to smithereens in a car bomb explosion. Secondly, the F.B.I. can’t work legally outside the U.S.A., so they need a ‘volunteer’ who works outside the system to go and do their dirty work. At a casual glance Love And Bullets may seem like a detective movie, but believe me, the style is pure ‘spy’.

Rod Steiger, in one of his most bizarre performances, is Joe Bomposa, the Mob Boss, who Bronson and the F.B.I. are trying to indict. But Bomposa is almost childlike, prone to adolescent temper tantrums and stuttering incontrollably. Although he is undeniably powerful he tends to come across as a buffoon.

Jill Ireland (Bronson’s wife at the time) plays Jackie Pruit, the ex mistress of Bomposa, who is the witness Congers has to bring back. Of course, the mob do not want Pruit to testify, and will do anything to stop the duo. As you’d expect from a husband and wife team, Congers and Pruit fall in love. But it is not the kind of movie where sex is used to manipulate events. It is more of an old fashioned morality, where the relationship between the two protagonists builds as they struggle through each successive attempt on their life.

Bomposa’s henchmen are an interesting bunch. The first, is Lobo (Michael V. Gazzo), who is a young punk that loves killing so much that he spends most of the film laughing. The second, and most menacing character in the movie is Vittorio Farroni (Henry Silva), the hitman hired by Bomposa to kill his ex-mistress. Unfortunately Silva isn’t given enough screen time, but he is at his evil, glowering best.

Visually the movie is played straight, hard and lean. There is little finessing with the camera work. The most surreal moment occurs when Rod Steiger is bathing in a steaming volcanic hot spring, surrounded by red lava rocks. As the camera pans back, it is revealed that this elaborate spa setting is not an amazing natural beauty, but a construction of his balcony.

Musically, Lalo Schifrin doesn’t let us down again. Another quirky and enjoyable score, which combines the contemporary spy music of the time (a lot of piano), with an almost western feel to emphasise the Arizona cowboy aspect of Bronson’s character.

The real star of Love And Bullets are the great Swiss locations. It’s a fantastic backdrop that takes this detective story out of the usual U.S. city environment and plays out the drama on an international stage. And Bronson is still at an age where he is believable as the hero (he was 58 years old when this film was released). If you are a fan of Charles Bronson, this is one of his better efforts. It’s not high art, but it is a pretty good seventies-style cop thriller with a hint of globe trotting espionage.

Love and Bullets (1979)

The Boss (1973)

AKA: Murder Inferno, Wipeout
Director: Fernando Di Leo
Starring: Henry Silva, Richard Conte, Gianni Garko, Antonia Santilli, Howard Ross, Marino Masé, Claudio Nicastro, Andrea Aureli, Pier Paolo Capponi
Music: Luis Enríquez Bacalov
Based on the novel “Il Mafioso” by Peter McCurtin

Does any other actor do ‘menace’ like Henry Silva? Sure there were some good ‘bad’ actors in the seventies. John Saxon, Michael Ansara and John Colicos were all featured as nefarious characters in films too numerous to mention. They were bad. They were evil. But were they menacing? No, that was solely Henry Silva’s domain, and during the seventies and eighties he was the king of ‘menace’. The Boss, an Italian Euro Crime thriller, showcases Silva’s unique brand of intimidation: death and destruction.

The film, set in Palermo, opens with Don Antonio Attardi (Andrea Aureli ) and some mafia colleagues arriving at a cinema to watch a private screening of the latest, top-shelf porn from Copenhagen. Sneaking into the projection room is Nick Lanzetta (Henry Silva). Lanzetta assembles a bloody great grenade launcher, and then fires some shots into the cinema. Don Attardi and his colleagues are blown to pieces.

Lanzetta is a vicious soldier for mafia Don Giuseppe Daniello (Claudio Nicastro). And as you will have surmised, Attardi was Daniello’s main competitor. Not anymore. But Daniello, while being high on the mafia chain, isn’t the local head of the syndicate. That honour goes to Don Carrasco (Richard Conte). Corrasco is the Boss of Bosses. And it is under his orders, that Daniello has arranged the hit.

Accompanied by Don Daniello, Lanzetta, dressed in black turtle neck which just screams out ‘I am a killer’, arrive at Don Corrasco’s palatial home. Corrasco greets them enthusiastically after their successful coup. Corasco takes Lanzetta aside and indicates that Lanzetta’s initiative and skill will help him rise in the family.

