Fear in the City (1976)

Country: Italy
Director: Giuseppe Rosati
Starring: Maurizio Merli, James Mason, Raymond Pellegrin, Silvia Dionsio, Franco Ressel, Cyril Cusack
Music: Giampaolo Chiti
Original Title: Paura in Citta
AKA: Hot Stuff, Street War

When it comes to giving crime a right proper kicking, no one kicks harder than Maurizio Merli. And he’s back in another hard-hitting poliziotteschi. This time he plays Inspector Murri whose methods are…hang on, you should know the spiel by now. Merli and his mustache are a regular fixture here.  Fear In The City delivers more of the same. The film starts with a prison break out. Master criminal Letteri (Raymond Pellegrin) and ten other prisoners barely raise a sweat as they traverse the prisons corridors until they get to the library. Inside the library, Masoni (Cyril Cusack), a model prisoner is doing a spot of reading. The escapees grab Masoni and drag him along as they make their way to the gates, and out into a waiting van.

After the breakout, the retribution begins. The gang start erasing all the snitches who got them put away in the first place. The first is a prostitute who gets picked from a roadside kerb. For $30 she promises to take the driver around the world. He agrees. She gets in. After a few minutes, she enquires where she is being taken. She is then grabbed by a guy hiding in the back of the car. Once restrained, she is shot. Next, three men burst into a bar, and shoot the bartender. The carnage continues as a couple are enjoying a bit of horizontal relaxation in a dingy room when the door is kicked in by a scary lookin’ guy brandishing a shotgun. He blasts both man and woman. The last guy to get whacked is a guy wearing an ugly green suit. I don’t know if the villains killed him because he was a snitch, or because anyone wearing such an ugly suit should die. Either way, he is kicked and pummeled and then hurled off a bridge.

James Mason is the Police Commissioner and he is in a quandary about what to do about the increase in crime. He wants action and results, but the men under his command are incapable of giving it to him. But despite the cities problems, there is one option that the Commissioner refuses to take – and that is get Inspector Murri (Maurizio Merli) back on the force. He doesn’t agree with Murri’s violent methods of law enforcement. Unfortunately for the Commissioner, the Minster for the Interior does not share his view, and insists that Murri be re-instated, and assigned to ‘sort out’ the city’s problems.

Unlike other Merli films, this one is a little different in that he actually does some police work. Usually he just drives along, and crime will happen outside his car window -no investigation required. But in Fear In The City he actually follows a few leads. He tracks down the niece of Masoni, Laura (Silvia Dionisio). She’s a good girl gone bad, who now works as a hooker. Naturally, Murri pumps her for information.

But Fear In The City is not so different that it doesn’t feature a high speed chase through the streets of Rome. This one happens to be on motorbike. Another staple of the Eurocrime thriller is the bank hold-up scene, complete with hostages. And to the film’s credit it gives it a twist. Rather than have Murri sneak into the bank and then shoot the ‘perps’, they have Murri sneak into boot of the getaway car. Once the crims have made their getaway, Murri pops out and shoots them.

The music by Giampaolo Chiti is avant-guarde jazz. Many Eurocrime thrillers go for loud pumping rock scores – but Chiti is more subtle. He creates a tense atmosphere using syncopated bass and bongo beats, and the film is all the better for it.

Fear In The City is exactly like it should be. Loud and violent. It may not be everybody’s idea of a great night’s entertainment, but if you like hyper-realised Italian cop thrillers, then add this one to your list.

Fear in the City (1976)

Deadly Inheritance

Release Year: 1968
Country: Italy
Director: Vittorio Sindoni
Starring: Tom Drake, Feni Benussi, Virginio Gazzolo, Ernesto Colli, Isarco Ravaioli, Andrea Fantasia, Ivo Garrani, Valeria Ciangottini, Jeanette Len
Music: Stenfano Torossi
Original Title: Omicidio Per Vocazione

