UK Premiere! Eurocrime! The Italian Cop and Gangster Films that Ruled the ’70s

FRIGHTFEST 13: EMPIRE CINEMA, LEICESTER SQUARE, LONDON.

SATURDAY 25TH AUGUST – UK PREMIERE – EUROCRIME! THE ITALIAN COP AND GANGSTER FILMS THAT RULED THE ‘70S

 


Directed by Mike Malloy. Starring Franco Nero, Enzo G. Castellari, Henry Silva, Richard Harrison and John Saxon. USA 2012, 127 mins.

ROME ARMED TO THE TEETH, MILAN CALIBRE 9, CRY OF A PROSTITUTE, HOW TO KILL A JUDGE… just four of the hundreds of ‘poliziotteschi’ movies the Italian Film Industry churned out during the turbulent 1970s once the Spaghetti Western and Giallo trends subsided. First they aped the American crime hits of the day DIRTY HARRY and THE GODFATHER. But soon they addressed typically Italian issues like the Mafia, Camorra, Red Brigade and even ‘scippo’ – Vespa bag-snatching. And rushed production methods meant ‘poliziotteschi’ superstars Franco Nero, Richard Harrison, Luc Merenda and Maurizio Merli performing their own stunts, directors stealing shots, no live sound recording and a rapid bleed-over between real crime torn from newspaper headlines and violent movie action. Here those once involved in the genre paint a brilliant picture of all that madness and mayhem in this lucidly explained visually dynamic documentary packed with fabulous clips and poster artwork.

Full festival passes are on sale now and single performance tickets go on sale 28th July – Check the Frightfest website for further details

Dario Argento: The Man, the Myths and the Magic – FAB Press (Alan Jones)

Profondo Argento, now fully updated, re-named and re-issued with brand new chapters!

Limited Edition, available in hardback only!

Features full-length interviews with: Asia Argento, Claudio Argento, Fiore Argento, Lamberto Bava, Roy Bava, Simon Boswell, Michael Brandon, Chiara Caselli, Luigi Cozzi, Liam Cunningham, Keith Emerson, Franco Ferrini, Jessica Harper, Udo Kier, Daria Nicolodi, Stefania Rocca, George A. Romero, Gianni Romoli, Dardano Sacchetti, Julian Sands, Tom Savini, Claudio Simonetti, Michele Soavi, Sergio Stivaletti, Max Von Sydow, Ronnie Taylor, Luciano Tovoli.

All-new illustrations! Never-before-seen behind the scenes photos, exclusive shots specially produced for this book, rare artwork and stills.

This book features full coverage of Argento’s new film Dracula 3D.

Full details and pre-order info at the FAB Press website HERE

Four Amicus Classics Bow in July

The UK’s Studiocanal will release a quartet of Amicus adventure films on 30th July. The films include THEY CAME FROM OUTER SPACE (1967), THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT (1975), AT THE EARTH’S CORE (1976) and WARLORD’S OF ATLANTIS (1978).

The films are presented in widescreen with mono sound. The only confirmed special features are interviews with Kevin Conor and Susan Penhaligon on THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT.

Source: The Digital Fix

 

Pre-Order Now! House of Psychotic Women – FAB Press (Kier-La Janisse)

UPDATE! PRE-ORDERS NOW BEING TAKEN!

House of Psychotic Women is an autobiographical exploration of female neurosis in horror and exploitation films. Anecdotes and memories interweave with film history, criticism, trivia and confrontational imagery to create a reflective personal history and examination of female madness, both onscreen and off.

God, this woman can write, with a voice and intellect that’s so new. The truth in the most deadly unique way I’ve ever read.
– Ralph Bakshi, director of Fritz the Cat, Heavy Traffic, Fire and Ice, etc.

This sharply-designed book with a 16-page full-colour section is packed with rare stills, posters, pressbooks and artwork that combine with family photos and artifacts to form a titillating sensory overload, with a filmography that traverses the acclaimed and the obscure in equal measure. Films covered include The Entity, The Corruption of Chris Miller, Singapore Sling, 3 Women, Toys Are Not for Children, Repulsion, Let’s Scare Jessica to Death, The Haunting of Julia, Secret Ceremony, Cutting Moments, Out of the Blue, Mademoiselle, The Piano Teacher, Possession, Antichrist and hundreds more!

