Come cani arrabbiati – Camera Obscura Blu-ray (First Look)

Come cani arrabbiati (Mario Imperoli, 1976)

Three vicious, robbing, raping, scumbags lead by Rico (Cesare Barro) and his twisted girlfriend Germana (Annarita Grapputo) stick two fingers up at the law as they evade capture at every turn. Determined cop Tony (Jean Pierre Sabagh) tries as he might to find the masked maniacs even resorting to having his girlfriend and fellow police officer Silvia (Paola Senatore) pose undercover as a lady of the night. The trap pays off, almost. She’s stripped naked and almost knifed before the approaching law alert the troublesome trio who make good their escape…

Mario Imperoli directed a handful of films but none of them match this one for sheer outrageousness of content. Kidnapping, misogynistic humiliation, homophobic beatings, point blank head shots and a good old tyre screeching Alfa Romeo car chase keep this juggernaut of euro trash barrelling down the highway of political incorrectness.

Grapputo pulls out all the stops and pretty much steals the show with her penchant for brutality equal if not higher than her male compatriots, plus the fact that she frequently strolls around buck naked helps one keep focused on the screen when the action takes a rest.

A sadly under-appreciated sleazy gem that deserves to be sat up there with Euro-cult sleaze royalty such as Night Train Murders and Terror Express, it may even stick a shotgun in their face and tell them to take a seat elsewhere… (Italian Film Review)

The above review was written a few years back when the only copy of this film available was from a beaten up Greek VHS that had no English track and a far from ideal aspect ratio. Fast forward to 2014 and Camera Obscura are set to unleash a pristine, high definition transfer that is, simply put, a revelation.

 (Click images for FULL SIZE versions)

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Perfectly framed you can now see all of the original Techniscope image in perfect clarity, Camera Obscura have really done this one justice revealing detail you could never have imagined via the previously available VHS version.

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Audio is Italian language only (dub tracks were never made for this film in any other language other than the native Italian) so subtitles are provided for non-Italian speakers in either English or German.

Extras: Featurettes with Romano Albani and Fabio Claudio Bernabei and Melelli (Blu-ray exclusive) Audio Commentary with Marcus Stiglegger and Christian Kessler (German language with English subs), image gallery, trailers, booklet (German / English) by Kai Naumann

Pre-order at: DIABOLIK DVD

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Interview with Nicholas McCarthy – Director of THE PACT

THE PACT is one of those low budget horror success stories that comes along every so often and manages to strike a chord and cross over into the mainstream. Shot on an extremely low budget, director Nicholas MCarthy’s film was given a wide release in the UK when it opened at the beginning of last month.  

Nicholas very kindly agreed for us to interview him and, as you’re about to see, Euro Cult films (and their makers) occupy a very special place in his heart…

I would automatically assume that you’re something of a film buff. Please can you elaborate on the films that formed a significant part of your education as a filmmaker? 

I’ve always liked all kinds of movies.  When I was a little kid ANYTHING was worth seeing, even movies that were way over my head.  But horror got its grips in me early.  I grew up in New Hampshire and we had a black and white TV set that got about 6 channels and used a rotating antennae on top of the house.  Occasionally I could catch Godzilla movies playing and the concept of monster movies began to obsess me.  I used to pour through the TV listings to find evidence of anything horror-related.  There was this mysterious channel that we didn’t receive, out of Boston–Channel 56–they were always airing films on Saturday afternoons with titles like IT!  THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE or DESTROY ALL MONSTERS.  What were these things?  I could only imagine.  Then one day all of a sudden we were able to get Channel 56 over our set — they must’ve boosted their signal.  I waited all week to see the two movies they were showing, which I soon learned was their programming block called “Creature Double Feature.”  That weekend they showed a Toho monster movie I now can’t remember followed by the completely bizarre FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE SPACE MONSTER.  Viewing that second movie was a life-changing experience.  It was “bad,” but at age 8 I had no measurement of bad.  It was shot in Puerto Rico and there was no Frankenstein monster.  Most of it was post-dubbed.  I could hardly make sense of it.  It had a scene where a robot, who was running amuck, threw an axe in someone’s face.  Those 90 minutes changed my life forever.

As I got older I started to watch all kinds of films in the genre and outside of it.  But the dark and strange always stuck with me, and that’s always the stuff I liked best.

I think you’ve just described how many of us became so enamoured with film, Nick! We had only four channels when most of us were growing up here in the UK, so we had far less horror on our screens, with the notable exception of the double bills that were screened over weekends and Alex Cox’s excellent Moviedrome series. The advent of rental VHS opened things up a lot wider and horror became far more accessible (until the introduction of Britain’s draconian Video Recordings Act!). Do you have any fond memories or standout experiences from the time when you were introduced to video?