Back at the Attardi family, Cocchi (Pier Paolo Capponi) has taken control. He refuses to accept the family’s defeat and plans an all out gang war. His first move is to kidnap Don Daniello’s daughter. Cocchi telephones Don Daniello while he is meeting Corrasco and informs him that he has Rina (Antonia Santilli), Daniello’s daughter. But there is no ransom demand. It is a simple trade – Don Daniello’s life for his daughter. Naturally Daniello turns to his number one man, Lanzetta, to formulate a plan to get her back

The Boss is the third part of an unofficial Euro Crime trilogy, the other two films being Milan Calibre 9 and Manhunt, which also features Henry Silva. And this one isn’t too bad. Some Eurocrime thrillers have a tendency to be over-ripe, with a lot of sweating, shouting and wild hand movements. Thankfully The Boss plays it pretty cool. This is probably due to Silva, who is ice-cool and Richard Conte’s steady understated performance as Corrasco. Conte, after playing Don Barzini in The Godfather spend the rest of his life playing mob bosses and the like. Overall, The Boss is a very entertaining flick. As you can imagine, with the themes it encompasses, it is pretty violent. But if violence doesn’t bother you, and you’re a fan of tough mafia films, this is well worth checking out.

The Boss (1973)

Manhunt (1972)

Producer: Armando Novelli
Director: Fernando Di Leo
Starring: Mario Adorf, Henry Silva, Woody Strode, Adolfo Celi, Luciana Paluzzi, Sylva Koscina, Franco Fabrizi, Cyril Cusack
Cinematography: Franco Villa
Music: Armando Trovaioli
Original Title: La Mala Ordina
AKA: Manhunt In Milan, The Italian Connection, Hired To Kill, Black Kingpin, Hitmen

One of Permission to Kill’s favourite actresses is Sylva Koscina. However, Koscina’s career started to nosedive in the seventies. The seventies version of Koscina the actress is very different to the bikini clad Koscina of the sixties. Though still beautiful, her youthful glow was gone, and the roles she was offered and accepted changed. Now she was more matronly. Manhunt, as well as being a bloody good Italian crime film, is a nice example of how Koscina’s screen persona evolved. In this film, her role is little more than a cameo, playing the ex-wife to a two-bit hood, and the mother of his child.

Henry Silva as David Catania

The film starts with the head of the Syndicate briefing two New York hitmen on their next assignment. The hitmen are David Catania (Henry Silva) and Frank Webster (Woody Strode). Their target is a small time pimp in Milan, Luca Canali (Mario Adorf). Canali was quite stupid – he stole a shipment of heroin from the mob and thought they wouldn’t find out. Catania and Webster are told to be flashy in their execution. They should send a message, so that nobody else attempts to cross the mob again.

Woody Strode as Frank Webster

In Milan, our gun toting ambassadors have two contacts. The first is Eva Lalli (Luciana Paluzzi). Eva is to be their guide, and show the boys the sights and introduce them to her contacts. Their other contact is the head of Milan’s underworld, Don Vito Tressoldi (Adolfo Celi). With my penchant for spy films, it would be remiss of me not to mention that both Paluzzi and Celi starred as villains in the Bond film, Thunderball.

Mario Adorf as Luca Canali

Luca Canali has a young daughter named Rita who he loves deeply. Unfortunately he doesn’t get to see her very often, because her mother, Lucia (Sylva Koscina) is extremely protective, and doesn’t want the young girl to find out that her father is a small time pimp. Still Canali tries to help out with money whenever possible – although Lucia often refuses to take the filthy lucre. She knows where it comes from.

Adolfo Celi as Don Vito Tressoldi

*Slight Spoilers Ahead* I try not to give away too many twists in the plot when I review films, but in this case, the twist is at the heart of the characters motivations. It is almost impossible to talk about the film without revealing the machination that drives the story along. In this case, Canali did not commit the theft of the mob’s heroin. He is simply a patsy. The theft was carried out by Don Vito Tressoldi, and he simply reported to his superiors that Canali committed the offence. But Tressoldi didn’t expect that the Syndicate heads would send men from New York to tidy up. He thought he’d be asked to handle it, and he’d have control of the situation. Once Catania and Webster arrive, he realises this isn’t so, and he sends his men out onto the streets to find Canali.

Luciana Paluzzi as Eva Lalli

Eventually, Tressoldi’s goons catch up with Canali and attempt to bring him in. Canali doesn’t know what is going on (he’s innocent, remember) and plays it cool to begin with. At a warehouse the goons start to insult and rough-up their prisoner. Canali doesn’t take to kindly to the treatment and fights back. After he has floored the two goons, he escapes.

