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 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)

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.

Ernesto Gastaldi Talks to lovelockandload

Ernesto Gastaldi is a name intrinsically linked to the genesis of Italian cinema during the sixties and seventies. A screenwriter and occasional filmmaker with well over a hundred credits to his name, and a frequent collaborator with stalwarts of cinema such as Sergio Leone, Umberto Lenzi and Sergio Martino, Ernesto’s contribution to the world of Eurocult is extremely significant. In an exclusive lovelockandload interview, Kim August asked Ernesto to shed some light on his involvement in the making of some of Italy’s most exciting genre films.

It’s rumoured the shooting of THE HORRIBLE SECRET OF DR HICHCOCK was running over schedule. So director Riccardo Freda literally tore out pages of the screenplay to get the film back on track. What was eliminated from the script? And do you feel this act compromised your original concept?

As I’ve told many times, Freda was a genius. He tore out 8 or 9 pages of the script, but not only for schedule problem, but he wanted to cancel a dialogue where there was the explanation of the mystery.

He asked my permission and I laughed “This way all becomes incomprehensible!” Freda smirked, saying “That is exactly what I want!”

In another interview you touched on your involvement in the writing of Sergio Leone’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA. From what I understand, it was a film that was long in gestation. Can you elaborate on what you brought to the project?

Not so much because Sergio and the last writers changed a lot. I wrote a big treatment following the novel a little more. Sergio kept my scenes about the adolescence of the little gangsters.

I protested with Sergio when I saw the boy eating the candy because he was FAT! That was wrong! The boy had to be very hungry and slim.

You also collaborated on two of the Italian westerns Leone produced – MY NAME IS NOBODY and A GENIUS TWO PARTNERS AND A DUPE – what was your working relationship with Leone like? Did it differ from those that you had with other filmmakers of the time?

Completely different. I wrote these two scripts at home by night, but every days for months I have to go to Sergio’s home to read the new scenes and discuss them. Frequently Sergio invited directors, journalists, friends and he played in detail the scenes, always beginning from the first one: ” A red sunset. Three men on horses are drawing near and nearer… clop, clop, clop…” to spy the faces of the people: interested? bored? I was probably the less bored, since Sergio was a great storyteller.

During the seventies you were involved in the writing of many of the police thrillers that were popular of the time. Did any of these projects require you to be on set and if so, what are your memories of stars such as Franco Nero, Tomas Milian, Maurizio Merli and Luc Merenda?

Sorry. I was not on set, in those days I had always too much to write. I met these actors, sometime at home, or in the Carlo Ponti’s office , or chez Martino. I have a great memory of Giancarlo Giannini because he made his debut as movie actor in LIBIDO, that was also my debut as director!

In your gialli, Less is more. Less violence, more sex.  Were  you writing for your own tastes, the censors, the audience?

When the first character was Edwige Fenech I have to put on my script almost 3 scenes of shower… Joking aside, I like thrillers with a big emotional involvement and sex is a strong one.

You had a wonderful run with Sergio Martino, gialli, crime, science fiction. What was your working relationship like?

A good friendship lasting even now. Sergio Martino is a very good director, greater than the movies he, too often, had to direct.

What is your favorite screenplay and/or film with Sergio Martino?

MILANO TREMA: LA POLIZIA VUOLE GIUSTIZIA.

Some of my favorite elements in your thrillers revolve around the stalking of the protagonist by the villain(s) (TORSO, THE LONELY, VIOLENT BEACH, ALL THE COLOURS OF THE DARK) –  you’ve mentioned writing 20 gialli in three years you had to constantly push yourself to do something more than the previous film? How difficult was this?

Just a little. I amused myself writing this kind of plot! I also wrote some thriller novels, before becoming a screenwriter.

I won an award in 1957 with a comedy called A COME ASSASSINO (many years after someone made a movie from it). In 1955 I managed to be selected at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia di Roma because I wrote an amateur movie, a thriller named LA STRADA CHE PORTA LONTANO, very appreciated by the great director Alessandro Blasetti.

Torso foreshadowed many of the slasher films in the late 70s/early 80s. What are your feelings on this?

I didn’t realise it. (That the film had been so influential – Ed)

Which actors do you feel performed your works the best?

Mara Maryl, Giancarlo Giannini, Marcello Mastroianni, Sofia Loren, Alan Collins, Barbara Steele, Giuliano Gemma, Terence Hill, Henry Fonda, Jack Palance, Anthony Quinn and others.

I thought Robert Hoffmann was an excellent choice for the lead biker in your film THE LONELY, VIOLENT BEACH. Your thoughts on Hoffmann and the film?

Oh yes! he was a great choice. That was a very low budget movie, but I like it.

During the course of your career you have been involved with the writing films covering all the staples of popular Italian cinema: peplums, gialli, crime films, science fiction, westerns, etc? Of these, was there a particular genre you were happiest working in?

I’d like to write, and even, direct science fiction, but it was really impossible for decades. I wrote a plot very similar to BACK TO THE FUTURE 20 years before , located in Italy. The protagonist traveled to the past and, during the second world war, when Mussolini was the chief of Italy, met two very poor girls in Naples, two sisters, one of those named Sofia… He told to a friend: “Look at them: one will married the Mussolini’s son! But the real incredibly thing is that that marriage will be very popular because of the other sister, who will become the most great movie star of the world!”

