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
Director:
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)

Slave of the Cannibal God (1978)

Ursula Andress FestivalAKA: Mountain Of The Cannibal, Primitive Desires, Prisoner Of The Cannibal God, The Mountain Of The Cannibal God
Director: Sergio Martino
Starring: Ursula Andress, Stacy Keach, Claudio Cassinelli, Antonio Marsina, Franco Fantasia
Music: Guido & Maurizio De Angelis

Those in the know will realise that Slave Of The Cannibal God is the cut version of this film. Apparently this version is missing some bestiality towards the end of the movie. Frankly I am not too concerned about the missing footage. The footage presented in this truncated version was enough for my weak stomach.

As the film opens a message flashes up on the screen informing us that:

‘New Guinea is perhaps the last region on Earth which still contain immense unexplored areas, shrouded in mystery, where life has remained at it’s primordial level.’

Then a jet lands at Port Moresby and Susan Stevenson (Ursula Andress) disembarks. Waiting for her is a gaggle of reporters all keen to know her intentions. You see, poor old Susan’s husband, scientist, Henry Stevenson has gone missing in the jungles of New Guinea. Ignoring the reporters, with her brother, Arthur Weisser (Antonio Marsina), Susan heads to the British Consulate and demands action. She wants her husband found. As he has been missing for three months, there isn’t much that can be achieved through official channels. So Susan decides to take matters into her own hands and organise her own expedition into the jungle to find her husband.

The man she chooses to lead the expedition is Edward Foster (Stacy Keach). It is Foster’s belief that Henry Stevenson went to the Island of Roka, and to the sacred mountain Ra-Ra-Me. Ra-Ra-Me translates as ‘Mountain of the Cannibal God’. With a name like that, you wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the mountain is home to the fearsome Puka tribe, who happen to be cannibals.

The film starts off all very King Solomon’s Mines with the brave adventurer leading the expedition into the wild, to find a loved one, but pretty quickly turns into a fairly intense jungle movie. There are quite a few very graphic animal killings by man and by beast. This film is not for the squeamish or those easily shocked.

Slave Of The Cannibal God is a film that over the years has garnered a reputation, but this reputation is not for the violence, animal cruelty of even it’s cannibal theme. The reputation is derived from one scene with Ursula Andress, where she is tied to a stake, stripped naked, and her body smeared with what looks like blood (but it could be radioactive mud). So once again we find ourselves in familiar territory – that of Ursula Andress cavorting around naked. And while watching Ursula cavort, can be a pleasant pass time, you’ve got to decide that if watching a violent cannibal movie is the vehicle in which to engage this pass time?

Slave Of The Cannibal God may not be as shocking as some of the other cannibal movies out there, but it is still fairly intense. Some of the feeling of imminent danger and claustrophobia that this film evokes can be contributed to the on location cinematography, which looks beautiful on one hand, and impenetrable on the other. Another element that creates a feeling of dread within the movie, is the soundtrack by Guido & Maurizio De Angelis. Utilising primitive drums, chimes and a strange sound that somewhat sounds like a warning siren, the music keeps you constantly on edge.

At the end of the day Slave Of The Cannibal God is not my cup of cocoa, but if you like cannibal films or even brutal jungle adventure, this film may satisfy.

Slave of the Cannibal God (1978)

The Sensuous Nurse (1975)

Ursula Andress FestivalOriginal Title: (L’Infermiera)
AKA: I Will If You Will, The Nurse, The Secrets of a Sensuous Nurse.
Director: Nello Rossati
Starring: Ursula Andress, Jack Palance, Duilio Del Prete, Luciana Paluzzi, Marina Confalone, Mario Pisu, Lino Toffolo, Carla Romanelli
Music: Gianfranco Plenizio

I struggle with Italian comedy. True, my experiences have been limited to a few Franco & Ciccio films, but the experience has scarred me so deeply that I have no choice but to right off all Italian comedies. Against my better judgment I watched The Sensuous Nurse, which is an Italian sex comedy from the mid seventies. It takes something pretty special to make me overcome my prejudice, and in this instance the appeal is that Ursula Andress spends quite a bit of the movie’s running time cavorting around naked. In fact there is quite a bit of ‘cavorting’ from all the actresses in the film, including Lucianna Paluzzi and Carla Romanelli

As a bit of smut, I’d say The Sensuous Nurse delivers, but as a comedy, the film is a bit of a failure. It may be that the humour doesn’t translate too well, or it could be a generational thing too. I find myself quite bored with the British sex comedies from that era too (I wont say ‘bored stiff’ or you’ll start throwing things at the screen).

