La settima donna – Ray Lovelock Interview

The following interview came with an Italian VHS release of ‘La Settima Donna’ aka Terror. Many thanks to Hari Alfeo for translating the interview into English…

Your name, Raymond Lovelock, doesn’t seem Italian yet you’re an Italian through and through?

One hundred percent. I was born in Rome , my father was English, my mother Italian, and I’ve always lived in Italy .

Did you feel you found the artist in you after a movie like Plagio and Banditi a Milano, i.e. did you seriously consider continuing to work as an actor or did you hesitate?

What can I tell you… Those were busy years, I took things as they came along. The same goes about my wife. We met in 1968 and were married in 1970 because we got along well. We got married without thinking too much about it. It’s now 29 years that we’ve been together. I’ve been very fortunate, but the decision to get married could just as easily have been a risk. I took things with ease. Tomas Milian had a lot to do with that. He was like an older brother and I did everything he said.

Unlike, say, Maurizio Merli, who did everything one could do with the poliziesco in Italy , which eventually typecast him in the genre, you crossed every genre without risking overexposure…

It’s a question of choices. I was fortunate to have on my side a partner who saw things a certain way, i.e. we never cared that much about money. Especially at that time, because as you get older you start putting things in proportion, but money has never been my life’s goal. So the way I approached things was: “Now I’ll do a picture and with the money I make I’ll get by for as long as I can, while turning down the things I don’t like” That’s how it was for many years. Then again, it’s not like I led this life of luxury. Eventually, however, when I found myself with only 50,000 lire in the bank, I had to be less choosy and, in order to survive, accept parts that were worse than those I’d rejected.

It seems to me, however, that this proved good for career longevity…

Frankly, I’m incapable of making such assessments. If I’d been different and more yielding with regard to certain things, I might’ve done much more. I can see that now, it would’ve led to other things. Just think that at one time I even had the chance to move to the States and work there. I was doing Il grande attacco with Umberto Lenzi and this woman, Sala, called me, she was selling films abroad, and told me about an American lawyer who’d seen me in some films and wanted me in his movie agency. It was a small agency with three American actors, the rest were European. I went to meet him because we shot two weeks of Il grande attacco in Los Angeles . So this guy didn’t make any guarantees, but said that I might manage to work in the American star system. The only thing was that I had to move to the States for at least one year. My wife said immediately that she had no problem with it, but I knew I would’ve had to deal with the kind of person I am. I know what I’m like: very anxious, very tied to my roots, my neighbourhood, things… Anyway, I passed. I was fascinated by it but at the same time it scared me. You know what scared me at first? Not so much having to leave the Italian star system, which at that time wasn’t even that strong, but being squashed by the American machine, being unable to manage my career properly. I could think of so many people I knew who were very satisfied professionally but very unhappy inside.

What did you mean by “I might’ve done much more”? You mean in terms of movies?

That too… actually I’ve never been the jet set type who went to parties, sucking up to producers… I never wanted to take part in certain scandals or certain scoops that were offered to get my name in the papers. Even my agent, Luciana Soli, urges me telling me “But Ray, you have to go to these promotional parties from time to time because you can meet important people, you have to do it as though it were part of your job” And she’s right, it’s all true, but I’d tell her “Look, for me, it can even be counterproductive. Let’s say I go there, and then I either can’t utter a word or act all disinterested or unpleasant, I’d ruin my chances myself” It was a bit of an alibi, because the truth is I just don’t care about the jet set life. I wanted to land roles because a director had seen me in something and liked me, not because we’d had lunch together.

Nevertheless, you continue working…

Yes, it’s true. There was something Pietravale told me at the beginning of my career, “It’s not difficult to make it but stay there”, and that’s always been my rule. Besides, it’s just a question of how you approach life, because obviously there are times when you’re on top and times when you’re a bit on the decline, then other times when you’re wanted again and others when you hit a trough. The important thing is how you take the success and lack thereof. I knew colleagues who’d get depressed if two instead of ten people turned around to look at them in the street. It’s a game, you mustn’t take these things too seriously…

Were you one of those actors who went to see their movies in cinemas?

Not always, when they invited me. This thing about looking at my work became more pronounced in television, not for personal reasons but because in television it’s always possible to redo a scene that didn’t work. Way back when I started working in television there was always a monitor on which you could always check everything was all right. If something didn’t work you saw it in real time and could ask the director “You mind if we do it again?” Because even there, assuming that you’re never satisfied with what you do, you could spend days trying to improve it.

How did you rate as an actor in those years?