Omicidio Per Vocazione, or Deadly Inheritance as I’ll call it due to my inability to speak Italian is a weird hybrid film. It is basically an overwrought family drama with a small hint of Euro Crime and a dash of Giallo thrown in. The story concerns the family of Oscar Moreau. Oscar is old and deaf. He has three beautiful daughters. The oldest is Rosalie (Jeanette Len), and she has left home. She is married to a two-bit thug named Leon (Ivo Garrani). Leon is in a large amount of debt. Next there is Simone (Femi Benussi). Everybody thinks that Simone is a lonely spinster, but in reality she is secretly having an affair with a nightclub owner named Julian. Julian is stuck in a loveless marriage with his malicious wife, Natalie. She will not divorce him unless he pays her 50,000 francs. Without money he will never be free to marry Simone. The youngest daughter is Collette (Valeria Ciangottini). And finally, Oscar befriended and adopted a young handicapped boy named Janot (Ernesto Colli). Janot is physically handicapped, having to wear a metal brace on his back, and he is quite slow witted.

Old Oscar works on the railways. His job entails opening and shutting the barriers at the rail crossing and minor repairs to the track. As the film opens, Oscar is to do some work on the track. To begin with he switches the points so he won’t have to contend with any commuter trains and then, armed with a pick he sets to work. As he swings his pick, his hearing aid keeps falling out of his ear. In frustration, he removes the aid and sticks it in his jacket pocket.

Meanwhile an unseen hand shifts the points on the line once again, and a train is diverted onto the line that Oscar is working on. With his back to the train and his hearing aid removed, Oscar is oblivious to the oncoming train and continues to work until it is too late. Splat! Yep, it’s not a pretty sight. Afterward the family has gathered for the reading of the will. Nobody expects too much because Oscar had lost a large amount of money trading stocks quite a few years back. But, much to everyone’s surprise, it appear that the old guy had squirreled away quite a bit of dough — one million new francs. But there is a clause, the money cannot be touched and divided until Janot reaches twenty-one years of age — three years away. As each family member has there own financial problems they are not happy about the delay in receiving their inheritance. This is where the family starts squabbling amongst each other.

Later, Janot discreetly watches as Simone takes a shower. She catches him in the act and lashes him with a wet towel. Early on the following morning, at 2:45 am, Simone is to lower the safety barrier at the train crossing. The railway company hasn’t found a replacement for old Oscar yet, and the children and performing Oscar’s duties. Janot, to make up for his indiscretion (watching Simone shower) allows Simone to sleep in, while he goes to the crossing and lowers the barrier. As the train rushes past, Janot disappears. The next morning, beside the railway line, pieces of Janot’s body are found. It appears that he committed suicide.

The police are called into investigate, led by Inspector Gerard (Tim Drake). Gerard does not believe it was an accident, as too many people had the opportunity and motive for killing Janot. It doesn’t take long for Gerard’s theory to be proven correct when another family member turns up dead. In fact, everyone connected with the money slowly gets picked off one by one by an unseen killer.

Omicidio Per Vocazione is quite stylish and entertaining without being exceptional. Like I mentioned at the top, the film is a bit of a hybrid and as such, it doesn’t really succeed on any level. It isn’t particularly scary or violent. As you’d expect with a film like this, there is a twist at the end, but I doubt it will shock too many people. IMDB lists this film as being made in 1968, which I am guessing is an error, because this film ‘feels’ mid 1970’s. But if it is from 1968, I guess that explains why the film is toned down and doesn’t quite reach the violent excesses that giallo and EuroCrime films would reach in the next decade.

Deadly Inheritance

Fire Monsters Against the Son of Hercules (1962)

Director: Guido Malatesta
Starring: Reg Lewis, Margaret Lee, Luciano Marin, Andrea Aureli
Music: Guido Robuschi, Gian Stellari

The version of Fire Monsters Against the Son of Hercules that I viewed for this review appears to be an American repackaging of another English version of the film. It features a toe-tapping theme song, “The Mighty Sons Of Hercules” which appears to have been tacked onto a few Sons Of Hercules Adventures – for example Mole Men Against The Son Of Hercules starring Mark Forest. In this film Reg Lewis plays Maciste, but the very weird thing is that whenever he says his name, he has been re-dubbed (by another voice that sounds nothing like the original dub). He says “My name is MAXIS – SON OF HERCULES”

This film is a bit different to many of the other Hercules, or Sons Of Hercules films. It doesn’t take place in ancient Greece or Italy. It takes place in the Ice Age. Which brings us to a very interesting question. How could the Son Of Hercules being wandering around the planet, when his father wasn’t born till several thousand years later? Maybe it’s best that we ignore that.