Don Vito puts a reward out for the whereabouts of Canali, and begins to put pressure on all the people that know him. When Canali tries to acquire a gun from an underground dealer, within minutes, Tressoldi’s men are on the scene. Canali shoots his way out and is on the run again.

Sylva Koscina as Lucia

Still confused and seeking answers, Canali phones Tressoldi and asks why he wants to see him. Tressoldi feeds him a cock & bull story. When Canali doesn’t buy it, Tressoldi threatens to kill Canali’s ex-wife and daughter. Canali immediately hangs up and races to Lucia’s place of work. Lucia is not happy to see him. She is even less enamoured when she finds out that his ‘mafia lifestyle’ is threatening her and their daughter’s life.

'Syndicate' style vengeance!

Canali drives Lucia to their daughter’s school. Lucia goes in and takes Rita out of class early. As Lucia and Rita walk back to the car and cross the road, a van speeds out of nowhere and knocks them down. This (understandably) drives Canali into an uncontrollable rage. He steals the nearest car and engages in a high speed pursuit through the streets of Milan.

The first part of this lengthy chase ends when Canali forces the van off the road and through a fruit vendors stall. In Italian crime films there is always a fruit or flower vendor’s cart by the side of the road, which somehow always gets destroyed in the chase scene.

Canali confronts Don Vito

Then the chase continues on foot with the killer running into a deserted swimming pool. Canali doggedly continues to follow. Next the bad guy steals another van. As he speeds off, at the last second, Canali runs and leaps, grabbing the driver side door. As the van speeds through the traffic, hanging on for dear life, Canali attempts to fight with the driver. Eventually the door swings open and Canali finds himself at the front of the van, on the windscreen. Then dear reader, comes one of the most amazing examples of manly revenge inspired action I have ever seen – to get to his quarry in the cab, behind the glass, Canali repeatedly head-butts the windscreen until it shatters.

Catania in action!

Ultimately Canali avenges the death of his ex-wife and child, but even then it isn’t all over for our battered and bruised anti-hero. He then has to contend with the two American hitmen, Catania and Webster. These two aren’t local punks. They are professionals. And even though, Canali is really innocent, it doesn’t matter to the hitmen. They don’t leave loose ends.

I’ve seen Mario Adorf in quite a few films, and generally I find his performances quite annoying. He has a tendency to overact. He talks with his hands, screams, shouts and generally is overbearing. But in this film, it is entirely appropriate. In this film he is an innocent man whose whole world collapses around him and he doesn’t even know why.

Koscina - sans bikini

Sylva Koscina has the small but important role of Lucia, Luca’s ex-wife. The part may be small, but it is central to Canali’s motivations through the second half of the film, and it is imperative that an actress that the audience can quickly identify with and relate to was cast. Koscina is an actress that is easy to identify, but maybe not identify with. This role is several light-years away from the cheesecake roles she played in the sixties. And sadly, there isn’t a bikini to be seen.

Manhunt is a great Italian crime drama. But if you’re watching it solely for Sylva Koscina you are going to be disappointed. It’s a man’s crime film, and the women are secondary characters. As for the men, Henry Silva and Woody Strode can play these type of characters in their sleep – not that they do so here – and provide a great deal of threat, menace and danger. Their presence is reduced during the middle of the film, but they are always lurking, and you know they’ll be there for the finale – and they don’t disappoint!

Manhunt (1972)

Alan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold (1986)

Country: United States
Director: Gary Nelson
Starring: Richard Chamberlain, Sharon Stone, James Earl Jones, Henry Silva, Robert Donner, Cassandra Peterson
Music: Michael Linn
Based on the novel by H. Rider Haggard

Alan Quatermain And The Lost City Of Gold is a follow up to King Solomon’s Mines, which also starred Richard Chamberlain as Alan Quatermain, and Sharon Stone as perpetually screaming and shrieking Jessie Huston. The film is a step down from its predecessor, which wasn’t too good to begin with.

The film opens well enough with Alan Quatermain and Jessie Huston about to leave Africa for America where they plan to marry. The day before they are due to embark, a fellow adventurer, known to Quatermain, stumbles out of the jungle with some angry natives on his trail. Quatermain fights off the natives and gives the adventurer sanctuary. This guy had been a travelling companion to Quatermain’s younger brother Robeson (which I guess is a homage to Paul Robeson – who played Umbopa in the 1937 version of King Solomon’s Mines). Naturally, Quatermain is now concerned for his brother who wandered off into the jungle many months ago searching for the Lost City of Gold.