Look, I experienced, let’s say, big success, with television. At the movies, I had my space and nothing more. I don’t think I was ever a movie star. Perhaps only Banditi a Milano was a big success with both the critics and the public. As for the rest…

Are you satisfied with your acting career?

Yes, sure. You know, parallel to this acting career I had the fortune to have a wife and a daughter, which isn’t the custom in the movies. And perhaps this helped me to keep the right distance from things.

 

Incantesimo – Ray Lovelock Interview

The Following interview is translated from the Croatian magazine Gloria and was first published in early 2003. Many thanks to Hari Alfeo for translating the article for the website…

Ray Lovelock, the Italian actor who plays surgeon Hans Rudolf in the TV series “Incantesimo” (Magic), talks about his English origins, his career as soccer player and musician, and reveals that 33 years ago, he and his wife spent their honeymoon in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia.

“In movies it’s easy to burn brightly, but it takes talent to last. When the producers of ‘Incantesimo’ offered me the part of Dr. Rudolf, I knew that my career, after some 50 parts in movies and on television, was still on the up” says the 53-year-old Italian. “I spent three months in Zagreb in 1970, shooting the American film ‘Fiddler on the Roof’. A week before arriving in Zagreb , I had married Gioia, after two years of being together, so that we spent our honeymoon at Zagreb ‘s Esplanade hotel”

Were you ever to return to Croatia after that?

“I returned to Zagreb in 1984 to shoot the ‘Two Prisoners’ five-part TV series. I also visited Istria several times, when I was working in Trieste a few years ago”

How come both your first and last names are English?

“You mean despite the fact that I was born in Rome and spent my entire life living and working in Italy ?” (Laughs) “My father was British, a member of the Allies, who towards the end of World War Two, in 1944, liberated Italy by toppling the fascist regime. But he didn’t return home because he had fallen in love with my mother, Maria Antonietta. My parents were married the following year and had four sons. I’m the third and the only artist in the family”

Who chose the name Ray?

“Ray is short for Raymond. I got it by accident. My mother, who worked for the Australian embassy for years, actually wanted to call me Simon, but my late father misheard her and had me registered as Raymond”

When did you realise you wanted to become an actor?

“That happened by accident too. When I was young I dreamed of becoming a professional soccer player, but when I realised it wasn’t going to work, I enrolled in a mechanical engineering college. While studying I also played in a rock band, worked as an extra in movies to make some extra money, and did commercials. I realised that acting was interesting when I was 17, when director Carlo Lizzani gave me an important part in ‘Banditi di Milano’, which was a big success with both the public and the critics. Looking back, that success went to my head, so I ended up being an actor.”

What motivates you to continue working after 35 years in the movies?

“Good parts are a challenge. I can’t say that I took only parts that I liked. I accepted some to survive, to give myself and my family a nice life. But the Hans Rudolf part isn’t one of them”

What did you do before you became an actor?

“I played for the local soccer club in San Lorenzo . Then in 1966 I formed a band with my friend Tomas Milian, a famous Italian musician (sic). We played Rolling Stones songs. An acting agent spotted me at the Piper, a cult Roman nightclub, and offered me my first part in a picture. That’s how it all started”

What type of music do you listen to today?

“Bob Dylan remains number one for me. I love his songs and I have all of his records at home”

Were you a rebel as a young man?

“I grew up without my father because my parents got divorced and he returned to Great Britain when I was six. For me, the divorce was not traumatic because my mother is a wonderful person who raised us to believe that freedom is the greatest virtue. That’s why I never felt the need to rebel. I did wear my hair long, down to the middle of my back, as well as a leather jacket, but my mother and two aunts, her sisters who lived with us, didn’t complain about it. Although many thought I was a delinquent because of the way I dressed. Nice guys wore suits and ties”

When did you move out of your mother’s?

“Very early. I met my wife Gioia in 1968, at a party given by a common friend, and we got married in 1970. We had a great time together so we decided to marry. Our only daughter Francesca Romana was born in 1971”

What does she do?

“Francesca is an assistant director and has been working in Naples for two years now. We’ve worked together twice so far and I truly enjoyed being on the set with her”

Do you also work with your wife?

“Gioia is my agent. I convinced her to do it ten years ago and we’ve never had a row so far. Our relationship is one of the few in the movie business that is excellent even after 35 years. We have lively talks every day. My wife is my best friend”

Which part would you never take?

“Every part is a challenge for me. Even when I play bad guys and rotten criminals”

What’s the most unpleasant thing you had to do in a movie?

