Violent Rome (1976)

Country: Italy
AKA: Roma Violenta, Forced Impact, Violent City
Director: Marino Girolami
Starring: Maurizio Merli, Ray Lovelock, John Steiner, Richard Conte, Luciano Rossi
Music: Guido De Angelis, Maurizio De Angelis

The man with the moustache, Maurizio Merli is back, as another hard-hitting, no holds barred police officer, in this the first of a trio of poliziotteschi films (the other two being Violent Naples (1976), and A Special Cop in Action (1976)). This time, Merli is Commissioner Betti, and guess what? He is committed to stopping crime at any cost, and he doesn’t get along with his superiors. Sound familiar? It is very similar Rome: Armed to the Teeth. It’s also similar to hundreds of other tough police dramas, not the least being Dirty Harry.

Have already made the comparison between Violent Rome and Rome: Armed to the Teeth, I’ll continue the association. While both films are episodic and hardly feature any police work (leads are obtained by informers or beating suspects within an inch of their lives), I must say that Violent Rome is the weaker of the two films. And this is based solely of the strength of the villain. Tomas Milian provided a focal point for the police’s frustration (and hostility) in Rome Armed To The Teeth. But Violent Rome doesn’t provide us with such a character. Sure there are dozens of scumbags for Betti to chase, punch, kick, or shoot at, but none last more than two scenes. Then again, that may be the point. It doesn’t matter how quickly Betti cleans the scum off the street, there are always more ready to take their place.

Another big difference between Violent Rome and Rome Armed To The Teeth is at the halfway point in the movie, Betti hands in his badge. Betti is disgraced after he shoots a criminal dead (John Steiner), rather than attempting to bring him in. It doesn’t matter to the powers that be, that this crim had shot a police officer in the back, and then whilst attempting to escape, indiscriminately fired a machine gun at a playground full of children, killing three. It was far easier to remove Betti, whose methods were an embarrassment to the police department.

For the second half of the movie, Betti works as a professional vigilante. A group of businessmen, led by lawyer Sartori (Richard Conte), have had a gutful of the impotence of the police force and the increase in crime in their city. They have banded together to fight crime, their own way. It’s all legal of course (citizen’s arrests – no killings), but it isn’t long before the group become a nuisance to the criminal underworld, and the underworld strike back.

There are a few other things worth mentioning. The first is a subplot involving corporal Biondi (Ray Lovelock). During the course of the movie, he sustains a gunshot wound to the spine. He becomes paralysed from the waist down. His scenes are the most poignant in the film. Biondi had joined the force wanting to be like Betti. Even after he is shot, he still has the burning desire to put the scumbags behind bars. But as he slowly watches Betti change into a ‘monster’ (it’s an exaggeration, but you get the point), Biondi slowly changes his point of view. It’s a subplot that could have been expanded more, but quite simply on the whole this film doesn’t slow down for characterization.

Another great scene involves a car chase through the streets of Rome. What impressed me, in a scene that shows just how cool headed and determined Betti is, is when his windscreen is shattered during the chase, obscuring his view. Does he stop? No. While driving, with one foot planted fully on the accelerator, he uses his other foot to kick out the windscreen.

Violent Rome, is vigorous, heart pounding stuff. If violent seventies style cop thrillers are your cup of tea, this is well worth checking out. It isn’t high art, by any stretch of the imagination but it does provide all the elements that you’d expect from this genre; car chases, gun fights, fist fights, fierce interrogations. And as a slight warning, it also features a particularly ugly rape scene, which may put some viewers off.

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Violent Rome (1976)

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)

Rome: Armed to the Teeth (1976)

Country: Italy
AKA: Assault with a Deadly Weapon, Brutal Justice, Tough Ones
Director: Umberto Lenzi
Starring: Maurizio Merli, Arthur Kennedy, Giampiero Albertini, Maria Rosaria Omaggio, Tomas Milian, Ivan Rassimov, Luciano Pigozzi, Stefano Patrizi
Music: Franco Micalizzi

Here’s a quick look at another cop thriller from Italy. This poliziotteschi (as Italian cop thrillers are called), features Maurizio Merli as Dectective Leonardo Tanzi, a tough cop in the Dirty Harry tradition. As an actor, Merli was often derided as being a Franco Nero wannabe, but this probably has more to do with his blonde hair and blue eyed looks than the quality of his acting. In fact Merli carved out quite a niche for himself playing tough cops in a series of films, most notably, Violent Rome (1975), Violent Naples (1976), and the sequel this film, The Cynic, The Rat And The Fist (1977) – the last two, also directed by Umberto Lenzi.