Video was so important to me growing up.  I saved up my own money to buy a VCR.  It was a used, giant top-loading JVC model.  Like so many other horror fans, an entire world of the genre was opened up to me with that machine  It was all the more exciting back then because there was so much less context for what was out there — the video shelves were like a wild west, “respectable” studio product right alongside the sleaziest no-budget horror movies imaginable.  I started to program all night marathons for my friends and we would watch both the stuff I wanted them to see, along with cult and horror movies I had read about and thought might be great – sometimes they were, sometimes they weren’t.   I also began taping things off late night TV back then, which is how I caught favorites like SHOCK WAVES or ZONTAR: THE THING FROM VENUS.  That old VCR was how I saw so many of the great and awful films that I still love.

I’ll also say this about watching movies on home video — it’s STILL something I’m amazed and grateful for, because I remember when I was first introduced to this concept — that just because you’re thinking of a movie could now mean you could choose to watch it, then and there.  That is an amazing luxury.  The other luxury is the huge mine of cinema history that opened up with the ability to cheaply acquire and watch older movies.  In the Euro Cult world I’m always impressed how we can pour over these films that never really were meant to stand some kind of test of time – but that’s one of the qualities that make them so special.   These films were made with an urgency because there was a market that was just hungry for more and more movies, coming at a time of real inventiveness in cinema.  When I made my own movie, that urgency was something I kept in mind–THE PACT was not made after 10 years of developing it–it was written in six weeks and shot in 18 days!  But with the budget so low the financier was basically like “just go do it” and I had no time to think too much about anything beyond trying to make this weird little movie I had imagined in my head just weeks before.  Some might criticize that approach, but I wouldn’t have traded that freshness for anything.  The whole thing was just full throttle, the same way that guys like Enzo Castellari operated, back in the day.

Did reading about the way in which Italian filmmakers made their films or even watching the special features on the DVDs have any impact on how you’ve honed your skills as a filmmaker? You mention Castellari, but did he or any of the other prolific filmmakers of the period make an impression on the way you made your film on such a tight schedule?

One of the things that I’ve come to really admire about many of the directors from back then was how prolific they were.  I mean, a guy like Castellari had a film coming out every 6 months in the 70s!  And in all different genres — westerns, crime films, comedies…  As I said earlier, I think there’s strength in making things quickly, to attack a script and move on.  It can produce all kinds of films — some terrible, but also some that are masterpieces.  And that’s not limited to exploitation — many of the titans of the “art film” did the same thing — Bunuel, Bergman, Fassbinder… they just made film after film after film.  That’s something I aspire to do.

The circumstances of the Italian film industry in the 70s are exceptional, there’s no going back to that time economically or culturally.  But the more of the films from the period that I watch the more in tune I feel to that urgency that went into making them, and it in turn, that inspires me to create something.  Their energy is contagious.

Are you a big fan of Euro Cult cinema? If so, please can you touch upon the genres, films and filmmakers that have inspired you as an artist? 

The first Euro Cult films I saw were, like a lot of other fans, viewed on cropped VHS tapes. Probably the first Euro genre title I ever saw was Fulci’s GATES OF HELL aka CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD.  I was about 13 and probably read about it in Fangoria, which obsessed over how much blood was in a movie, therefore it paid special attention to this title.  It was a little boring at that age, but strangely fascinating.  It came from another world, outside of American cinema.  It had a whole different cinematic language.  And it was disgusting.  I was interested.

It wasn’t until a few years later, at age 16, that I truly “discovered” Euro Cult, when I went to see a 35mm screening of SUSPIRIA.  I knew next to nothing about this movie going in, maybe just that it was an Italian horror movie.  I was nearly all alone in the theater, by myself, mid-week, during a hot summer.  The sound was LOUD.  When the film finished my mind was shattered.  I had never seen anything so scary, so cinematic, so strange.  I wanted more. Since then I’ve watched Italian, French, and Spanish genre movies non-stop.  My next obsession after Argento, of course, was Mario Bava — his work blew me away, I loved exploring film after film of his, each one so different and amazing.  As I got older I developed a soft spot for gialli and the whole spectrum of crime films.  Probably my favorite giallo is STRANGE VICE OF MRS. WARDH, but I’ve seen dozens and loved many of them, from the beautiful ones like LE ORME to the cruddy insanity of Umerto Lenzi’s EYEBALL.

Crime films it’s the same thing — I’ve been enthusiastic about the classier examples, like MACHINE GUN MCCAIN, but also loved the trashiest of the trash, like the movie I first saw on a double bill with MCCAIN — ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY WEAPON aka ROME ARMED TO THE TEETH.   That movie is batshit crazy.