“It was a Spanish movie. I was riding on horseback and was supposed to fall into a ditch. But the people on the movie hadn’t checked the ditch before the shoot so I fell into filthy water, full of mud and junk”

What can make you happy?

“I like to help people who are in most need of help. I inherited this feeling of social justice from my mother, and as the years go by it’s increasingly stronger”

How do you relax?

“Watching movies from the 40s, the 50s and the 60s. I like to hang out with my friends, play soccer and listen to music. I’ve been on the Italian actors’ soccer team for 18 years now, and I’ve recently been made captain. I’m especially glad that we give all the box office money to charity”

What would your ideal day look like?

“There would be no wars, no class differences, and money wouldn’t be the moving force of mankind. I was once shooting in Brazil and spent five weeks in shock at the poverty in the streets I’d never seen before. Whenever we had lunch in a restaurant, there was a bunch of dirty, poor children staring at us from outside with their mouths open. And the worst of all was that I knew I could give those kids only alms but not really help them in the long term”

The Man From The Morgue – Ray Lovelock Interview

The following interview is taken from issue 89 (Feb/Mar 2001) of The Dark Side Magazine. It is reproduced here with kind permission…

The Man From The Morgue

One of the most prolific of 70’s Italian action stars, actor Ray Lovelock is best known to Dark Side readers as the star of the cult horror flick, Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue. Josephine Botting talked to him recently on our behalf…

Italian actor Ray Lovelock is keen to point out that his English name is not an invention to satisfy the demands of local producers (as in Stan Cooper, aka Stelvio Rosi) but the result of his having an English father, now resident near Barnstable . Despite his Anglo-Saxon roots, Ray speaks very little English and prefers to be interviewed in Italian. I visited him in his sixth floor flat not far from the centre of Rome, where he sat surrounded by photos of himself with some of the actors he’s had the pleasure of working with.

While not a big star, Ray has worked consistently, first in film and now as a familiar face on Italian television. A modest person, he prefers to talk about his many co-stars rather than himself, and hasn’t lost the sense of awe he no doubt had when he first met them. He obviously hasn’t been seduced by the showbiz life and is happiest at home with his family.

When Ray began his cinematic career, Rome was the place to be. The 1960’s were an incredibly active period in Italian cinema history. Cinecitta was dubbed ‘ Hollywood on the Tiber ‘ and the Via Veneto was awash with US stars and technicians. In 1966, at the tender age of 18, he landed his first speaking part. Se sei vivo… spara! Starred the legendary Cuban actor Tomas Milian and actually remains Ray’s only Spaghetti Western.

“Up until that moment” he says, “I had been studying and playing football, which was my passion, and every now and then I worked as an extra here in Rome . But that was the first time I had a proper part. At that time one of the studios in Rome, Elios, had a ‘Western’ village built specially for shooting spaghettis, and it was filmed there and also outside Madrid.

“From there, everything started. After that film I joined a pop group formed by Tomas Milian, called The Tomas Milian Group and we sang in bars. One night, while we were playing, an agent asked me if I wanted to take up film acting seriously. I gave him some photos and the first job I got was with Carlo Lizzani who was preparing a film called Banditi a Milano. I played one of the guys in the gang and the film did very well, even winning the Golden Globe from the Foreign Press Association. I received several offers after that and I didn’t know what to do because up until that point I hadn’t taken it too seriously: it’s not as if I had the ‘sacred flame’.

“After that I went to London to spend four days working on an Italian film. With the money I made I was able to spend a couple of months with my brother, who lives in London . My agent rang to offer me work but I kept turning it down, so in the end e said to me ‘Listen, if you want to get on you’ve got to do something. Come to Rome , there’s a German producer coming here to make a film.’ It was a rather complicated story (Haschen in der Grube, 1969) directed by Roger Fritz and we filmed it in Spoleto during the festival. From then on I took it more seriously.”

Ray carried on working in Italian films but then got the chance to make his first big budget Hollywood movie: Fiddler on the Roof.

“The way Fiddler on the Roof came about was very strange, Lynn Stalmaster was here to cast a film – they were looking for an Italian actor for a film about the race at Indianopolis. So I went along and when she saw me she said she was also casting another film called Fiddler on the Roof which I’d never heard of. She explained that it was a big musical and that she thought I’d be good for it. I was asked to learn a scene from it and she went to call Los Angeles. Then she asked me if I could go to the States, in fact she said ‘What are you doing tomorrow afternoon?’