Count Leonida Bottacin (Mario Piso) is a lecherous old man and an old school wine maker. But he has a heart attack and is on his death bed. In the interim, the business is temporarily taken over by Benito Varotto (Duilio Del Prete). Benito makes a shady deal with American entrepreneur Mr. Kitch (Jack Palance), but this deal can only go through once the Count is dead.

Unfortunately for Benito, the unthinkable starts to happen – the Count begins to get better. And if he gets better, then Benito can not go through with his deal with Kitch. Now Kitch is not a man you can renege on.

So Benito hatches a plan, which he hopes will speed the old lecherous Count on his way to his maker. This plan involves employing a seductive nurse named Anna (Ursula Andress). She is to take care of the Count. Her nurses outfit and bedside manner is intended to raise the old Count’s blood pressure so much, that he will have another heart attack (and die). As this is a farce, all sorts of complications arise, but I didn’t think it was too funny. Some of the situations make The Benny Hill Show look highbrow in comparison.

The Sensuous Nurse probably isn’t worth your time and money, but if you are a huge fan of the James Bond films, and therefore a huge fan of Ursula Andress (Dr. No) and Luciana Paluzzi (Thunderball), and you have money to burn, then by all means seek this out. I can’t promise that you’ll enjoy it, but you’re probably only watching it for the nudity anyway. Hey – that’s okay by me – it’s your life!

The Sensuous Nurse (1975)

Destruction Force (1977)

Country: Italy
Original Title: La Banda del trucido
Director: Stelvio Massi
Starring: Luc Merenda, Tomas Milian, Elio Zamuto, Franco Citti, Katia Christine, Rosario Borelli
Music: Bruno Canfora

Destruction Force is another poliziotteschi, and despite the title, there really is no “force” involved. By that I mean, it’s not a tough band of men within the police department who make up ‘The Destruction Force’. There is physical force in the form of Luc Merenda who beats up on quite a few people. There’s one great scene where the villain has the jump on Merenda, and has him don a set of handcuffs. Does this stop Merenda? No way! He kicks the crap out of the villain.

The movie opens with a nifty pre-credit sequence where a family are being held hostage in their apartment by three drug fuelled, gun toting punks. Detective Ghini (Luc Merenda) is called to the scene and tries to negotiate with the hoodlums. They demand a car in twenty minutes. This doesn’t give Ghini much time. Also the drug induced high is wearing off the punks and they are starting to get agitated. Ghini has two officers shoot the front door lock and go in, while he swings down from the roof on a rope and blasts through the window.

Meanwhile there has been another shooting across town. The bandits involved have escaped, but in the act they have shot and killed the Police Chief of Crime. He is the sixth cop to die in the line of duty during the year.

A shaggy Tomas Milian plays Monnezza, who is a returning character from the prequel to this film; Umberto Lenzi’s Free Hand For A Tough Cop (which I haven’t seen). Here Monnezza runs a restaurant which specialises in insulting the patrons. Apparently the tourists enjoy being abused by the Romans. It adds a little colour to their dining experience. Monnezza also runs a gang of anti-violence criminals. They like to steal things the old fashioned way, without guns or violence.

Monnezza is approached by a crim called Gianni. Gianni is a second tier gangster working for a guy named Belli (Elio Zamuto). Belli is planning a diamond heist. Gianni needs a driver for Belli’s heist. On the proviso that the heist will not be violent and no guns involved, Mannezza puts forward his childhood friend ‘Frog’ to do the driving.

After the death of the Police Chief of Crime, Ghini is offered the position. He says he will take it on the condition that he is allowed to clean up the streets his way – no questions asked. His methods are quickly on display in a billiard parlour when a gang of hoods hinder his apprehension of a criminal. He takes the hoods apart with a billiard cue.

With ‘Frog’ driving, Belli, Gianni and another hood attempt their planned diamond heist. Apparently it wasn’t planned too well, as the couriers vehicle had bullet proof glass. The heist is a flop and Belli plans to try again in another way, on another day. As robbery involved guns, ‘Frog’ wants out of the deal, and refuses to drive again for Belli. For his trouble, he is executed.

Not only does this execution stir Ghini into action, it also angers Monnezza. Until this point Monnezza has been an a ‘old school’ crim, but now he has been pushed to use violence. So not only does Belli have the police force after him, he also has Monnezza and his gang.

Destruction Force, while maybe not as viscerally heart pounding like some other Eurocrime films is still very solid entertainment. It has a good selection of characters and a story that you can actually follow for once. Milian seems to be having a great time playing Monnezza and has some amusing monologues with Monnezza junior, his baby son. Merenda is a good dashing hero type and throws a punch well.