SUSPIRIA seems to be an entry level title for many EuroCult fans, it was one of the first Italian horror films I saw too. You mention ROME ARMED TO THE TEETH, again this was one of the first poliziotteschi films I caught and, like my friend who introduced me to them, I stumbled upon the genre because I found myself seeking out the work of the directors of Italian horror movies – was this the case with you? Looking at the work of directors such as Umberto Lenzi and Sergio Martino in particular as both dabbled in many different genres, do you have a preference to a particular type of film that they made?

Yeah, horror was my entry point and I think it’s true for a lot of fans.  What I discovered was that really there are so many more interesting European thrillers and crime films than horror movies.  It’s fun to trace the careers of a lot of these directors because you see their strengths and weaknesses, but I also have learned that the strength of the work often has a lot to do with the circumstances of both when the movies were made and how well they were produced.   When Sergio Martino made STRANGE VICE… it was at the very beginning of the giallo flood and for me it feels like the quintessential movie that defined the cycle after Bava and Argento put the elements together.  For that reason it seems like everything falls into place for Martino on that movie and I’ve watched it many times.   In the same way, with Lenzi’s films, I first heard about him because of the notorious, sloppily made horror movies from the later part of his career, but when I saw his late 60s giallo ORGASMO with him working with a stronger budget and just at a different pop cultural moment I was like “wow!”  That film is one of the all-time classic Euro Cult titles to me.  Then I started seeing his crime movies in between and I was like “holy shit, this guy is crazy!  Who knew he could do that too?”

Have you paid homage to any of your favourite films or directors in THE PACT?  

Well there’s a lot of different genre films that influenced the movie, and there’s a lot of Euro Cult in there.  There’s a shot at the beginning that is a direct reference to SUSPIRIA, where the camera rises up and peers down at the actress through a hanging lamp.  In Argento’s film they’re on some crazy crane, while we just used the boom arm on the dolly, but it was a total homage.  I showed my director of photography Bridger Nielson sequences from SUSPIRIA to give him an idea of how we wanted to establish camera movement.  It was funny, the film is like a sacred text to me, and Bridger thought it was cool, but he kept pointing out how bumpy Argento’s dolly shots were!

The mystery plotting of the movie was inspired completely by the Italian giallo film.  There’s a kind of fetishy attention to detail in those movies that I tried to get in THE PACT, with lots of close ups of clues.  There’s also a murder sequence in the movie where all you see is a hand with a knife and the audience doesn’t see who’s holding the knife.  The concept for the scene came from the classic giallo template, and for reference I actually showed our makeup FX guy and my DoP a murder in Argento’s OPERA. There are tons of dolly shots in the movie following people around.  Part of it was inspired by the classic, poetic horror movies of Val Lewton, but the look and size of the shots came from the park sequence in FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET.

Finally, there’s a long daylight sequence in my movie that is entirely modeled on the look and feel of Antonioni’s BLOW-UP.  I was watching that movie again a few years ago and realized how much Argento took from it for BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE – the movie that kicked off the wonderful wave of all those gialli.  So it’s a kind of Euro Cult reference in a more oblique way.

BLOW-UP is a wonderful film and one that gets better with each subsequent viewing. Were you aware of the importance of creating a work that stands up to the scrutiny of repeated viewings and did you deliberately make choices that would allow for things to go unnoticed when the viewer watches THE PACT for the first time?

I was just concerned with trying to create the movie in my head, which on our budget meant trying to get as many different shots as we could every day.  I really feel like you can’t think about the future when you create something like this, you never know how it will be received or who will like it.  One of the things that’s been cool about getting the film out there is some of the people who I respect, horror fans with blogs, genre savvy writers like Kim Newman in particular, have given the movie props.  But in no way did I ever try to calculate or predict that sort of response.  I was just trying to make my first movie.  I hope that some people will return to it.  Lord knows there are a lot of films that I’ve watched again and again where the creators never imagined people would see it more than once, like so many of the Euro Cult titles we love.

Thank you, Nick, it’s been great chatting with you.

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

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)

La Polizia ha le mani legate

La Polizia ha le mani legate (Luciano Ercoli, 1975)

aka Killer Cop

Massimo Dallamano’s superlative cop thriller WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO YOUR DAUGHTERS? (1974) was the film that first made a star out of Claudio Cassinelli, one of the most recognizable and dependable Italian genre stars of the 1970s and 80s. Cassinelli’s next crime thriller was KILLER COP, which is regrettably a much less appreciated film. Cassinelli stars as Commissioner Matteo Rolandi, a narcotics cop who is tailing an Algerian drug runner as part of a routine surveillance job. Rolandi follows the man to a hotel, where a big international conference is currently being held. To his horror, Rolandi witnesses the hotel being bombed. Several of the important international diplomats who were present at the hotel are killed as a result of the bombing, which leads to some strong political pressure being applied to the case and finding the guilty party an urgent priority. The job of investigating judge is assigned to Armando Di Federico (Arthur Kennedy), a procurator who is widely known for his great honesty and sense of justice.