“It was strange because I was about to go to Tokyo to do some publicity for an Italian film called Il plagio which had been sold to Japan . So they suggested that I return from Tokyo via Los Angeles. I learnt the scene and travelled to La where I met Norman Jewison. I didn’t do a screen test but just recited the same scene that I’d done in Rome. Jewison thanked me, I went back to Rome and a week later my agent told me I’d been chosen for the part. So you see how these things happen.

“I was 20 when I made Fiddler on the Roof and as I started out so young I didn’t go to college. I was lucky to have an agent who was a bit like a big brother to me: only now do I realise how good his advice was. He told me to make the most of this job as it was also a chance to learn. The experience I had on Fiddler on the Roof was important for that reason.

“I worked on it for three months and the filming method was completely different to that in Italy. I played a young Russian and as it was filmed with direct sound I had to speak English with a Russian accent. So I found a Russian teacher here in Rome, went along with my lines and did recitations and exercises with her. I learnt a lot”

Il plagio (1968) was a strange experience for Ray. “Il plagio was incredibly successful in Japan – not so much in Italy because it was rather a bizarre story. It was the story of a very rich young man who falls in love with a couple who are at college with him. He ‘plagiarises’ them in the sense that in the end he manages to go to bed with both of them. But the young man has problems – there’s a suggestion that he killed his parents, who were so much in love that he felt excluded.

“It’s quite hard to understand but the story takes place in 1968, a time of revolution, of student revolt. There were two nude scenes, not vulgar mind you, but they led to the film being confiscated. Then it was released abroad and was bought by Japan and they asked me to go over for two weeks to promote the film. And the film turned out to be the biggest hit of the year in Japan. In fact I went back a year later with the film Il delitto del diavolo which they also bought and it was a success. I even had a fan club.

“Il plagio really was a very special film: in fact I almost regret having made it so early in my career, perhaps I was a bit too immature for the character, which really was a great creation: maybe if I’d had a bit more experience I would have been better equipped to do it justice. I was completely guided by the director, Sergio Capogna, who had also written the story. At a certain point, the money ran out and most of the crew left rather than work for nothing. Only 12 of us stayed on so for a week we made the film ‘on the road’ with just the director, the cameraman and the actors. I even had to operate the clapperboard!”

Lovelock has worked with some of the legendary Italian gialli directors. Umberto Lenzi, Ruggero Deodato and Lucio Fulci.

“I made five films with Umberto Lenzi. The first was a giallo, with Irene Papas and Ornella Muti. I think it was Ornella’s second film. It was called Un posto ideale per uccidere. Lenzi was an excellent director of gialli: the second one I did with him was a crime film, made in the mid-70’s, Milano odia: la polizia non puo sparare. Then there were two war films (Il grande attacco and Da Dunkerque alla vittoria ) and a comedy, Scusi, lei e normale? (Excuse me, are you normal?)

“Lenzi is a director who shouts a lot but when you get to know him he’s OK. At first I was a bit nervous of him, then on the second film we had a squabble. He did call me again though, so despite all of the shouting he was a nice guy. After that we got on fine because I realised he must think a lot of me. We had a good relationship. He was quite a demanding director but that’s the way it should be. He was rather impatient and would get annoyed very easily if something didn’t go right. We only had the one row and that was it, there weren’t any more problems.

“I made only one film with Lucio Fulci – Murderock. He was one of the masters of film – of horror films and gialli. A bit like Lenzi in the 1970’s I’d say. I believe he’s very well thought of in France. We got on well on set but off set we didn’t associate very much. We filmed in Rome and also spent 10 days in New York , where the action takes place. It had music by Keith Emmerson.

“In general I’ve always got on well with directors, some better than others. I was, and I still am, a bit reserved which sometimes created difficulties forming relationships with people. The directors who understood this were easier to work with but on the whole I’ve never had many problems.”

In 1971 Ray made the film Il delitto del diavolo (Queens of Evil) for director Tonino Cervi, in which he is seduced by three gorgeous women; Haydee Politoff, Silvia Monti and Ida Galli. The plot is so bizarre that even Ray has trouble explaining it. “It’s a very strange film, the story of a hippy who arrives in a place where there are three women who turn out to be witches. He has an affair with each of them in turn but it all leads to a crime committed by the Devil.”

His role in Queens of Evil was a prototype for another motorbike-riding hippy – the character of George in the 1974 Spanish-Italian co-production No profaner el suefio de los muertos (The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue, Let Sleeping Corpses Lie, etc).

“We filmed in Manchester and in a village near Nottingham called Castleton. (My atlas doesn’t show a Castleton near Nottingham , although there is one near Whitby). I have good memories of the shoot and I had a good relationship with the director, Jorge Grau. In fact, I kept in touch with him for some time after we finished. There are some directors who just say ‘hi’ when you come on set but he was always keen to explain things.