The films opens with the Sun Tribe venturing out of the ice, trying to find a new home where they can set up camp. These are the good guys. You can tell, because they wear white fur skins as clothing. Amongst the Sun Tribe are Idar (Luciano Marin) and Fuwan (Andrea Aureli). They are set to be married. As they stroll along the foreshore of a lake, a giant rubber water dragon attacks them. It looks like it is curtains for our young lovers, but from a cliff top over-looking the lake, up jumps Maxis (Reg Lewis). Lewis, who is suitably beefy for the role, looks like a blonde Elvis on steroids. His slicked back, rockabilly haircut seems a little bit out of place during the Ice Age, but that is just another thing that it is best that we ignore. Maxis tosses a spear at the dragon which hits it in the eye. The dragon dies and Maxis walks off, having completed his good deed for the day.

Later, Idar and Fuwan are married. As the ceremony finishes, the Sun Tribe’s camp is attacked by the Moon Tribe. You can tell the Moon Tribe is bad because they wear black fur skins. The Moon Tribe kill most of the men, and take the women prisoner. They march the women back to their camp, which is hidden in a cave.

Idar is now leader of the surviving Sun people, and naturally wants Fuwan (and the other girls) back. He sends out search parties for Maxis, who is undoubtedly wandering around in a forest nearby awaiting some kind of calamity, where his strength and services will be required. He responds to the call, and tracks the Moon Tribe to the underground lair.

Inside the cave, Maxis meets and teams up with Moa (Margaret Lee), and that folks is possibly the main reason to watch this film. There is something special about watching Margaret Lee scantily clad in animal skins.

Despite the title, Maxis doesn’t really have to battle a giant Fire Monster in this film. There are two dragons and a few snake like water monsters, but this film isn’t really a rubber monster flick. It is about the two warring tribes.

There are some decent set pieces throughout the film, mostly fights with bloody great clubs, and of course, Maxis gets to throw around a few paper mache rocks and trees. The cheesiest moment happens when Maxis and Moa have been captured by the Moon Tribe and are buried up to their neck in sand. How the couple escape form this dire predicament is laughable.

Fire Monsters Against the Son of Hercules is pretty average. If it didn’t feature Margaret Lee, one of my favourite leading ladies from the sixties, I would have switched off half way. Reg Lewis is wooden and very low-key as the hero. As a screen presence, I’d say he was over shadowed by Luciano Marin as Idar. And I am not too convinced about the Stone Age backdrop to this film either. I miss seeing the grand palaces with their evil Kings and Queens, the staple of so many peplum films. All in all, I think this film is a bit of a failure.

Fire Monsters Against the Son of Hercules (1962)

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)

Karamurat Seyh Gaffara Karsi

Country: Turkey / Italy
Director: Natuk Baytan, Ernst Hofbauer (Herb Al Baurr)
Starring: Cüneyt (George) Arkin, Daniela Giordano, Pasquale Basile
Music: Piero Picconi

Karamurat Seyh Gaffara Karsi, a Turkish Italian co production, is an Arabian Nights style swashbuckler with a healthy dose of Kung-Fu thrown in for good measure. It starts with Mamaluth, a Khan in a Middle Eastern country, sending four envoys to one of his provinces.

It seems the ruler of this province, Mustapha, is a tyrant who is getting too big for his boots. He refuses to pay the Khan the provincial taxes, choosing to keep them for himself. And furthermore, despite his tyrannical ways, Mustapha’s subjects show a fanatical loyalty to him. The envoys arrive at Mustapha’s court and witness firsthand the power that Mustapha has over his subjects. His subjects are willing to commit suicide or even sacrifice their own children. After the display, Mustapha throws three of the envoys into the dungeons, leaving the other to return to Mamaluth with the bad news that Mustapha no longer considers himself under the Khan’s rule.