HARDBACK STRICTLY LIMITED TO ONLY 250 COPIES WORLDWIDE
Limited edition hardback comes with alternative cover artwork, plus an exclusive free gift of a flexi-disc postcard featuring the song ‘Somebody’s Waitin’ for You’ by Charles Bernstein, from the 1972 film PIGS!

PRE-ORDER THE STRICTLY LIMTED EDITION HARDBACK HERE

Possession – Andrzej Korzynski’s Score Released For the 1st Time

From the Finders Keepers site…

“As our maiden voyage into an expansive vat of unreleased music by Polish composer Andrzej Korzynski, Finders Keepers Records presents his previously unreleased electro/orchestral/experimental score for Andrzej Zulawski’s surrealist 80s horror classic, Possession…

…This is the first time any of this music has been released outside of the films original context and is packaged on CD, 12″ vinyl and conceptual green compact cassettes housed in miniature clamshell cases reminiscent of the films original VHS release that briefly adorned UK video shops in the early 1980s”

More info and audio clips at this link

Pre-order the CD or luxury vinyl edition at this link

What Have They Done To Your Daughters?

What Have They Done To Your Daughters? (Massimo Dallamano, 1974)

aka ‘La Polizia chiede aiuto’ / ‘The Coed Murders’

The giallo and the Italian cop film (or poliziotteschi), having both been introduced during the sixties, really hit their stride at the beginning of the next decade. With scores of the films being released each year, it wasn’t long before enterprising producers and screenwriters were sifting through the best attributes from each genre and combining them to create something more provocative, in a desperate bid to revitalise an industry that was beginning to falter. While there’s no doubt that some earlier poliziotteschi had gialloesque flourishes, and many gialli had a police procedural plot at their core, writer/director Massimo Dallamano’s WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO SOLANGE? (Original Italian title: Cosa avete fatto a Solange?) would define and usher-in the giallo/poliziotteschi hybrid once and for all and lead other filmmakers to try their hand at some genre splicing of their own, such as Umberto Lenzi’s excellent SUSPECTED DEATH OF A MINOR and Dallamano’s own follow-up film, WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO YOUR DAUGHTERS and its Alberto Negrin-directed “sequel” RED RINGS OF FEAR.

With a lullaby-like Stelvio Cipriani music cue juxtaposed against images of young girls frolicking as they leave school, the audience is immediately lulled into a sense that there is a world of discovery awaiting these seemingly innocent teenagers and that the film will play out like some rites of passage melodrama. However, no sooner have the credits rolled, the body of a pregnant schoolgirl is found hanging from the rafters of a bohemian loft and it soon becomes clear that cause of death is murder. So begins Massimo Dallamano’s WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO YOUR DAUGHTERS; one of the finest entries in either the giallo or poliziotteschi genres. Claudio Cassinelli stars as Inspector Silvestri; a determined sleuth that will stop at nothing to blow the lid off the case and catch the culprit responsible. Aided by an assistant district attorney (Giovanna Ralli), Silvestri’s enquiries lead him through a typically labyrinthine plot of intrigue that involves a peeping tom, a hatchet-wielding biker and a teenage prostitution racket; all the requirements necessary for an evening of EuroCult fun. 

While WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO YOUR DAUGHTERS has an aura of sleaziness about it, there’s no denying that the film is an exceptionally well-crafted piece, both in its plotting (the screenplay was written by Dallamano and Ettore Sanzò, based on a story by the latter), Antonio Siciliano’s excellent editing and Dallamano’s interesting use of angles and handheld photography. The film certainly has a distinctive look; one that elevates it higher than many of the films by Dallamano’s contemporaries, simply because it aspires to be more than just a film adhering to the conventions set down by Mario Bava and Dario Argento, and for that it should be applauded. WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO YOUR DAUGHTERS is a rare example of all the elements coming together to produce and an exceptionally satisfying whole; the aforementioned attributes are commendable, but when you add pleasing turns from Cassinelli and the ever-reliable Mario Adorf (who is criminally underused; the film’s one bum note), some taught action sequences involving Alfa Romeos and an unforgettable Cipriani score, you have a EuroCult film that entertains on every possible level.

WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO YOUR DAUGHTERS was originally released on UK DVD by Redemption/Salvation, way back in January 2000, and while it was great to see the film in its original ratio, the non-anamorphic framing and washed-out print left a lot to be desired, so I’m happy to report that this new releases from fledgling EuroCult specialist Shameless Screen Entertainment is a vast improvement. The Shameless disc presents the film in its original 2.35:1 ratio and is enhanced for widescreen displays. The print itself is leaps and bounds ahead of the Redemption release, with colours looking a lot more vibrant. Though there is some grain evident, it isn’t distracting and one would expect that this is probably the best a film of this vintage is ever going to look on a standard DVD release. The sound is presented in English and again, seems to be superior to the Redemption release which sounds tinny and muffled by comparison. Inline with other Shameless discs, the film’s trailer is included, along with previews of other recent or upcoming releases.

WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO YOUR DAUGHTERS is an exceptional film that should find a place in any serious EuroCult aficionado’s collection. If you already own the Redemption release, it’s time for an upgrade, as this is a double dip that is strongly recommended.

(Paul Alaoui)

Gang War In Milan

Gang War In Milan (Umberto Lenzi, 1973)

aka ‘Milano rovente’

Sicilian born Salvatore ‘Toto’ Cangemi (Antonio Sabato) is Milan’s biggest pimp and practically has the monopoly on the city’s prostitution racket. Frenchman Roger ‘The Captain’ Daverty (Phillipe Leroy) is Milan’s top importer of Heroin and Hashish and thinks that he and Salvatore would do well to go into business with each other, the idea being that the Toto’s hookers could sell Daverty’s drugs to their clients. This proposal is suggested to Toto only to be rejected outright, partly due to his reluctance to partner up with a Frenchman but mainly because Daverty had one of his best girls drowned and dumped face down in his swimming pool.

A tit for tat war starts between the Frenchman and the Sicilian. Daverty’s men pose as Policemen and round up all of Toto’s girls and ship them off in vans to a warehouse, losing the pimp a fortune in takings. In return Toto has Daverty’s car blown up. Taking things to the next level Daverty sends out his boys again, this time they beat up and hassle the ladies of the night, slashing their breasts with switchblades, throwing acid in their faces, cutting nipples, stubbing out cigarettes on their chests, stealing their hard earned cash and whipping their asses with a leather strap. This is too much for Toto and he decides to call in some back up in the form of Billy Barone, a scar faced ‘Mr. Fix it’ who promises to take care of business. Things don’t go quite to plan though and Lino (Antonio Casagrande), Toto’s right hand man, is kidnapped by Daverty. Being the gent that he is the Frenchman offers Lino a deal, help him overthrow Toto and he will let Lino take over as boss. Lino of course refuses to do this which results in him being tied to a chair with his underpants around his ankles as one of Daverty’s men tickles his balls with two pieces of sparking electrified wire. To make matters worse all of Billy Barone’s attempts to thwart Daverty end up failing and pretty soon it’s clear to Toto that the only option is to broker a deal with the Frenchman. It’s an arrangement that can surely only end in tears, the hookers start selling the smack to their clients, Toto starts making a huge amounts of money and begins to cut Daverty short on the agreed deal…

After spending the end of the 60’s and early 70’s directing Gialli such as Orgasmo (aka Paranoia) (1969), Seven Bloodstained Orchids (1971) and Knife of Ice (1972) Lenzi found himself attracted to the up-and-coming Poliziesco genre, Eyeball (1974) is proof that by the mid 70’s his mind was not focused on the Giallo genre and that same year he directed his second, and possibly his best, Crime film Almost Human (Milano Odia: la polizia non puo sparare). Lenzi had found his niche genre and began a non stop run directing almost a dozen Crime films over the course of the decade.