“There were lots of effects on that film too, done by some excellent Italian special effects men (Giannetto de Rossi and Luciano Bird). I remember in particular having to wear red contact lenses for the final scene, which were really uncomfortable. 1970’s contact lenses were not like the ones you get now, they were much harder and made my eyes water terribly.

“The things I remember about that film are not very interesting. Just personal anecdotes. I remember the motorbike I had to ride, a Norton, which was incredibly heavy. I prefer cars myself but I had to ride this bike and when I got off it all my thigh muscles ached. But I have really happy memories of making that film. I think I saw it twice when it came out but not since. I gather that it’s on TV every now and then late at night but I haven’t managed to catch it yet.”

Ray obviously wasn’t going to dish any dirt about the directors he’s worked with so I tried a few actors.

“One problem I did have was with George Peppard: well, it was my problem really. I had to play his son in the film Da Dunkerque alla vittoria : when we did it I was 28 and I think he was about 50 or 52, so I could have his son. But when he met me, he went to the producer and the director saying that he felt I was too old to play his son. Lenzi and the producer, Edmondo Amati, already knew, since we’d worked together before, and they didn’t think there was a problem. But they told me about his doubts and instructed me not to drink too much so I didn’t look raddled. I was a bit depressed and I suffered a lot because of it. In between my scenes I used to just sit alone thinking a lot: I had to get away for a while.

“George Hamilton, also in the film, was a really nice guy though and he noticed something was wrong. I told him how I felt and he told me not to take it to heart, that George Peppard was like that and that I shouldn’t take any notice.

“On the last day of filming we were in Rome. I went to say goodbye to everyone including George Peppard, and he said he had to talk to me. I was a bit taken aback but he took me to one side and said a whole lot of nice things to me about my performance. While he was talking to me I said to myself ‘If you’d said these things before I would have made this film in a completely different state of mind.’ It was really nice of him though, as compliments from other actors are very important.”

In 1973, Ray worked on the film Days of Fury, directed by Antonio Calenda and set in 18 th century Czarist Russia. One of his co-stars was Oliver Reed and the mention of his name brings a smile to Ray’s face.

“Working with Oliver Reed was a strange experience, but very good. I had to play his son in the film: I was 22 and he was only 35 but he looked old enough, with the beard that he had. When we met in Bulgaria, in Sofia, they gave a big lunch for the whole cast, and he began to eat the light bulbs. He had an enormous bodyguard named Reginald who sat wrapping stones in a napkin, giving a yell and crushing them with his fist. The whole meal was spent like that. I said to myself ‘I’ve got to work with this man for three months, madonna mia!’ But gradually I got to know him and we established a friendship.

“I saw him again at the press screenings of the film, at San Vincent. We were sitting next to each other at lunch and he told me he was bored and wanted to go and find somewhere to drink. I told him I’d take care of it and we crept out so no one would notice us. We hired a car and drove to a place in the mountains where we found a bar and had a few drinks. By the time we got back for the screening of the film we were good friends.

“Later I was making a film for Raphael Gil in Madrid (El major alcalde, e rey) and I heard that close by was the set for The Three Musketeers, which Oliver was filming, and I persuaded a Spanish friend to take me there. We asked at the entrance for Signor Reed and then I heard a voice calling ‘Raymond!’ and there was Reginald, the bodyguard, who gave me a big hug and took me up to the tent where Oliver was.

“They were filming and Oliver was there with five or six other people, sitting at a table with bottles of red wine all over the place. Oliver came over and hugged me, then took me back to the table. To everyone’s surprise he introduced me as his son and all afternoon kept asking me, ‘How’s your mother?’ He continued this performance while we drunk red wine and ate raw onions. Finally I felt so ill that my friend had to take me back to Madrid , rather the worse for wear.

“Oliver was great though and gave me loads of advice. It was strange, although he drank a lot, when he went out onto the set he was brilliant. It’s just as well we got on, otherwise it could have been a bit difficult.”

Ray, it seems, has never been tempted by Hollywood.

“When we made Il grand attacco, we went to Los Angeles. Before I left an Italian woman rang me, she used to sell films abroad, and she said she’d seen one or two of my films and that she knew an American lawyer who was starting up as an agent. I looked him up and he said he thought I could make a go of it in America . I would have had to live in New York for a year to see how things went but I didn’t want to. My wife was happy about it but I had a six-year old daughter and I was too attached to home: the idea of a year over there didn’t appeal. I think I was lucky to have ties in Italy because, you know, cinema is a very unusual thing. It’s a passion, and when you are torn between two passions you have to make a choice. Probably, if I hadn’t been married I would have gone but as it turned out I had plenty of work in Italy.”