Rome Armed To The Teeth doesn’t have much of a plot. It is very episodic and there is very little investigating or police procedure involved. There are a lot of ‘right place at the right time’ sequences. Crime just seems to happen around Tanzi.

As I said, this film is Dirty Harry inspired, that is, Tanzi keeps arresting the crooks, and the next day they are back out on the street. Also, Tanzi’s unorthodox (and sometimes violent) methods continually result in him being dragged over hot coals by his superior, Ruini (Arthur Kennedy).

And interesting subplot, which isn’t explored as fully as it could be, is the relationship between Tanzi and his girlfriend, Anna (Maria Rosaria Omaggio). Anna is a criminal psychologist, and on her recommendation many criminals are released early or set free. Of course, this is at odds with Tanzi’s opinion, that all criminals should be locked up – no matter what the circumstances. Her attitude (understanding, and rehabilitation), doesn’t even waver, even after a gang of hoodlums kidnap her, and beat and humiliate her in an attempt to get to Tanzi. She refuses to tell him the details of the abduction, in the fear that he’ll fly off the handle and seek retribution.

The villain of the piece is a hunchback named Maretto, played by Tomas Milian. At first glance, because of his deformity, he seems like a weedy lower tier punk, but he actually is psychotic (but it is hard to take seriously someone who wears red trousers!) Maretto’s most violent act is when, armed with a sub-machine gun, he hijacks an ambulance. In transit, he kills the doctor and patient on board, and forces the driver to race around the streets of Rome; all the while an armada of police cars follow in hot pursuit. A traffic light stops the chase, and the ambulance crashes in a crowed market. Maretto jumps out of the ambulance and fires his sub-machine gun into the crowd to create a diversion.

There’s some very good set-pieces in this film. One of the best is after a gang of upper-class teenagers, led by the baby-faced Stefano Patrizi, rape a girl and beat up her boyfriend. Tanzi catches up with the ‘perps’ at a billiard parlour, and after smashing Patrizi’s face right through the glass top of a pinball machine, he beats the crap out of the other members of the gang. It is very interesting to compare this scene to a similar scene in a billiard parlour, in Chuck Norris’ Code Of Silence (1985).

Rome Armed To The Teeth is a good fast paced cop thriller. If it has a small weakness, it is the resolution. After all the good action set pieces (the two mentioned above, a rooftop chase, and a good hostage situation in a bank), that the final confrontation doesn’t really stack up. But that aside, this film has good, tough dialogue, good action scenes, and terrific pumping score, by Franco Micalizzi. If you like cop films, this is worth a look, but beware – there are butchered versions of this film out there that only run 79 minutes, and apparently are missing the opening scenes, that set up much of Tanzi’s frustration with the system.

Rome: Armed to the Teeth (1976)

From Corleone To Brooklyn (1979)

Country: Italy
Director: Umberto Lenzi
Starring: Maurizio Merli, Van Johnson, Biagio Pelligra, Mario Erola
Music: Franco Micalizzi

From Corleone To Brooklyn is slightly different to most of Merli’s poliziotteschi – but not too much. Firstly he is still one tough cop, who’ll go to extreme lengths to stop crime dead in it’s tracks. He is still determined to see justice done. But in this film he get’s along with his superiors. He even jokes around with them, and in turn they back him up. And there is not one single tirade about the system protecting the criminals, and punishing the victims of crime. It’s only a subtle change to Merli’s usual screen persona, but one that presents a new slant to his character. He isn’t a loner. At times he may have to do the job on his own, but generally he has the support of his colleagues and friends.

From Corleone To Brooklyn opens in New York. Vito Fernando (Mario Merola ) has just moved out from Sicily. He is meeting a few old friends in a restaurant when two uniformed police officers enter and demand to see the newcomers passport. Fernando supplies his passport only to have the officer declare it a fake. A commotion in the restaurant allows Fernando to get away, much to the embarrassment of the officers involved.