The only notable clue in the case is the amateurish, short-sighted bomber (Bruno Zanin) who managed to lose his glasses while struggling to escape after planting the bomb. Rolandi’s partner, Balsamo (Franco Fabrizi), happens across the nervous, myopic man but manages to let him escape. This makes Balsamo an important witness since he is the only one who knows what the bomber looks like. Unfortunately, he is murdered by a ruthless assassin (Giovanni Cianfriglia) shortly afterwards– as is everyone else with any kind of connection to the case. With a strong personal involvement, Rolandi starts doing some unauthorized investigating of his own and gradually closes in on a conspiracy that extends to the highest levels of politics. With everyone else dropping like flies, Rolandi’s only hope is to track down the increasingly paranoid bomber, but he must work quickly if he is to find him before the assassin does…

Throughout his rather short career, director Luciano Ercoli only made eight films, of which the best known are his three gialli FORBIDDEN PHOTOS OF A LADY ABOVE SUSPICION (1970), DEATH WALKS ON HIGH HEELS (1971) and DEATH WALKS AT MIDNIGHT (1972), all starring his sexy, Spanish actress wife, Susan Scott (aka Nieves Navarro). Ercoli’s next film, THE MAGNIFICENT DARE DEVIL (1973), marked his first brush with the then increasingly popular crime thriller genre (though Ercoli combined both giallo and crime movie elements) but, unfortunately, it wasn’t a particularly enjoyable film. KILLER COP was Ercoli’s second crime thriller, and a vast improvement on the director’s previous entry into the genre. Unfortunately, the KILLER COP title is highly inappropriate, alluding to a type of film that this is most certainly not. This is not a brutal Italo-cop thriller in the DIRTY HARRY vein, as it the action scenes are virtually non-existent; we only get the assassinations, an explosion and a climatic face-off with the assassin. Instead, this is a more character-driven political thriller; pitting a lowly cop against corrupt government forces à la Steno’s EXECUTION SQUAD (1972). The Italian title, LA POLIZA HA LE MANI LEGATE (which translates to ‘The police have their hands tied’), is far better at conveying the film’s themes.

If KILLER COP is more political and lower on action than your average Maurizio Merli flick, it still makes for a solid thriller and this is thanks largely to the two lead characters, both of whom are interesting, well-written and fleshed out. For example, Commissioner Rolandi is impressively developed, not only as a smart, dedicated cop but also as a human being. We get a relatively good look into his private life; including his peculiar wake-up routine, his friendship with his partner, not to mention his reading habits, which includes an almost obsessive fascination with ‘Moby Dick’. Clearly relishing the opportunity to play such a well-written character, Claudio Cassinelli gives everything here – delivering a terrific portrayal of the determined cop, thus making him an extremely likeable lead.

We are also treated to an excellent performance from Arthur Kennedy as the honest, mint-chewing procurator. A former A-list Hollywood actor with no less than five Oscar nominations behind him, Kennedy was just one of many faded Hollywood stars who went to Italy to find a steady flow of work in film. While some of these former stars would ham it up because they seemed to think Italian B movies were beneath them, Kennedy actually turned in some quality performances in his Italian films, and his enjoyable performance as the likable, quirky judge ranks among his finest European work – alongside his outstanding part as the diabolical police inspector in Jorge Grau’s excellent zombie film THE LIVING DEAD AT THE MANCHESTER MORGUE (1974).

Furthermore, Cassinelli and Kennedy also interact very well with each other, and it is intriguing to see that even the characters they play are good men trying to solve the case, circumstances have them working against each other instead of together. With well-developed characters that project an emotive quality to which the audience can relate, KILLER COP quickly becomes an engaging and very exciting little thriller with a compelling storyline and several good plot twists. That said, the plot–like many Italian political thrillers of the time—is more convoluted and complicated than it needs to be, and somewhat hampering the film in doing so.

Technical credits are top-notch, however, with excellent production values, good locations and stylish cinematography by Marcello Gatti. Another great asset is the musical score by Stelvio Cipriani, even though he is, for all intents and purposes, recycling cues from WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO YOUR DAUGHTERS? with some slight alterations here and there. But there are more musical treats than just the main theme. Most notably, Commissioner Rolandi’s girlfriend, Papaya, has her own theme – an upbeat, jazzy tune simply called ‘Papaya’, which is an excellent, catchy piece. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself humming this tune to yourself for days afterwards.