The king then chooses his finest warrior to go alone to Mustapha’s province and sort out he problems. This warrior’s name is Karamurat and he is played by Cuneyt (George) Arkin. His name may not be familiar to Western audiences, but in his heyday, he was a superstar in Turkey. As Karamurat, he talks tough: “How would you like me to tear out your moustache!” And he acts tough: in one scene after a brawl, a villain tries to escape on horseback. Rather than fire an arrow, he picks up a battered and bruised minion and throws him at the escaping rider.

During his quest, Kuramurat has run-ins, not only with Mustapha’s guards (which there are plenty to beat up on), but also with Ali Baba and his Forty Thieves and a trio of Kung-Fu fighting Chinese dope merchants.

However, Karamurat’s greatest challenge is to overcome is the wicked charms of Selema, Mustapha’s favourite concubine. It’s her propensity to take off her clothes that stop this from being a kids’ film, which is a shame (not that I mind seeing her dancing around topless), but the story is in the style of a ‘boys own adventure’. Unfortunately little boys can’t watch it due to her quasi – psychedelic/erotic dance routines.

Ultimately, Karamurat Seyh Gaffara Karsi is a fairly innocuous time waster. For me, the enjoyment came from seeing how the Turks handle this kind of subject matter. It’s not that different from Hollywood, but with the addition of Kung Fu, and I’d guess this addition has more to do with the success of Bruce Lee and his successors, than a movement in the Turkish film industry.

Karamurat Seyh Gaffara Karsi

Blazing Flowers (1978)

Blazing FlowersCountry: Italy
Gianni Martucci
Starring: Marc Porel, George Hilton, Anna Maria Rizzoli, Guido Leontini, Al Cliver, Barbara Magnolfi

Despite what has to be one of the silliest English re-titlings of a EuroCrime film, Blazing Flowers, or Milano…Difendersi O Morire is a fair little action film without being remarkable in any way. The film stars Marc Porel as Pino Scalise as a crim who is trying to go straight and start a new life. Porel is from the Luc Merrenda and Fabio Testi school of pretty boy acting – but he is perfectly adequate in the role. Providing the old school muscle, and sporting a moustache that would make Maurizio Merli proud, is George Hilton, as the hard as nails Police Commissioner Morani.

The film opens with Scalise being released from prison early because of good behaviour, after a six-year stint for armed robbery. Free, he is given every opportunity to go straight. His uncle, who lives in Milan, has lined up a job for him as a truck driver for a firm that makes artificial flowers. His uncle, who lives with his youngest daughter, also allows Scalise to stay at his home, while he gets set up.

On his first night in town, Scalise heads out looking for a bit of action, in an effort to relieve six years of sexual tension. As he checks out the local talent in a park, he is recognised by an old buddy from prison, Nosey. Nosey knows the best whorehouse in town and takes Scalise to be serviced by Milano’s best ladies of the night.

What Scalise doesn’t realise is that the girl he has chosen is actually his uncle’s other older daughter, Marina (Anna Marina Rizzoli). Once Scalise realises that she is his cousin, he tries to free her from the shackles of prostitution. To do this, he enters into a ‘one time’ business arrangement with the head of the local crime syndicate, Don Ciccio (Guido Leontini). But Ciccio reneges on the arrangement and has Marina kidnapped and brought to hi mansion where he keeps her under lock and key, and strung out on smack. Now Scalise is forced into a permanent working relationship with the crooked Don. This involves smuggling heroin in the artificial flowers that he delivers.

Blazing Flowers is not a top tier EuroCrime thriller, but it is serviceable. It has the pre-requisite quotient of sleaze that you’d expect from this type of film, but it is a little light on for action and the ending lacks punch. This one is for EuroCrime completists only.