That night, the natives return to Quatermain’s home and sneak into the room where the adventurer lay recuperating. This time they finish him off. In the morning Quatermain finds the dead body and decides some investigating is required. He decides to mount his own expedition to find the Lost City of Gold and hopefully his brother still alive. This doesn’t sit too well with Jesse who had made intricate travel and wedding arrangements. But she gets over it and tags along on Quatermain’s quest, screaming and shrieking as she goes.

Also joining the troupe is James Earl Jones as Umslopogaas. Umslopogaas carries a bloody great axe, which is pretty handy when you are travelling through hostile uncharted jungle territory. Providing comic relief is Robert Donna as Swarma, who is a greedy mystic. Swarma is basically a coward, but his greed drives him forward on the adventure.

Like the book King Solomon’s Mines, the novel Alan Quatermain on which this is based has been filmed a few time before. The most infamous version, is King Solomon’s Treasure which starred John Colicos as Alan Quatermain, and featured David McCallum, Britt Ekland, and Patrick Macnee. King Solomon’s Treasure is often regarded as one of the worst films ever made, and at times Alan Quatermain And The Lost City Of Gold looks set to keep that tradition alive with some truly awful acting, dodgy sets and special effects, and worst of all for a city of gold – gold that looks like mud. As a viewer, when I get to the city of gold, I want to say ‘Wow!’ – not ‘Oh look, they’ve dipped the city in chocolate!’.

Henry Silva, outfitted in a ridiculous wig, which makes him look like he is out of Spinal Tap gives an uncharacteristic wild performance as Agon, the evil would-be ruler of the City of Gold. Usually I like Silva because he is so cool and menacing, but here he is off the fucking planet. I guess he’s good for a laugh anyway, because that’s all this film is really good for is a few laughs. The ending is terrible – but so bad it is good (you know what I mean).

Alan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold (1986)

Code of Silence (1985)

Director: Andrew Davis
Starring: Chuck Norris, Henry Silva, Bert Remsen, Molly Hagen, Dennis Farina
Music: David Michael Frank

If you pick up a copy of Leonard Maltin’s Film Guide, and look up Code of Silence, you’ll see a picture of me staring back at you! No, not really – I have always just wanted to say that. Maltin’s Guide describes Code Of Silence as ‘Dirty Chuckie’. It’s an obvious comparison to make, but I have a theory – not a very solid one, but none-the-less – that director Andrew Davis drew his inspiration from the Italian poliziotteschi films, rather than Eastwood’s magnum toting maverick cop.

Firstly, and most overtly, Henry Silva is cast as the villain. I realise Silva was an international actor who plied his stock in trade all over the world, but next to Maurizo Merli and Tomas Milian, he surely has to be considered one of Italian Crime Cinemas most recognisable faces.

Secondly, we have Chuck’s appearance. Sure he has a beard in this movie, but he looks like Merli, or Franco Nero – blonde hair, blue eyes, carrying a badge and a gun. I know that’s pretty thin, but go with me on this.

My third, and most damning piece of evidence is that Chuck gets into a fight in a billiard parlour. A fight in a billiard parlour is almost a prerequisite in a poliziotteschi. Hollywood had given them up after Coogan’s Bluff in 1968.

Another European touch – although French this time, rather than Italian, is that Chuck chases a villain along the roof of a moving train. I am sure that every police thriller starring Jean Paul Belmondo has a scene with him riding on top of a train. In fact, I believe that’s how Belmondo goes to work each day. He doesn’t buy a train ticket, he simply leaps onto the roof of a moving trains as it passes by. Then as he reaches his destination, he jumps off again. Amazing man, but I have digressed.

In this film Chuck Norris plays Eddie Cusack, who is a straight down the line Chicago cop. The film opens with Chuck undercover as a garbage collector. His team of men are planning to bust some of the members of the Comacho family, who are dealing drugs.

Before Cusack and his team can move in, a rival mob gang headed by Crazy Tony Luna (Mike Genovese) hit the Comachos. This is a pretty silly thing to do, because the head of the Comacho mob, Luis, in played by Henry Silva. Luis vows revenge and kills the entire Luna family, except one, Diana (Molly Hagen). Of course, she is next on the hit list, and Cusack steps in to save and protect her. Sounds similar to Forced Vengeance doesn’t it?

There’s a nice subplot that involves a drunken old police officer named Craigie (Ralph Foody). During the opening attempted police raid on the Comachos, in a darkened hallway, Craigie shoots down an innocent boy. Rather rather go through legal proceedings, Craigie then plants a gun on the boy cover it up.

