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)

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)

To Trap A Spy (1965)

Country: United States
Director: Don Medford
Starring: Robert Vaughn, Luciana Paluzzi, Patricia Crowley, Fritz Weaver, David McCallum, William Marshall, Ivan Dixon, Will Kuluva, Miguel Landa
Music: Jerry Goldsmith

To Trap A Spy was the first of The Man From UNCLE movies. Like all the UNCLE movies, it was put together from two episodes of the television series. The episodes for this film were ‘The Vulcan Affair’ and ‘The Four Steps Affair’. Because they were two separate stories, certain liberties were taken when they were edited together. One of the strangest, is that the villains of the piece are an outfit called WASP. But if you listen carefully and watch the actors lips, you can see that this is an overdub. The villains were originally THRUSH.

The show starts with a car skidding to a halt on Old Post Road in Arlington, Virginia. The driver, who happens to be Agent Lancer (Miguel Landa) from UNCLE has been shot in the stomach. He staggers from the car and enters an overgrown estate. As he makes his way towards the house, another car pulls up and two armed WASP operatives get out and follow. Lancer makes it to the house and enters, locking the door behind him. He calls for Angela, but nobody responds. He climbs the stairs to the second floor and burns the secret information he was carrying in the fireplace. Then he phones UNCLE headquarters direct. He passes on the following information to Mr. Allison (Will Kuluva), the head of UNCLE: ‘When the Premier of Western Natsumba visits the plant, they’re going to assassinate…’ The phone line is cut before he can finish his message.

Then, from out of the bathroom, Angela (Luciana Paluzzi) walks into the room. She is shocked to see Lancer this way, and quickly agrees to help him make it out of the house and to a doctors. Their plan is to leave by the top window and climb out over the roof. As Lancer prepares to leave, Angela flicks ona light switch, which aloows Lancer’s silhouette to be clearly seen in the window. One of the WASP goons, armed with a machine gun (earlier they were only carrying pistols!) mows Lancer down. It appears that Angela wasn’t a nice girl after all, and is working for WASP. But WASP realise that they didn’t stop all of Lancer’s message to UNCLE HQ, and plan to do something about it.

In a brazen assault on UNCLE Headquarters, one of the WASP operatives walks into Del Floras tailors, and throws his overcoat over the security screen. Pretending to be removing his jacket for repairs, he gasses the attendant and then opens the door for three other WASP agents. They go the fitting room and pull down one of the coat hooks. The secret entrance to UNCLE HQ slides open. One of the men quickly rushes inside and grabs the girl on the reception desk before she can raise the alarm. She is then gassed, rendering her unconcious. One WASP operative remains in Del Floras. Another takes his position at the reception desk, and the other two, armed with guns and explosive move into HQ towards Mr. Allison’s office.

As the intruders make their way through the complex, they are discovered and an alarm goes off. Three of the WASP agents are captured but one makes it to Allison’s office. But inside he finds Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) protected by walls of bullet proof glass. Solo quickly navigates the maze of glass and shoots the intruder.

After the incident, Mr Allison briefs Solo on his new mission. He is take over from Agent Lancer. It appears that the Premier of Western Natsumba, Ashumen (William Marshall) is in America to visit the chemical plant of Andrew Vulcan (Fritz Weaver). The Premier believes that Vulcan plans to build a similar plant in his small country and welcomes the investment. The truth, though, is rather more sinister. Vulcan’s Global Chemical Corporation is a front for WASP, and when the Premier tours the plant WASP will assassinate him.

Solo enlists the aid of average American housewife, Elaine May Donaldson (Patricia Crowley) in his bid to thwart Vulcan. At college, Elaine used to go out with Vulcan, and all these years later he still carries a torch for her. Solo uses her to get close to Vulcan quickly, which she does successfully.

For fans of David McCallum, and his character Illya Kuryakin, unfortunately he doesn’t appear much. He has two short scenes at the start. But towards the end of the film, if you look quickly, there is an appearance as one of Vulcan’s goons by Richard Kiel, who is best remembered as ‘Jaws’ in the Bond films The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker. Richard Kiel, in his autobiography, ‘Making It BIG In The Movies’ (Reynolds & Hearn, London 2002) had this to say:

‘I must say that the quality of TV shows like The Man From UNCLE and I,Spy far exceeded the quality of movies like A Man Called Dagger or Las Vegas Hillbillys, and I learned much more about acting from working on the TV shows.’

So although Kiel’s part is small, any one who has had the misfortune of sitting through the dreadful A Man Called Dagger will understand exactly what he is talking about. The other Bond Alumni is the beautiful Luciana Paluzzi, who has the substantial part as Angela. Paluzzi played bad girl Fiona Volpe in Thunderball, and her role here is very similar.

To Trap A Spy is a pretty sprightly movie, but it’s television origins are obvious. If you’re a fan of The Man From UNCLE series, then of course, this film will be highly entertaining. But if you’re looking for big screen adventure and thrills with amazing stunts, cool gadgets, and an explosive finale then you may be dissapointed in this production.

To Trap A Spy (1965)