Blazing Flowers (1978)

Love in Four Easy Lessons (1976)

Ursula Andress FestivalSex With a Smile IICountry: Italy
Director: Sergio Martino
Starring: Ursula Andress, Barbara Bouchet, Johnny Dorelli, Aldo Maccione, Alberto Lionello
Writers: Sandro Continenza, Raimondo Vianello
Music: Enrico Simonetti
AKA: Sex With a Smile 2
Original Title: Spogliamoci così senza pudor

I am nothing if not predictable – and it appears, a glutton for punishment. It’s obvious that I have an obsession with Ursula Andress (one that stops only fractionally short of stalking), but recent viewing – The Sensuous Nurse and The Slave Of The Cannibal God – have not been among my my more rewarding film watching experiences. Foolishly, here I am again watching another Italian sex comedy, featuring Andress, this time directed by Sergio Martino – the man behind ‘Cannibal God’. I don’t know what strange force drives me towards these films when I should know better…but…!

Love In Four Easy Lessons, as the title may suggest is comprised of four unrelated segments. Three segments deal with adultery, and the other deals with er,… Soccer!

The first segment is The Detective which features Aldo Maccione as a private detective. This allows him to say, throughout the episode, “I’m a Professional Dick, y’now!” And by the end of the segment, you can’t help but agree with the guy. In the story, he specialises in cases of adultery. When a husband suspects his wife of having an affair, they come to him, and he proves it. Even if the wife isn’t having an affair.

The second story is The Ringer, and for me was the best story of the four. It’s a tale about a ladies soccer team, whose star player injures herself just before the finals. The coach, who stands to collect a 10 million lira bonus if the team wins the next game, makes a deal with a con man friend (Enrico Montesano) of his, to find a replacement. In a variation of Some Like It Hot, the con man takes on the role of female soccer star. This leads to some mildly amusing shower scenes, and a particularly painful conclusion as our cross-dressing hero tries to protect his, er….goal.

The third and weakest story, which features Barbara Bouchet and Alberto Lionello, is The Trojan Wardrobe. The wardrobe in question is delivered to the villa of a rich couple as they head off sailing for the weekend. The groundskeeper allows the delivery guys to place the wardrobe inside the villa. But these delivery guys aren’t your run of the mills delivery guys. In fact they are burglars. And their scheme involves hiding a man inside the wardrobe who can move about the villa freely at night and steal all the valuables. The burglar places the valuables in the wardrobe, and then waits to be collected the next day, when the delivery men return, and claim a mistake has been made, and take back the treasure laden wardrobe. Okay, the scheme is contrived, but in all the caper films I have seen, this scenario seems like a new one.

But naturally, it isn’t all as simple as that. Alberto Lionello doesn’t want to go on a sailing trip with his wife. He has arranged a dirty weekend with a French actress. Before the yacht sets sail, he fakes a telephone call from his office, claiming that there is a problem and he must return to Rome. He does so. Then picks up his French tart and heads back to the house. Meanwhile, the Trojan burglar, has to put back all the items he has stolen before he is discovered. Adding to the convolution, Lionello’s wife, Barbara Bouchet, didn’t go sailing either, and has returned home early.

One Step To Paradise, the final episode features Ursula Andress, and naturally the one I had been waiting for. The tale is actually quite similar to a forties style farce, but with boobs. That is, if you can picture Ursula Andress as a adulterous Katherine Hepburn, and Johnny Dorelli as a libidinal Cary Grant.

The story features Ursula Andress as a lawyer’s wife who is waiting for her secret lover, Johnny Dorelli to meet her for an afternoon in “paradise” on the fourth floor of the apartment building that she lives in. To get past the doorman, Dorelli pretends to be seeing the Notary who lives on the third floor. It just so happens that the Notary had a heart attack and died that morning, and Dorelli is mistaken for a dead man’s long lost bastard son.

I hate to admit this, but I kinda liked Love In Four Easy Lessons. It still is loud, over the top, arms waving Italian humour, with a lot of smutty puns. But at least by breaking it into four stories, the gags aren’t drawn out. Obviously in a production of this kind, there is nudity in it, but the film isn’t particularly sleazy. It is closer in style to a situation comedy. I wouldn’t spend too much time tracking the film down, but it is a pleasant enough diversion for 98 minutes.

To view the Italian trailer: click here

Love in Four Easy Lessons (1976)