Much credit for the film’s success must also be attributed to the first-rate supporting cast which is made up of numerous dependable Italian actors. Franco Fabrizi (a regular face in 1970s cop thrillers) is both likeable and charming as Cassinelli’s partner; a man more fond of using his brain than his gun; ubiquitous stuntman/actor Giovanni Cianfriglia is chillingly effective as the brutal, stone-faced assassin; and Bruno Zanin really holds his own as the rather pathetic, short-sighted bomber. Mention must also go to lovable supporting players such as the bespectacled, nerdy-looking Francesco D’Adda, here enjoying a bigger role than usual as Kennedy’s assistant; Franco Moraldi as the chief of police; and Elio Jotta–best remembered for his sinister turn as Barbara Steele’s husband in Riccardo Freda’s THE GHOST (1963)–as a shady minister.

The only substantial female role is that of Rolandi’s girlfriend, Papaya; played by the attractive Sara Sperati. Sperati started her career in 1973 as the July playmate in Italian men’s magazine Playmen, before graduating to film roles, following KILLER COP with MARK THE NARC (1975) and roles in some Nazisploitation flicks. She ought to have gone on to a long, fruitful career in Italian genre cinema but, unfortunately, Sperati completely dropped out of sight in 1976 after only seven film appearances, which is a great shame considering what an appealing and characteristic screen presence she had. In this film, Sperati is particularly charming and sexy – her short hair giving her a look that is different from that of her subsequent films.

The English fandub uses the Italian Cecchi Gori DVD (which was without English options) as the image source; combining it with an English audio track from a Swedish VHS release. The final result is highly satisfying; with the 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer from the Italian disc looking splendid. Picture is sharp and clear with solid colours. Some very mild grain and a couple of scratches and dirt show up on occasion but on the whole the transfer looks very good. The English audio has been synced up perfectly with the image and sounds very clear and nice and is without any hiss or background noise. The English dub track also has the advantage of featuring Arthur Kennedy’s own voice, which is a great plus, and the dubbing of the Italian actors is quite more than adequate. My only gripe with the fandub stems from the fact that the print is taken from an Italian source and there are no translations given for the native text that appears during the film. This includes some newspaper headlines, a message the bomber scribes to the police, some notes exchanged between two characters in a bugged room, and the coda at the end of the film, all highly annoying as these examples are important to the plot.

While not in the Top Ten Euro crime films, KILLER COP is an excellent and engaging thriller that benefits tremendously from its excellent cast and well-developed characters. It’s too bad that Luciano Ercoli never made another cop thriller because this is one of the finest films he made in a career that was all too short. The wonderful English fandub is a joy to behold and without doubt the best way to appreciate this underrated gem. Very highly recommended.

(Johan Melle)

Special Cop in Action – Dorado Films ‘Screeners Project’

The film is finished, the dead weight lies trampled on the editing room floor… all that is left is the Screener. The producers anxiously await the response of the audience. Success or failure relies on the last year and a half of work. Obscurity or success is discovered only in this one moment.

Today, films with character and charm are vanishing. Quirky films are being forgotten. Some films never even had a chance to vanish, they just never arrived. How can we save these precious, ocassionaly unpolished or rough, gems from being ignored?

Welcome to the Dorado Films Screeners project. We have access to hundreds of such films. We do not have the funding to release all of these great films in the pristine, original quality they deserve (if even available). These are our marketting test. These Screeners help us put the funding toward the right films, films that will be appreciated by the largest amount of fans. These Screeners are what we can give back to the fans of these rare films without spending money that will not be recovered. We can experiment, be different, throw these films into the spotlight one more time and see if they can live up to the success the producers, directors, actors, and crew once thought was possible.

What can you do to help?

Watch the films. If you like it keep watching it.

Comment on actors. Comment on the plot. Comment on locations. Comment on film techniques. Comment on what you disliked about the film. COMMENT. Your comments will shape which films we try next. Help us by offering your opinion. You have an opinion. We need to hear it.

Tell others. If you really like a movie, talk about it to your friends. If you think a scene is particularly fantastic, get a link to it (How To) and send it to others. If you love a film, share the love. The more response you get for a film, the more likely you will see something more done with it.

A word about quality

Many of these films are going to be transfered from 1″ broadcast tapes. The quality will not be great, but it was once deemed worthy enough to be shown on television. Other than meeting the format requirement for YouTube, these tapes are shown as is with no altering or primping. This is the quickest, cheapest, simplest way for us to deliver these films to you. We are striving for quantity not quality with these screeners. This is a test after all. Commenting on quality of the transfer is not constructive. To protect our film from piracy, we have added a slight watermark.