Having worked with some of the great actors and directors, it’s difficult for Ray to single out any one period of his career as the most satisfying.

“I started my career at the end of the 1960’s and in the first few films I made, I had the good fortune to work with some of the masters of Italian cinema – Carlo Lizzani, Mario Monicelli and Alberto Lattuada. During this period, the successful films, the ‘B-movies’ allowed producers to use the money to make more worthy films, films a bit more politically and socially aware. At that time, there was still a certain kind of filmmaking in Italy , then in the 1970’s it was about police films and erotic comedies.

“So, in terms of cinema, I’ve done a bit of everything but it’s a shame I’ve never really made one of those films which really made its mark on history. I’ve had some great experiences, films like Fiddler on the Roof and The Cassandra Crossing, and worked with three great Italian directors. Then, since 1994, I’ve done some television work which has been a great success, two or three which have had good audience figures. And I’ve witnessed a generational change. Because when I started I was lucky enough to work with one of the fathers of film of the 50’s and 60’s and then with the new generation.

“I have no regrets, no cause to say ‘Oh dear, what a pity…’ Even the worst things I did were done for a reason, to live, to earn money. A couple of times, if I liked an idea, I tried to buy the option on it. It came off once and we made a television programme called A viso coperto and it also did very well.

So what is he currently involved in and what does the future hold?

“At the moment I’ve just finished two things: a two part serial with Barbara de Rossi which will be on in October. And I took part in a soap, the first one on RAI 1, every day for 20 minutes, 200 episodes. I did a film last year in Czechoslovakia, a giallo with Marisa Berenson but I don’t know when it’s going to come out.

“Next year I might do some more theatre as part of the Spoleto festival. I’ve already done an Arthur Miller play, The Last Yankee. I have very little stage experience, just a couple of plays and being in the pop group of course. But I’ve enjoyed what I’ve done: when I was first asked to do it I had doubts but I really like the professional atmosphere. When that kind of mechanism works, working becomes a holiday, you find something new inside yourself, there’s a kind of alchemy – which is important if you work a lot”

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)

The Designated Victim

The Designated Victim (Maurizio Lucidi, 1971)

aka La Vittima designata / Murder By Design / Slam Out

In the annals of Italian cinema Maurizio Lucidi’s THE DESIGNATED VICTIM is something of a standout when you consider the period in which it was made. Shot in 1970 and released in Italy early the following year, it pre-dates the poliziesco explosion by a couple of years but doesn’t fit perfectly within the confines of the genre anyway: nor does it play like the gialli that were typical of the period either; it’s far closer to thrillers such as Elio Petri’s Indagine su un cittadino al di sopra di ogni sospetto (aka INVESTIGATION OF A CITIZEN ABOVE SUSPICION) and therefore would seem more like an attempt at serious filmmaking, rather than the exploitationer that its credentials would suggest.

Lucidi’s plot (co-devised by Augusto Caminto, Aldo Lado and Antonio Trioso) owes its central conceit to Alfred Hitchcock’s STRANGERS ON A TRAIN and foreshadows Dario Argento’s own homage, DO YOU LIKE HITCHCOCK? Tomas Milian stars as Stefano Argenti: a fashion designer stuck in a loveless marriage to Luisa (Marisa Bartoli). While he tends to the day-to-day running of her business he becomes increasingly frustrated by the lack of confidence she has in his capabilities. With a buyer lined up to purchase a sizeable amount of the company’s shares, Stefano becomes incensed when Luisa refuses to allow him to sell, thus scuppering his plan to pocket the money and disappear with his mistress, Fabienne (Katia Christine). While on a short break with Fabienne in Venice, Stefano meets Matteo Tiepolo (Pierre Clementi) a mysterious count who offers him a solution to his problems: Matteo is happy to kill Luisa if Stefano is prepared to return the favour by murdering the Count’s bully of an older brother.