Destruction Force (1977)

Four Times That Night (1972)

Original Title: Quante volte… quella notte
Director: Mario Bava
Starring: Brett Halsey, Daniela Giordano, Dick Randall, Pacal Petit, Calisto Calisti
Music: Coriolano Gori

Four Times That Night is an Italian sex comedy. I know what your thinking – why on earth would I want to sit through a tacky Italian sex comedy from the early seventies? The answer is simple – it’s the people in front and behind the camera who are of interest to me. In this instance, it is director Mario Bava that draws me to this production. Bava hardly needs any introduction for most film fans. But for those who may have joined us late, check out my review of Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs and Tanner’s review of Danger: Diabolik.

Four Times that Night is a fairly simple concept film – the concept (borrowed from Rashomon) being that the same story is told from four different points of view. The basic heart of all four versions is that beautiful Tina Brandt (Daniela Giordano) and John Price (Brett Halsey) meet at a park one afternoon and decide to go on a date that evening. Price picks Tina up from her home and takes her out for a spot of dancing. Later he takes her back to his place, and somehow she ends up with a ripped dress and he ends up with scratch marks on his forehead.

Each of the four stories differs in how Tina’s dress happened to get ripped and how Price’s forehead was scratched. The first telling of the story is from Tina’s point of view, and it is probably the most unsettling of the four. In this version Tina implies that Price tried to rape her. In the struggle her dress was torn, and Price’s face was scratched as she tried to fight him off.

The second version is from Price’s point of view, and he paints Tina as a wild nymphomaniac. This is followed by a version told by the voyeuristic doorman at Price’s apartment block. His version of events paints all the tenants of the apartment block as gay. The fourth retelling comes from a psychiatrist (Calisto Calisti ) who informs us that we all see the same story through different eyes.

I once read (I can’t recall where) that Bava once said that all Italian directors in the early 1970’s had to make a sex comedy to prove that they weren’t homosexuals. It’s a strange little comment considering that the film is not homophobic at all. One of the four segments in the film presents us with homosexual and lesbian characters. It appears that certain sections of the industry at that time were more homophobic in real life, than the stories they were quite happy to present on the screen.

Four Times That Night is a strange little film. For a sex comedy, there doesn’t seem to be many comedic moments in the film – then again, I don’t think there ever was meant to be. As far as sex goes, there’s not to much going on here, and when there is, body parts are discretely hidden through clever camera angles, or even a light reflection on a glass shower wall. But that leads to another point – as you’d expect from Bava, the film is beautifully shot. The colours are all pumped to maximum levels, and the film features some fantastic mod sets and fashion design.

On the whole, Four Times that Night is a curiosity. I can’t call it a bad film, but it doesn’t really work as a sex comedy. Maybe if the rape and gay scenes were presented in a more controversial manner, then maybe the film would have worked as a study of social mores. Then again, maybe Bava’s heart wasn’t really in this film. Peer pressure may have forced him to make a sex comedy. But really there were other film genres that held more appeal for him.

SPY CONNECTIONS:

As previously mentioned, director Mario Bava is well known to film buffs for his lurid pop-art films. He is primarily known for his horror films, but Danger: Diabolik and Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs put him on the map as far as spy films go (I know Diabolik isn’t a spy film…but you know…it drips with sixties spy atmosphere, underground lairs and all the other trapping you’d expect.)

Brett Halsey appeared in at least two Eurospy flicks. Firstly in Spy in Your Eye, alongside a clearly inebriated Dana Andrews. Then Misión Lisboa in 1965.

Pascale Petit also racked up a couple of Eurospy credits, appearing in Codename: Jaguar and Killer’s Carnival (AKA: Spy Against the World).

Four Times That Night (1972)

The Big Racket (1976)

Original Title: Il grande racket
Country: Italy
Director: Enzo G. Castellari
Starring: Fabio Testi, Vincent Gardenia, Renzo Palmer, Orso Maria Guerrini, Glauco Onorato, Marcella Michelangeli, Romano Puppo
Music: Guido De Angelis, Maurizio De Angelis

In 1987, when Robocop was released at the cinemas, I was living in the Central Victorian city of Bendigo. Like most of my peers, I hopped along to the Golden Twin cinemas to see Paul Verhoeven’s cyborg action flick. What really impressed me was not the stylised violence but the moderate language. It proved you could make a good blood and guts movie without every second word being ‘fuck’!

Of course, when it was released on video, with the language re-instated, I released that the version I had seen at the cinemas had been edited and it wasn’t the director’s vision to have ‘clean language’ in his film. That brings as to the Eurocrime thriller The Big Racket, which is a pumped up, tough, stylised cop movie from director Enzo G. Castellari. The English dub of this film is almost laughable in it’s restraint. Instead of calling a character a ‘bastard’, they call him a ‘basket’ (I guess – short for ‘basket case’). And the word ‘shit’ is replaced with ‘diddly’. So in the film, there are great dialogue exchanges like, ‘…we’re up diddly creek without a paddle…we’re in deep diddly…’ It’s a sad reflection on my character, but strangely, this crazy dialogue only added to my enjoyment of the film.