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For more details plus a list of other films in the ‘Screeners’ project head on over to Dorado’s website at THIS LINK

Check out the Special Cop in Action aka Italia a mano armata ‘Screener’ in its entirety below…

Roma a mano armata

Roma a mano armata (Umberto Lenzi, 1976)

aka Rome Armed To The Teeth / The Tough Ones / Assault With a Deadly Weapon / Die Viper

Downtown Rome in the mid 1970s was a tough place for the local Police. Purse snatchers prowl the local parks, gangs of armed men turn over betting shops and spoiled rich kids get their kicks from raping young girls. Luckily, for anyone on the right side of the law, Inspector Leonardo Tanzi (Maurizio Merli) is on the local beat, cruising the streets in his Alfetta, ready and willing to run down injustice in a heartbeat. Unfortunately Tanzi’s superior, Vice questore Ruini (Arthur Kennedy), prefers justice to be served up in the time honoured manner – by the book and following the codes of conduct.

Following a lead Tanzi brings in Vincenzo Moretto (Tomas Milian) a hunchbacked slaughterhouse worker who has more than few crooked business sidelines. Sitting him in a darkened room, with only a lamp on his face, Tanzi takes the official interrogation procedures and throws them in the bin, resulting in Morreto being hospitalised and Tanzi up before his boss. Taking a dressing down and being told that Morreto will be released without charge incenses Tanzi. Adding insult to injury Ruini also demotes him to an office job. Officially off the streets Tanzi uses his spare time to carry on his investigations into Morreto and the links he may have to Tony (Ivan Rassimov), a drug dealer who’s keeping a missing girl strung out on smack up in his apartment…

Director Umberto Lenzi delivers a fast paced rollercoaster ride of a movie, expertly filmed by cinematographer Federico Zanni – a veteran of over 50 movies for a diverse range of Directors such as Lenzi, Sergio Martino, Stelvio Massi and Marino Girolami – and featuring one of the classic Polizieschi scores by Maestro Franco Micalizzi. As soon as the opening credits start with the POV shot from inside the car as it drives down through Rome’s city centre, that oh-so-familiar music kicks in and you just know you’re in for a treat. With no real major plot to focus on Lenzi instead whisks the viewer from one mini adventure to the next and when all else fails stages a random crime so that Tanzi can show up at just the right moment, slap the perpetrator around a bit before handing him over to the uniformed police who arrive out of nowhere in the olive green Alfas. It defies logic but it does so in a good way, you have after all just seen a man take four or five huge open handed slaps across the face as punishment for stealing a ladies handbag. It no longer matters if the scenario is logical, what matters is that justice has been served and the guilty have been punished!

This would be the first of two outings for Tomas Milian in the role of ‘Il Gobbo’–the second being Lenzi’s LA BANDA DEL GOBBO (1978)–a character created by screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti in reference to Giuseppe Albano the original ‘Il Gobbo del Quarticciolo’; a real life character who lived in Rome during the Nazi occupation in the 1940’s.  A member of the resistance during the occupation he went on to become a local ‘Robin Hood’ character after the Nazi’s were overthrown. Albano’s story was made into a feature film ‘Il Gobbo’ directed by Carlo Lizzani in 1960, and starring French born actor Gérard Blain in the title role.

Milian is just superb in the role and displays a range of emotions that see him at turns being fragile and pathetic—he truly gains the viewers sympathy when he’s being beaten by the police–the next he’s cold and calculating, ruthless and utterly insane; a marvellous performance and surely one of his most memorable roles.

Maurizio Merli also plays a character–that of tough, takes no bullshit, cop Leonardo Tanzi–who would be seen again in Lenzi’s 1977 film, IL CINICO, L’INFAME, IL VIOLENTO (THE CYNIC, THE RAT AND THE FIST) though albeit in a more calm and composed frame of mind than he is in this film. At times looking like he’s going to literally explode with rage, Merli pulls out all the stops in bringing to life a cop who’s just run completely out of patience. With a justice system that is constantly letting the honest man on the street down he takes it upon himself to “get back to the old ways” and fight fire with fire. A clichéd plot device for sure, but it keeps the film barrelling along and there’s nothing at all wrong with that.

This latest DVD from New Entertainment World is an upgrade of their previous release which had no English options. Happily for us fans, this limited edition re-release features English, German and Italian audio plus optional English and German subtitles. The transfer is truly a thing of beauty, identical to the NoShame Italy DVD released a few years ago, and perfectly framed in its 2.35:1 ratio, with 16:9 enhancement. It’s doubtful that this film could look any better than it does on this DVD. The English audio doesn’t fare so well as it’s obviously sourced from VHS which in turn sounds like it was sourced from a well used theatrical print. It’s serviceable though and is better than not having an English audio option at all. The Italian audio is pretty much pristine barring a handful of instances where the audio wows for a second or two–think what it sounds like when you momentarily touch a vinyl record while it’s playing on a turntable and your more or less there–these same audio flaws are present on the NoShame release so must be a problem with the master used and not something to blame on NEW. The English subtitles follow the Italian audio track and are not simply copied from the English dub verbatim, a very welcome addition and viewing the film in Italian with subtitles is absolutely the only way to watch this film. Extra features consist of the Italian language theatrical trailer, a trailer show for other titles in the NEW catalogue, an essay about the film in German and PC accessible Tiff files of German poster art and lobby cards for the German theatrical release under the title ‘DIE VIPER’.