Milano Rovente, Umberto Lenzi’s first venture into the Poliziesco (Police/Crime) genre, however, is a mixed bag of a film; it has the requisite ingredients present in these kind of films that make them so enjoyable (Gangsters, Hookers, Drugs & Violence) but it lacks the certain something that Lenzi’s later crime films have and it’s obvious when watching Milano Rovente that the film is a ‘testing of the water’ for him and this genre. It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly that ‘certain something’ is, maybe it’s the actors, Phillipe Leroy is pretty much perfect in the role of the French drug dealer but Antonio Sabato could’ve been better, he’s acceptable enough and gives the role of a cocky, moustachioed, Sicilian, pimp plenty of character but one wonders how things might have turned out with someone like Tomas Milian in the lead role. It also doesn’t help having some of the ugliest women in Italy playing some of the prostitutes; you’d swear that some of them were really dreadful transvestites who apply their makeup with trowels.

Dagored’s DVD, whilst not the best looking or sounding disc ever, is presented in Italian language with good, but tiny, English subtitles. The source print looks to be an old theatrical print with noticeable wear throughout, especially at reel ends, with the sound not rating anything higher than ‘adequate’ which is a shame as Carlo Rustichelli delivers a cracking, jazzy, sax filled score that is begging for a decent audio mix. Still, negative points aside it’s still a pretty decent film and I’d recommend it to any fan of Umberto Lenzi, or any fan of the Poliziesco genre…

(Jonny Redman)

The 11th Fantastic Films Weekend – ‘Four Flies on Grey Velvet’ in 35mm


The line up for this years Fantastic Films Weekend in Bradford was announced this week and yet again shows a strong assortment of classic horror and sci-fi that should see any genre fan happy. One stand out screening is a rare outing for an original 35mm print of Dario Argento’s FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET which is being shown on the final day of the festival.

For the full listing of what’s on and booking info check out the official website at this link

Killer Kid

Killer Kid (Leopoldo Savona, 1967)

aka CAPTAIN MORRISON

The ruthless and cruel Captain Ramirez hunts down and kills revolutionaries in his search for The Saint, the righteous leader of the Mexican insurrection against the Federales. Adding complications to Ramirez’s pursuit, a group of American gunmen secretly steal weapons from US encampments to be sold to the freedom fighters. Enter Killer Kid, the most dangerous gunfighter in the west, biding his time in a military jail but soon escapes and ingratiates himself in the company of the elusive Saint ultimately joining them in their fight against Ramirez. However, one of the Saints men, Vilar, doesn’t trust the American whose motives and actions are relatively unclear till the finale.

“This film is dedicated to the Mexican people who in humble valor allowed for the birth of a modern, independent, democratic republic”. So begins this 1967 Italian western. KILLER KID was one of a handful of political westerns that saw release during the heyday of the ‘Euro oater’ which, despite many entries being highly derivative or low rent affairs, successfully altered the way westerns were perceived around the world. With such a bold and patriotic statement to begin the film, Savona’s movie never quite reaches classic status settling instead for a typical western affair albeit with a convoluted plot akin to those seen in the SARTANA films. However, a handful of scenes are deftly managed by the director such as a great scene involving the Kid and his love interest, Mercedes, the niece of the Saint. The Kid gives a grand speech about his change of heart in regards to the peasants who fight for a righteous and just cause. This scene is accompanied by a very nice romantic musical piece by composer Berto Pisano. Their are a few other nicely orchestrated sequences that manage to elevate the film above the average spaghetti sagebrush saga, but never quite proves itself worthy of the company of such noted classics as Damiani’s A BULLET FOR THE GENERAL (1967) and Corbucci’s THE MERCENARY (1968). A fair number of characters and minor sub-plots litter the hot and arid landscape depicted in KILLER KID (1967). The title character, for example, is as complicated as the plot itself.

Anthony Steffen essays another one of his archetypal western hero roles which only required him to remain silent much of the time with an occasional sly grimace to carry his performance. He’s best when playing characters such as these and unlike American performer Richard Harrison, Steffen could successfully pull off a wooden performance turning it to his advantage. Having starred in some 27 westerns, Steffen also displayed some flair in the quirky and fun A MAN CALLED APOCALYPSE JOE (1971) which, like KILLER KID (1967), was also directed by Savona. This is definitely one of Steffen’s better movies of the near dozen I’ve seen. Like his other colleagues who enjoyed domestic popularity, Steffen crossed over into other genres for films such as THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE (1971) and THE KILLERS ARE OUR GUESTS (1974). He will most probably be remembered most for his prolific career in Euro westerns.