I know that Eurocrime films are formulaic, but one of the reasons I enjoy watching them is ticking off the set pieces I expect to see. In The Big Racket nearly all the boxes are ticked. Fabio Testi, plays Inspector Nico Palmieri. Palmieri is a tough cop, who is continually frustrated by the system and his superiors (tick). Palmieri, is a tough cop, whose partner is killed in the line of duty (tick). Palmieri, is a tough cop, who is kicked off the force for using unconventional methods (tick). Sadly, as each of these scenes is played out on my television screen, I cry out ‘YES’ and pump my fist into the air with approval. The one thing the film is missing, is a car chase through the streets of Rome, and a fruit vendor stall being knocked over – I guess we can’t have everything.

The Big Racket does have a plot about a vicious gang who run a collection racket. As far as Eurocrime plots go, it’s more cohesive than most. But you really don’t need me to outline more than that – it’s loud, dumb, violent – and as far as I am concerned, it’s a great night’s entertainment.

The Big Racket (1976)

Revolver (1973)

AKA: Blood In The Streets
Director: Sergio Sollima
Starring: Oliver Reed, Fabio Testi, Agostina Belli, Daniel Beretta, Paola Pitagora
Music: Ennio Morricone

There’s one trait in Italian crime thrillers that I really admire. Nearly all of them, no matter how hyper stylised and cartoon like they may be during their running time, at the end they have a touch of realism. Rarely does the hero ride off into the sunset with his girl by his side. Think about EuroCrime favourite Maurizio Merli – how many times has he been shot in the back during the final reel?

Revolver is a not a cop film in the usual sense – American or Italian. It can be argued that the hero, Vito Cipriani (Oliver Reed) does make it to the end, and he has his girl by his side, but the film still ends on a cynical, realist note. Just before the credits roll, Cipriani’s wife, Anna (Agostina Belli) pulls away from him, disgusted at the man he has become. But as usual, I am getting ahead of myself – I am talking about the end credits and I’ve only just started the review.

Milo Ruiz (Fabio Testi) and his best friend are small time hoods. When this film opens it finds them running from the police after a robbery has gone wrong. Ruiz’s friend has been shot in the stomach and is losing a lot of blood. Ruiz manages to hot wire a car and the two of them make their getaway out of town. They pull up beside a stony river bed. Ruiz’s friend pleads not to allow the police to find his body. He doesn’t want to be taken to a morgue and chopped up by the coroner. Ruiz promises that won’t happen. After his friend has died, Ruiz buries him under some rocks by the river.

Some time later, we meet Vito Cipriani – the warden of an Italian prison. One afternoon he is called into the prison to deal with a prisoner, armed with a knife who is causing a riot in the prison’s hospital. Cipriani handles the situation quickly and effectively and then returns home to his wife, only to find she isn’t in the house. Cipriani then receives a telephone call from two men who have kidnapped his wife, Anna. They demand that Cipriani arranges the release from his prison, a prisoner named Milo Ruiz, or his wife will be killed. Cipriani hasn’t go much choice, but explores every avenue possible before agreeing to release Ruiz.

But rather than take the blame for Ruiz’s release, Cipriani makes it look like an escape. Cipriani takes Ruiz into an interrogation room and beats the crap out of him. This results in Ruiz being transferred to the prison’s hospital. Then Cipriani calls away the hospital guard giving Ruiz the opportunity to escape.

Ruiz grabs the opportunity with both hands, but once over the wall he is picked up at gunpoint by Cipriani. He isn’t the type to ‘hope’ that the kidnappers keep their side of the bargain. He wants Ruiz as a bargaining chip to make sure they keep to their word.

Trading Ruiz for Anna doesn’t go as planned. The kidnappers try to double cross Cipriani, and when that doesn’t work they flee with Anna to Paris. Meanwhile Ruiz and Cipriani form an uneasy alliance and both choose to follow the kidnappers to Paris to find and release Anna.

Revolver is a pretty good tough thriller. It may not have the same heart pounding car chase scenes that other popular Italian thrillers have, but it doesn’t need them. This film has a solid centre in the form of Oliver Reed. Reed gives a characteristically intense performance that drives this film on. Fabio Testi’s performance is lighter, and it times it seems like it is all a game to Ruiz. And in some ways it is a game. Not a particularly nice game, and one that seems to have the odds stacked fairly against the two anti-heroes.

Revolver (1973)