ROMA A MANO ARMATA is almost the quintessential ‘Polizieschi’ movie, it has all the ingredients necessary – Alfa Romeo cars, stereotypical bad guys, angry ‘beat the system’ cops and lashings of over the top violence. All packaged together on what is so far the definitive DVD release of this film for the English speaking fan of ‘Poliziesco all’Italiana’. You can’t really ask for much more.

(Jonny Redman)

Fernando Di Leo Italian Crime Collection vol.2 from Raro Video USA

Raro Video USA announced on their Facebook page details of part 2 of their Fernando Di Leo Italian Crime Collection…

“Great News!
We are pleased to confirm the acquisition of a worldwide exclusive Fernando Di Leo title:
“Shoot First Die Later” ( Il Polizziotto e’ Marcio).
This film will part of “ Fernando Di Leo Italian Crime Collection vol.2 , due next December.
We are now working on a brand new HD transfer from original 35mm Negative print.
This very rare film will finally be presented in its original splendor…

…“Fernando Di Leo Italian Crime Collection vol.2” will contain 3 titles:
“Shoot First Die Later” (new HD transfer)
“Killer VS Killer( restored version)
“Kidnap Syndicate”(new HD Transfer)”

Fernando Di Leo Italian Crime Collection vol.2 is due for release in December 2012

I contrabbandieri di Santa Lucia

I contrabbandieri di Santa Lucia (Alfonso Brescia, 1979)

aka ‘The New Godfathers’

With the American Mafia families pooling their resources to bring huge quantities of cheap heroin into the country, it’s up to customs official Ivano Radevic (Gianni Garko) to side up with the cigarette smugglers in Naples and gain inside information to allow the authorities to intercept the drugs en route to the USA. Using leads he picks up from children selling contraband tobacco on the streets, Ivano manages to gain the trust of Don Francesco Autiero (Mario Merola), boss of one of the main smuggling gangs in the area. Don Francesco is keen to help Ivano, as keeping drugs off the streets is something he’s more than pleased to help out with, even if it means co-operating with the law. He suggests a meeting with Don Michele Vizzini (Antonio Sabato), another local crime lord with even greater connections. All seems well at first as Vizzini agrees to the plan, but as soon as the meeting is over Vizzini is revealed to be the mastermind behind the huge heroin shipment and Ivano and Don Francesco soon find themselves looking down the wrong end of a gun barrel.

THE NEW GODFATHERS is a fairly decent film from Alfonso Brescia; a director with over 50 films to his name covering a diverse range of subject matter from Sci-Fi trash ‘classics’ (THE BEAST IN SPACE, WAR OF THE PLANETS, STAR ODYSSEY), gialli (NAKED GIRL KILLED IN THE PARK) super heroes (THREE FANTASTIC SUPERMEN) and Crime (KNELL: THE BLOODY AVENGER, NAPOLI SERENATA CALIBRO 9). It must be said that many of Brescia’s films that were made with obviously small budgets, but even in those cases the enthusiasm for filmmaking shines through and there is usually something present that entertains. THE NEW GODFATHERS certainly has its entertaining moments; seeing Antonio Sabato playing a greasy bad guy – who’d have his own mother sent to sleep with the fishes if it meant furthering his ‘career’ – is always entertaining and Mario Merola always commands an engaging onscreen presence.

Utilising a whole host of actors that regularly appear in Brescia’s films, Jeff Blynn, Lucio Montaro, Sabrina Siani accompany Sabato and Merola from some of the director’s previous work and not forgetting the loveable duo of engaged pre-schoolers Marco Girondino and Letizia D’Adderio who return as Gennarino and Stellatella. Familiar locations appear throughout including the same set of steps seen in NAPOLI SERENATA CALIBRO 9 where the kids are again seen selling their packs of cigarettes, and as usual what appears to be actual local contraband smugglers are seen speeding their powerboats in formation, showing off for the movie cameras.

As well as using cast, crew and locations previously used in his own films Brescia didn’t bat an eyelid when it came to borrowing footage from other director’s films in order to pad out his creations. Notable cinematic thievery includes the use of car chase sequences from Ferdinando Baldi’s AFYON OPPIO (1972) and the entire sequence of the car driving along the top of the moving train from Massimo Dallamano’s QUELLI DELLA CALIBRO .38 (1976). All are used to good effect though, with the helicopter/car chase sequence particularly effective, though juxtaposing the bizarre choice of a disco tune will either delight or drive you around the twist with its mind numbingly repetitive chorus.