Then we cut to Palermo. Lieutenant Berni (Maurizio Merli) is investigating the Mafia related killing of one of the local mob bosses, Salvatore Santoro. Santoro’s brother, Francesco is walking through the markets when two men with machine guns burst out of a delivery van and gun him down. The police were watching Francesco but were unable to stop the killing, but they pursue the delivery van as it tries to make a quick getaway.

During the pursuit, the police radio for back up, and soon, Berni and a whole battalion of police cars are on the narrow Palermo streets chasing the van. The chase ends up on foot, and as one of the perpetrators tries to get away, Merli proves he can still throw a decent punch.

Meanwhile the US police fax through the details of Vito Fernando hoping for some background information. Upon seeing the fax, Berni realises that Fernando is actually Barresi hiding out in the USA.

Misguided by his lawyer, Barresi voluntarily turns him to the police. He figures they do not know he is Baressi, and he has committed no crime in the U.S. Except for illegal entry. But Berni notifies them otherwise and convinces one of Barresi’s footsoldiers, Salvatore Scalia (Biagio Pelligra) to act as a witness against Barresi. That way he can be extradited back to Italy to stand trial.

But it isn’t as simple as that. Naturally Barresi doesn’t want to be extradited or stand trial so he arranges for every hood between Palermo and New York to kill Berni and Scalia. With every mob enforcer on their trail, Berni and Scalia’s trip is vigorous and fraught with danger.

This film is more atmospheric and less visceral than some of Merli’s earlier poliziotteschi films, and it is aided by a story that makes sense. It features investigative police work, rather than Merli simply being in the right place at the right time or beating up snitches for a scrap of information.

I enjoyed From Corleone To Brooklyn. It is more mature than some of Merli and director Umberto Lenzi’s other collaborations, but sadly this would be the last time they would work together.

From Corleone To Brooklyn (1979)

Fear In The City

Maurizio150When 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. For the one or two of you who need a refresher, click on the following titles to jump to previous Merli adventures: Violent Rome: Violent Naples: Convoy Busters: Rome – Armed To The Teeth.

The rest of you know what to expect. 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 pummelled 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

Violent Rome

mauriziomerliWriting a few recent reviews of Eurocrime films has made me want to revisit Violent Rome. I know Keith over at Teleport City has covered it pretty comprehensively in his long form review – to read it, click here – but a part of me just couldn’t leave it alone. And can you blame me? Consider this an appetizer, compared to Keith’s three course meal.

The man with the moustache, Maurizio Merli is back, as another hard-hitting, no holds barred police officer, in this the first of a trio of poliziotteschi films (the other two being Violent Naples (1976), and A Special Cop in Action (1976)). This time, Merli is Commissioner Betti, and guess what? He is committed to stopping crime at any cost, and he doesn’t get along with his superiors. Sound familiar? It is very similar Rome Armed To The Teeth. It’s also similar to hundreds of other tough police dramas, not the least being Dirty Harry.

Have already made the comparison between Violent Rome and Rome Armed To The Teeth, I’ll continue the association. While both films are episodic and hardly feature any police work (leads are obtained by informers or beating suspects within an inch of their lives), I must say that Violent Rome is the weaker of the two films. And this is based solely of the strength of the villain. Tomas Milian provided a focal point for the police’s frustration (and hostility) in Rome Armed To The Teeth. But Violent Rome doesn’t provide us with such a character. Sure there are dozens of scumbags for Betti to chase, punch, kick, or shoot at, but none last more than two scenes. Then again, that may be the point. It doesn’t matter how quickly Betti cleans the scum off the street, there are always more ready to take their place.

Another big difference between Violent Rome and Rome Armed To The Teeth is at the half waypoint in the movie, Betti hands in his badge. Betti is disgraced after he shoots a criminal dead (John Steiner), rather than attempting to bring him in. It doesn’t matter to the powers that be, that this crim had shot a police officer in the back, and then whilst attempting to escape, indiscriminately fired a machine gun at a playground full of children, killing three. It was far easier to remove Betti, whose methods were an embarrassment to the police department.