Code Of Silence is Chuck’s second great film. I think he only has two good ones. The success of this film probably comes down to the direction by Andrew Davis. Davis knows his way around an action movie and seemed to have a knack for getting decent performances from wooden leading men. Davis performed the same feat with Steven Seagal, directing his best two films, Above The Law (once again with Menacing Henry Silva) and Under Siege.

Code of Silence really was the pinnacle of Chuck Norris’ career. From here on in, each film seemed to get a little bit worse – dropping from cinema release to direct to video, and then finally TV movies. But to give Chuck his due, he was a pioneer in this sort of thing. He was doing his violent martial arts films long before Seagal, Van Damme or any of their ilk. And his impact was such that even non martial artists had to have martial art fight sequences in their films. Look at Lethal Weapon? Mel Gibson is one of the most unconvincing Martial Artists depicted on screen – aided considerably with some rapid fire editing. But nowadays, every hero has to know a modicum of Kung-fu, Karate, Jujitsu or some other ancient form of violence. No longer is throwing a good punch enough.

Code of Silence (1985)

Wrong Is Right (1982)

Directed by Richard Brooks
Sean Connery, Katherine Ross, George Grizzard, Robert Conrad, Hardy Kruger, John Saxon, Henry Silva, Leslie Nielson, Robert Webber, Dean Stockweel, Jennifer Jason Leigh
Music by Artie Kane
Based on the novel, The Better Angels by Charles McCarry

When Wrong Is Right was first released in the cinemas in Australia it was released as The Man With The Deadly Lens, obviously to make it sound more Bond-like. And it worked, I couldn’t wait to see it. When I finally did, I was I disappointed. As an action film, it was pretty disjointed and light on for action. And the plot was so tortuous, it made the regular Bond films look straight forward and linear. But there was more to Wrong Is Right than I probably picked up. I was in my mid teens and must admit, a lot of the comedy elements went right over my head.

Sean Connery plays Patrick Hale a globe trotting television reporter. He is a man who is welcome everywhere as long as he brings his camera along. One of the maxims of the movie is ‘it doesn’t happen unless it happens on TV’. He has access to everyone, from the President of the USA, to crazed fanatical terrorists. All of them want their story told by Hale. Hale’s latest breaking story is about a Sheik who claims to have heard voices in the desert. These voices are telling him to give nuclear bombs to a terrorist group who will use them on the USA. Providing these weapons is unscrupulous weapons dealer, Helmut Unger (Hardy Kruger).

The film touches upon how television can manipulate reality for personal gain, not only for the people being interviewed or presenting their argument, but also by the presenters who can exploit these ‘stories’ for ratings.

Time has has had a strange effect on this movie. It now seems almost prophetic. When it was released it was a a black comedy about a world gone mad, with terrorists committing violent atrocities on television. Here we are in the twenty first century, and the world has in fact, gone mad. The extremes shown in this movie, now happen every day in the Middle East and other parts of the world. The difference today is that the internet, as a form of mass communication, has taken over from television. Terrorists no longer need television or a reporter to announce their views or perform an act of rebellion. Today you can do it yourself and put it on YouTube.

So where does that leave Wrong Is Right? With the visual impact muted, we’ve seen it all before (and worse) on the six o’clock news, what we are left with is a political thriller with some rather silly dialogue – for example, courtesy of General Wombat (Robert Conrad): ‘America may not always be right, but it is never wrong!’ That’s not to say the film is not entertaining. It is, and carried very easily by Connery’s charisma, but the themes it explores; terrorism and the world’s dependence on television is outdated. ‘It doesn’t happen unless it happens on TV’ doesn’t apply to a world where a person carrying a mobile phone can film the next ‘breaking’ news story. I am not saying that he film is soft either. It’s just that over the last twenty-five years, we the viewing public, have been ‘hardened’ by the real world. We do not shock as easily.

I am sure as technology advances, and means of communication change, my comments too will become outdated. Equally with each passing year, Wrong Is Right will appear more and more anachronistic. Maybe the film will become a time capsule.

In the end, Wrong Is Right is a film worth viewing. If you’re a fan of Connery (like I am), you’ll probably find this to be one of his more interesting but less successful films. And the film certainly makes you think, or at least re-evaluate all the things you see on the news now. Comparisons between the current goings-on in the Middle East and Bush Administration are inevitable. But the film is uneven, and at times, too convoluted for it’s own good. Viewers with short attention spans, could easily get confused, and ultimately bored with the story.

Wrong Is Right (1982)