Though Matteo’s plan seems like an obvious solution to Stefano’s problems, the designer declines the Count’s offer and returns to his wife. However, Matteo continues to court Stefano, seemingly desperate to eliminate his brother who has now taken to physical violence. Stefano refuses once more which results in Matteo killing Luisa and him being blackmailed into upholding what the Count believes to be the designer’s side of the bargain. With Matteo doggedly pursuing him and planting crucial evidence, and the police closing in, time is clearly running out for Stefano…

THE DESIGNATED VICTIM is a cracking thriller. Lucidi and his writers establish their plot early on, leaving the stage clear for some tremendous sparring between Milian and Clementi, both of whom deliver first rate performances. Milian’s Stefano is at first confident and calculating but becomes much more sympathetic as the narrative unfolds and the actor nails both of these dispositions perfectly. In contrast to Stefano, Clementi’s Matteo is the complete antithesis: we are introduced to a softly-spoken, sensitive and frail Count whose devious plan is borne out of desperation. But as his manipulation of Stefano amps up in the second half of the film, we begin to see a much darker side of his character. Such complicated characters live and die by the actors that play them and if either of them had been inhabited by a weaker actor, the film would never have reached the heights of intelligence and plausibility that it maintains throughout.

Though the acting and dynamic between Stefano and Matteo–that is clearly derived from the script–is the essence of what makes THE DESIGNATED VICTIM such a great film, Lucidi’s role as director also brings a great deal of prestige to the proceedings and is certainly the best example of his work that I have seen. Having directed spaghetti westerns such as A STRANGER IN TOWN and HALLELUJA FOR DJANGO before THE DESIGNATED VICTIM and the likes of STATELINE MOTEL and SICILIAN CROSS after it, nothing else on his directorial filmography would appear to be in the same class. That said, many of Lucidi’s key contributors add a great deal of elegance to THE DESIGNATED VICTIM too. From Enrico Sabbatini’s sublime and heavily-stylised production design to Aldo Tonti’s formidable cinematography, the film manages to gel on every conceivable level. The ever reliable Luis Enríquez Bacalov also delivers another memorable musical score that stands among the likes of DJANGO and MILANO CALIBRO 9 as the composer’s best work.

Coming almost two years after the German release and English-language DVD debut from New Entertainment World, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Shameless’ recently issued UK disc would be ripe for overlooking but you’d be wrong. The film is presented in anamorphic widescreen and framed in the original 2.35:1 ratio. While the quality of print isn’t as good as some of the company’s better releases, the print is serviceable and slightly better than the NEW release to my eye. However, Shameless have gone the extra mile by adding some of the elements that were missing from the print found on the German disc. Although the inserts do come from a noticeably inferior source, they are brief and detract from the sudden scene cuts that plagued the NEW release. There is also the choice of either the original Italian soundtrack (accompanied by English subtitles) or the English language dub. Extras include a gallery of artwork, deleted scenes the trailer and the now obligatory selection of previews for other Shameless releases. Best of all however, is a text-based fact track that unspools during the film. Written by Stefan Novak, the track mines much information regarding the differences between versions released around the world and trivia surrounding the filmmakers and actors. Definitely worth 90 minutes of anyone’s time.

Shameless have delivered the definitive version of an excellent film. THE DESIGNATED VICTIM transcends the limitations that pigeon-holed many of its contemporaries. It’s a sterling feature film and one that stands up to repeat viewings.

(Paul Alaoui)

 

Inside scoop on Lenzi extras

Forum member Django Li has confirmed that the forthcoming FilmArt releases of Umberto Lenzi’s poliziotteschi classics THE CYNIC, THE RAT AND THE FIST and BROTHERS TILL WE DIE will include newly commissioned interviews with the director as well as Sal Borghese, Henry Silva and composer Franco Micalizzi.

The fledgling German DVD distributor has yet to set a date for either  title but their debut will mark the first time that the films have been given an official, English-friendly DVD release.

THE CYNIC, THE RAT AND THE FIST (Il cinico, l’infame, il violento) is top tier Italian crime, featuring the unbeatable triptych of Maurizio Merli, Tomas Milian and John Saxon. BROTHERS TILL WE DIE (La banda del gobbo), co-written by Milian and director Lenzi, sees the actor take on the dual role of two brothers opposite Henry Silva.

Django Kill… If You Live, Shoot! – Blue Underground Blu-ray

Giulio Questi’s surreal Spaghetti Western will receive a region-free Blu-ray release this coming June.

Synopsis :

SHOCKINGLY VIOLENT AND SURREAL… A MASTERPIECE OF THE GOTHIC WESTERN! Tomas Milian (TRAFFIC, RUN MAN RUN) stars as a half-breed bandit double-crossed and left for dead who rises from the grave to seek his revenge. But when his quest leads to a bizarre town called ‘The Unhappy Place,’ he is plunged into an odyssey of gruesome torture, graphic violence and relentless sexual depravity. This is the landmark movie that fans and critics still consider to be the strangest – and most controversial – ‘Spaghetti Western’ ever made. This is DJANGO KILL!