For the second half of the movie, Betti works as a professional vigilante. A group of businessmen, led by lawyer Sartori (Richard Conte), have had a gutful of the impotence of the police force and the increase in crime in their city. They have banded together to fight crime, their own way. It’s all legal of course (citizen’s arrests – no killings), but it isn’t long before the group become a nuisance to the criminal underworld, and the underworld strike back.

There are a few other things worth mentioning. The first is a subplot involving corporal Biondi (Ray Lovelock). During the course of the movie, he sustains a gunshot wound to the spine. He becomes paralysed from the waist down. His scenes are the most poignant in the film. Biondi had joined the force wanting to be like Betti. Even after he is shot, he still has the burning desire to put the scumbags behind bars. But as he slowly watches Betti change into a ‘monster’ (it’s an exaggeration, but you get the point), Biondi slowly changes his point of view. It’s a subplot that could have been expanded more, but quite simply on the whole this film doesn’t slow down for characterization.

Another great scene involves a car chase through the streets of Rome. What impressed me, in a scene that shows just how cool headed and determined Betti is, is when his windscreen is shattered during the chase, obscuring his view. Does he stop? No. While driving, with one foot planted fully on the accelerator, he uses his other foot to kick out the windscreen.

Violent Rome, is vigorous, heart pounding stuff. If violent seventies style cop thrillers are your cup of tea, this is well worth checking out. It isn’t high art, by any stretch of the imagination but it does provide all the elements that you’d expect from this genre; car chases, gun fights, fist fights, fierce interrogations. And as a slight warning, it also features a particularly ugly rape scene.

Violent Rome

From Corleone To Brooklyn

CorleoneFrom Corleone To Brooklyn is slightly different to most of Merli’s Eurocrime films – but not too much. Firstly he is still one tough cop, who’ll go to extreme lengths to stop crime dead in it’s tracks. He is still determined to see justice done. But in this film he get’s along with his superiors. He even jokes around with them, and in turn they back him up. And there is not one single tirade about the system protecting the criminals, and punishing the victims of crime. It’s only a subtle change to Merli’s usual screen persona, but one that presents a new slant to his character. He isn’t a loner. At times he may have to do the job on his own, but generally he has the support of his colleagues and friends.

From Corleone To Brooklyn opens in New York. Vito Fernando (Mario Merola ) has just moved out from Sicily. He is meeting a few old friends in a restaurant when two uniformed police officers enter and demand to see the newcomers passport. Fernando supplies his passport only to have the officer declare it a fake. A commotion in the restaurant allows Fernado to get away, much to the embarrassment of the officers involved.

Then we cut to Palermo. Lieutenant Berni (Maurizio Merli) is investigating the Mafia related killing of one of the local mob bosses, Salvatore Santoro. Santoro’s brother, Francesco is walking through the markets when two men with machine guns burst out of a delivery van and gun him down. The police were watching Francesco but were unable to stop the killing, but they pursue the delivery van as it tries to make a quick getaway.

During the pursuit, the police radio for back up, and soon, Berni and a whole battalion of police cars are on the narrow Palermo streets chasing the van. The chase ends up on foot, and as one of the perpetrators tries to get away, Merli proves he can still throw a decent punch.

Meanwhile the US police fax through the details of Vito Fernando hoping for some background information. Upon seeing the fax, Berni realises that Fernando is actually Barresi hiding out in the USA.

Misguided by his lawyer, Barresi voluntarily turns him to the police. He figures they do not know he is Baressi, and he has committed no crime in the U.S. Except for illegal entry. But Berni notifies them otherwise and convinces one of Barresi’s footsoldiers, Salvatore Scalia (Biagio Pelligra) to act as a witness against Barresi. That way he can be extradited back to Italy to stand trial.

But it isn’t as simple as that. Naturally Barresi doesn’t want to be extradited or stand trial so he arranges for every hood between Palermo and New York to kill Berni and Scalia. With every mob enforcer on their trail, Berni and Scalia’s trip is vigorous and fraught with danger.

This film is more atmospheric and less visceral than some of Merli’s earlier poliziotteschi films, and it is aided by a story that makes sense. It features investigative police work, rather than Merli simply being in the right place at the right time or beating up snitches for a scrap of information.

I enjoyed From Corleone To Brooklyn. It is more mature than some of Merli and director Umberto Lenzi’s other collaborations, but sadly this would be the last time they would work together.

From Corleone To Brooklyn