Former sword & sandal actor and stunt man Giovanni Cianfriglia has a larger than usual role here as the main antagonist–Captain Ramirez. Cianfriglia is a strong presence during the first 30 minutes or so but then disappears midway through before showing up for the bombastic finale. He also got to play the main villain in HERCULES THE AVENGER (1965) in which he duelled with British born Reg Park. He did get to partake as the lead hero in the Italian superhero/spy action films SUPERARGO AGAINST DIABOLIKUS (1966) and SUPERARGO AND THE FACELESS GIANTS (1968). Cianfriglia was gifted with a great look but although his career spanned 40+ years and covered every genre, he never made it as a leading man regardless of being one of the most recognizable faces of Italian genre cinema.

Fernando Sancho needs no introduction to spaghetti western fans and his role here as Vilar is one of the best he was ever given. An unusual turn in that he plays a good guy and a somewhat complicated one at that. In addition, he gets quite a bit of screen time and dialog almost taking the film away from Steffen with his lively and spirited portrayal of the anxious and hot-tempered Vilar. His character’s name is very similar to the word ‘vulgar’ and it suits him perfectly.

The film itself seems to have had a decent budget; at least bigger than a lot of similar films made at the time. Savona and his cinematographer do a fine job capturing some great scope shots in addition to some well handled character interplay and several nicely choreographed action scenes. Although there are a couple of sloppy bits here and there; such as one of the soldiers leaping from the blast from an explosion just before the detonation takes place. Also, it appears the hideout for Sartana’s gang (no relation to the series character but also played by Gianni Garko as a villain here) seen in BLOOD AT SUNDOWN (1967) is used here for one scene after the insurgents have fled their initial sanctuary. That film, incidentally, also starred Anthony Steffen and may have been shooting at the same time as KILLER KID (1967).

This restored version from Koch Media is comparable to any of the recent Italian westerns released from MGM. It’s a beautifully restored print and easily one of the best foreign DVD releases for Italian westerns. The main extra is home movie footage of Steffen entitled “A conversation with Anthony Steffen” in which he discusses his career with family and friends. There is also the catchy Italian trailer and a photo gallery. The film itself is presented in 2:35:1 anamorphic widescreen, with Italian and German audio options, and supported by English and German subtitles.

KILLER KID (1967) is a slightly above average film with a number of elements to set it apart from the run-of-the-mill entries of the genre and is definitely one of Steffen’s better films.

(Brian Bankston)

Husbands and Lovers

Husbands and Lovers (Mauro Bolognini, 1992)

aka Villa del Venerdi

Author Stefan (Julian Sands) and his wife Alina (Joanna Pacula) have an open arrangement regarding extramarital affairs. Problems arise with this arrangement when they arrive in Italy for Stefan to work on a film project and Alina reconnects with an old lover Paolo (Tcheky Karyo), who wants to see her exclusively on the weekends. During these weekends Stefan is distracted but resists labelling it jealousy but becomes disturbed when Alina describes the sadomasochistic bent her relationship with Paolo is taking. He seeks emotional comfort from the couples’ friend Louisa (Lara Wendel) but his jealousy begins to show as Paolo becomes more violent and it turns out this couple isn’t as jaded as they had first thought.

I’m not that familiar with Mauro Bolognini’s output but the script for HUSBANDS AND LOVERS bears all the hallmarks of author Alberto Moravia’s other works (VILLA DEL VENERDI is in print but was never translated into English) such as A GHOST AT NOON (filmed by Godard as CONTEMPT) and CONJUGAL LOVE (about an author who abstains from sex with his wife because he thinks his creativity is being sapped by their sex life only to become suspicious of his wife and his barber). We have an intellectual author who spends more time puzzling and analyzing the behaviour of his emotional wife than actually talking to her about it, rather talking at her instead. In one key scene, after hearing about Alina and Paolo’s latest weekend together (“I felt like he wanted to rip my sex out of me!”), Stefan defines sadomasochism to Alina who counters that Stefan’s problem is that he always wants to intellectualise everything, to label and sum up what she feels are complex emotions (another Moravia trait that can be summed up in his short story ‘The Fetish’ in which a man ridicules his wife’s response to a featureless piece of modern art she has purchased). We have an artistic milieu; the film Stefan is working on, an interpretive dance performance where Alina and Paolo lock eyes under Stefan’s nose.