Released on DVD in Italy by Cecchi Gori Home Video, with sadly only the original Italian audio for the language options, we see the film get a marginally better transfer than previous home video versions but with a lot of room left for improvement. It’s obvious that an old 35mm theatrical print has been used for the DVD master as reel ends are literally battered to within an inch of their lives, with speckling and green emulsion damage appearing throughout the print. The anamorphic enhancement is welcome though the image does suffer from some cropping on both sides of the frame (see image comparison below) when compared to the old letterboxed transfer featured on the UK VHS released by Intermovie (and later then re-released by Diamond Films; both of which feature the English dubbed version).

Green is the VHS frame area, purple area is the DVD frame.

For all of the prints shortcomings the DVD is an improvement over the previously available VHS releases and interestingly, it includes extra footage not found in the English dubbed versions wherein Gianni Garko and Marco Girondino’s characters are seen looking at a cinema poster for film called LO SCUGNIZZO and mentioning that it stars Gianni Garko and Marco Girondino; Garko even says that the film must be good as it stars Gianni Garko! As the two walk away a portly, bearded man steps towards the poster and asks who the hell the director Alfonso Brescia is as he turns to the camera to reveal that it is indeed Brescia himself. Obviously an in joke that the distributors of the English language version deemed out of place for the English speaking audience and admittedly one that would fly over the heads of most casual film viewers, but a nice touch for the Euro Cult film fan and makes the DVD a worthy purchase.

(Jonny Redman)

Ricco The Mean Machine

Ricco The Mean Machine (Tulio Demicheli, 1973)

 aka ‘Un tipo con una faccia strana ti cerca per ucciderti’

Recently released from prison, a year early for good behaviour, Ricco (Chris Mitchum) makes his way home to the family owned petrol Station only to find it closed for business. Customers pull up on the forecourt only to drive off when they realise there is no one around to serve them. His Mother and sister are both at home, trouble is that his sister is too busy having wild sex with her husband and his Mother is sitting in her wheelchair chugging down a bottle of J&B. Where’s the Father? He had his head ventilated just before the film’s title sequence…

It turns out Ricco’s spell in prison was due to him trying to attack a certain Don Vito (Arthur Kennedy), a notorious gangster who may have had something to do with Ricco’s Father’s murder. Naturally now he’s out of prison his mother is keen for Ricco to exact revenge, offering him his Father’s pistol so he can meet out family justice. Ricco refuses declaring that he’ll get Don Vito by his own methods. Scouring the streets for clues Ricco soon meets up with sassy scam artist Scilla (Barbara Bouchet) and between them the pair come up with a plan to infiltrate Don Vito’s mansion and get even with crime lord.

Not known for his great acting range Chris Mitchum started out in the film business as a gofer on his father’s films, progressing to acting alongside the likes of John Wayne and other old school Hollywood Western stalwarts and it’s easy to see where he got the idea of playing straight faced emotionless hard men from. All criticisms aside he does fare pretty well in this film especially taking into consideration his particularly wooden turn in Antonio Isasi-Isasimendi’s ‘The Summertime Killer’ the previous year.

With his hair slicked back and dyed dark brown, along with his eyebrows and moustache, the wonderful Arthur Kennedy rules the roost as the dreaded Don Vito and pretty much steals the scene every time he’s on screen.

Director Demicheli takes full advantage of Barbara Bouchet’s beauty with gratuitous close ups of her cleavage and backside and the foggy moonlit strip tease is pure exploitation heaven. Despite the bad acting and poorly choreographed fight scenes it’s the show stopping violence that makes Ricco an unforgettable film. Women get bitch slapped, men get bitch slapped and poor unforunates are reduced to sludge in vats of acid… Thoroughly remorseless in attitude and damned dirty with its aggro, Ricco is as morally wrong as it is wild.

Fans of the film have been denied for years the chance to see the fully uncut version, only an extremely rare Venezuelen VHS release contained the fully uncut version and copies of that were of such terrible quality that it rendered the film unwatchable. Dark Sky have now remedied this situation with a great looking 16:9 enhanced widescreen DVD that is fully uncut. Rounding out the package is an Italian language trailer and a featurette featuring an interview with Ricco himself Chris Mitchum, who turns out to be a great guy with a very lucid memory for the films he made so long ago.

A well overdue release but very welcome indeed and surely should be in the collection of every European Cult movie aficionado.

(Jonny Redman)

Note: Portions of this review were first published in the Midnight Media publication ‘Blazing Magnums vol. 1’ obtainable by visiting the link below.

Midnight Media