Director Giulio Questi (DEATH LAID AN EGG) and Co-Writer/Editor Franco Arcalli (co-writer of ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA and LAST TANGO IN PARIS) shocked the world with this hallucinatory tale of greed, corruption, perversion and beyond. Also known as SE SEI VIVO SPARA (IF YOU LIVE, SHOOT!), this definitive presentation of DJANGO KILL! has been created from the original Italian negative with all its infamous scenes of savagery and slaughter now fully restored in stunning High Definition!

Release Date : June 19th 2012

RRP : $29.98

Almost Human

 

 

aka Milano odia: la polizia non può sparare

Cinema trends in early 70s Italy saw to it that director Umberto Lenzi moved into the ‘Euro Crime’ or ‘Poliziotteschi’ genre and away from the once highly successful ‘giallo’ features. With 1973s GANG WAR IN MILAN (Milano rovente) considered a flawed but adequate first foray into the genre Lenzi sought out writer for hire extraordinaire Ernesto Gastadli who put together a simple but highly effective story for the director’s second ‘Euro Crime’ outing.  A simple tale of a small time crook who has delusions of grandeur and a kidnap plot involving a wealthy heiress. One slight problem is that he’s a pill popping loon with a manic personality disorder and a chronic facial tick.

Embracing the role of the nasty sociopath Giulio Sacchi is method actor Tomas Milian whose staple roles in many a spaghetti western had dried up at the start of the 70s, possibly one of the reasons he took on a role that many other leading men would probably pass by for fear of tarnishing their reputation. Imploring to his director that he needed to add realism to the role of Sacchi, Milian would stay true to his method training and get drunk on set where he saw it appropriate, in one of the films standout scenes he even went so far as to ply his fellow actor, and long time real life friend, Ray Lovelock, with copious amounts of whisky – (First time viewers: See if you can guess which scene that might be…)

Highly regarded as Lenzi’s finest venture in the genre, ALMOST HUMAN certainly lives up to its reputation with pretty much something for everyone, high speed car chases, violent machine gun shoot outs, naked ladies and some seriously fucked up moments – A male hostage forced at gun point to suck Sacchi’s dick anyone? The potent mix of Lenzi and a berserk Tomas Milian creates a true ‘Poliziotteschi’ classic; it really couldn’t have been done without either person’s input. Milian’s method acting sensibilities matched with Lenzi’s penchant for in your face, no nonsense, violence created a true classic that also makes a great starting point for anyone just discovering these films. Shameless made a wise decision testing the UK market out with this one.

Shameless has put together a great package that will suit established genre fans and newcomers alike. The transfer is solid with an anamorphically enhanced transfer in the original aspect ratio that’s sharp, detailed and full of colour, with barely any damage at all. In the audio department we get optional English or Italian audio tracks with English subtitles provided for the Italian option. There’s an excellent half hour interview with Tomas Milian who’s more than happy to talk about his ‘70s output and his films with Lenzi. Although the interview is ported over from the previous NoShame DVD release it makes a welcome return on this Shameless release because of the former release now being OOP and difficult to obtain for those without deep pockets. Also on board is a feature long ‘fact track’ by some fly by night character who provides a well researched set of subtitled factoids that appear along the bottom of the screen as the film plays. This track is perfect for the newcomers to this particular genre and comes highly recommended as it points out many films for the uninitiated to track down and should certainly see a lot of people coming away with a nice list of films that they will be itching to watch next. I have to stress though that the fact track shouldn’t be attempted on first viewing as you’ll miss key action scenes and plot points as you read the subtitles. Rounding the whole package off are two trailers, the original theatrical one plus the US ‘Grindhouse’ version, the usual Shameless trailer reel and ‘coming soon’ clips. Last but not least a PDF essay by the ‘Fact Track’ guy introducing the ‘Poliziotteschi’ genre (to be accessed via PC DVD drives). The usual yellow Amary case with double sided cover art is housed in an extremely novel lenticular ‘insert’ cover featuring some imagery I’d never dreamed of seeing on the shelves of HMV! DVD collectors do be aware that this special lenticular sleeved version is strictly limited to 1,000 units, so pick this one up fast before they go.

For what must be the first legitimate ‘Poliziotteschi’ DVD here in the UK Shameless has put together a great little package that is hopefully the first of many. With such a wealth of back catalogue titles in this genre to go at there’s certainly no shortage of films to choose from, it will certainly be very interesting to see where we go from here…  (Jonny Redman)