Co-produced by P.A.C. (Mario Bava’s FIVE DOLLS FOR AN AUGUST MOON) and Galliano Juso’s MetroFilm, the film shares crew and locations from other productions by both companies around the same time. The spacious apartment with its indoor pool that Alina and Stefan rent while working on the film is the same as Pacula’s city residence in Lamberto Bava’s BODY PUZZLE (produced by PAC and co-written by this film’s production manager Teodoro Agrimi) and editor Sergio Montanari edited Ruggero Deodato’s enjoyably loopy DIAL: HELP (produced by Galliano Juso who went on to produce THE BELT adapted from a Moravia short story and directed by Giuliano Gamba whose earlier film BIZARRE/PROFUMO he also produced which was designed by this film’s art director Claudio Cinini and edited by Montanari).

Like the other P.A.C. productions of the time BODY PUZZLE and CIRCLE OF FEAR (both shot by Luigi Kuveiller), the cinematography is slick but rather ordinary (VILLA DEL VENERDI was shot by the great Giuseppe Lanci but does not look like the work of the man who shot Tarkovsky’s beautiful and moving NOSTALGHIA). Paolo’s Romanesque villa on the beach also cropped up in Ivanna Massetti’s shallow but visually and aurally pleasing feminist film DOMINO, which was mismarketed in the states as an erotic thriller. Sands is rather enervating as the protagonist but Pacula–who I first noticed as the one saving grace of the otherwise dire horror film THE KISS–isn’t given much motivation–other than the revelation that she can’t have children so she must have something else to do with her time apparently–but she can get away with her exquisite looks and that slight tremor in her sexy accent. Both leads go through the film garbed in Armani (I’ll write crap films about underage prostitutes if I get to wear Armani and live in palatial apartments) including Pacula’s striking red cocktail dress that she wears as she leaves and returns from her weekends.

I’ve always liked Karyo in any language, and he adds a touch of class to anything (including an episode of the flashy but generally boring ‘Red Shoe Diaries’; a series that my friends and I watched back in our high school days thinking it naughty and sophisticated). Karyo isn’t given much motivation either. He’s just a playboy concert pianist who likes to have Pacula leaning against his piano during gatherings at his villa, and  who indulges in kink for the service of the plot. Ennio Morricone phones in a score combining orchestra and synthesizer of which only the main title theme is particularly memorable (the rest sounds like the kind of filler Pino Donaggio was inserting in between the memorable main themes of his eighties work) and one of those uncredited–at least in the English version–songs at a dance club (where we get to see Pacula thrashing around on the dance floor) that would’ve been nice to have turn up on the soundtrack release.

In the US, the film was distributed by actor-turned-producer Mark Damon’s Vision International (through which he produced Zalman King’s fun but hilariously trashy WILD ORCHID) and distributed on tape and laserdisc (like most other Vision productions and acquisitions) by Columbia Tri-Star in both R-rated and Unrated editions. I have no idea which version I saw (both Pacula and Sands show everything but I didn’t notice any of the thrusting motions that the MPAA is so afraid of American viewers seeing, though they may have objected to the rather bland portrayal of sadomasochism. The US tapes and disc were fullscreen and in stereo with closed captioning that even captioned some of the lyrics of the dance club song. As with the PAC productions BODY PUZZLE and CIRCLE OF FEAR, VILLA DEL VENERDI has been released twice on DVD in Italy, once in non-anamorphic widescreen by Medusa and then as an anamorphic widescreen release by Mondo Home Entertainment (with 2.0 and 5.1 audio). I have not seen either but specs suggest its an Italian only release. There was reportedly a fullscreen Russian DVD with English and Russian audio options but I have not come across a copy and the film never made it to US DVD.

Although MGM released DVDs of the some Vision productions such WILD ORCHID, they likely do not have the rights to many of Vision’s foreign acquisitions (they released DVDs of CURSE 2: THE BITE and TROLL 2 but BEYOND THE DOOR III was released on DVD by Media Blasters). Not sure if it merits a fandubbing but I’d be up to the task if someone could provide a DVDR of the English version.

(Eric Cotenas)