I named the script THE END OF ETERNITY. Nobody gave it the green light!

SECRETS OF A CALL GIRL stands out amongst your work as it transcends genre: while essentially a crime film, it has elements of the sentimental dramas and the erotic movies popular in Italy at the time. What were your motivations when you were writing?

I think… the money! Luciano Martino suggested the story to me. He was the producer.

‘Hands Of Steel’ is considered to be the Italian reaction to James Cameron’s ‘Terminator’. How was the original concept developed, and what are your thoughts on the film’s stars, David Greene and Janet Agren?

I think I never saw this movie. I only wrote a part of the script.

Same question but about 2019: AFTER THE FALL OF NEW YORK, and star Michael Sopkiw.

I like this movie, even if it was a kind of SF not particularly loved by me. The movie had been made because of the big success of ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK. I think Sopkiw was quite good.

Tell us about one of your first films as a director, CIN… CIN… CIANURO!. Why was it that the film received scant distribution to the point that very few people have seen it?

My debut was LIBIDO (1965) starring Mara Maryl, Giancarlo Giannini, Alan Collins and Dominique Boschero. Now this very little movie is a cult movie among fans. I was also co-producer of LIBIDO and this movie has been also the argument of my thesis of my baccalaureat in Economy!

CIN… CIN… CIANURO! was a very brilliant comedy, played very well by Mara Maryl and Brad Harris. Unfortunately the distributor, LUX FILM, went bankrupt.

The making of popular films in Italy was at its most prolific during the sixties and seventies before going into decline in the eighties. What are your thoughts on why this came to be?

TV broadcasting. Mr. Berlusconi had all free public TV frequencies stolen paying a bribe to the former premier Bettino Craxi and started broadcasting three movies a day on “his” three new networks! Not only the movie industry declined , the democracy too…

Do you feel the lack of stories are the undoing of today’s films?

I don’t like very much the new Italian cinema, with rare exception like IL DIVO.  Now the current fashion is to put a boring speaker who tell you a big part of the story and to cut the plot muddling up the scenes. Maybe PULP FICTION has been the first offender.

Given that you have been involved in the writing of well over a hundred different films, which are those that you consider to be seminal or you are the most proud to have been a part of making?

I’m very proud that I has been able to write two hundred scripts (117 of them made into feature films!) having three children playing around and the TV set always on! Joking aside, I like very much LIBIDO starring Mara Maryl and Giancarlo Giannini, LA PUPA DEL GANGSTER starring Sofia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni, I GIORNI DELL’IRA starring Giuliano Gemma and  Lee Van Cleef, IL MIO NOME E’ NESSUNO starring Henry Fonda and Terence Hill, MILANO TREMA starring Luc Merenda and Richard Conte, LA FRUSTA E IL CORPO starring Daliah Lavi and Cristopher Lee, LA BATTAGLIA DI  EL ALAMEIN starring George Hilton, Fredrick Stafford, Robert Hossein, NOTTURNO CON GRIDA, starring Mara Maryl, Gerardo Amato, L’UOVO DEL CUCULO starring Malisa Longo, Vassili Karamesinis, CRIMINE CONTRO CRIMINE starring Marina Giulia Cavalli, Adalberto Maria Merli, Giorgio Albertazzi, Francesco Benigno.

Interview conducted via email February 2009 by Kim August.

Oasis of Fear

 

 Un posto ideale per uccidere (Umberto Lenzi, 1971)

aka OASIS OF FEAR / DIRTY PICTURES / AN IDEAL PLACE TO KILL

After a credit sequence romp through the landmarks of Copenhagen, Dick (Ray Lovelock) and Ingrid (Ornella Muti) high-tail it to Italy, paying their way by selling pornography. When the money and stock runs out, they decide to make their own and are promptly arrested by the Italian authorities.

Given the chance to leave the country and not face charges they hook up with some bikers and find what’s left of their cash gone the next morning. After a gas station attendant mistakes them for a German couple mentioned in the newspaper as being wanted for robbery, they go on the run and eventually run out of gas at a remote villa (the ‘oasis’ of the title). They plan to siphon the gas from a Rolls Royce in the unlocked garage but are discovered by Barbara (Irene Papas). She is initially apprehensive about their presence but soon warms to their youthful exuberance and free love philosophy.

I’m with other reviewers on this one being a more cynical giallo than Lenzi’s previous entries with Carroll Baker (PARANOIA, ORGASMO, etc). It does however serve as a bridge between those thrillers and Lenzi’s later films SEVEN BLOODSTAINED ORCHIDS and SPASMO (a fight scene in an aviary anticipates the latter film which may have used some of the same bird sound effects). While PARANOIA was a bit more balanced in its presentation of the jet set, ORGASMO presented both the free-loving young and high-living old as equally corrupt. In OASIS OF FEAR, youth are amoral but also childlike in their enjoyment of life and sex, the old are almost universally corrupt in this film.

The buyers of the pornography Dick and Ingrid sell are older Catholic women who cross themselves while looking at the pictures as well as married fathers lured by Ingrid’s long legs (Muti was underage at the time and a body double was used for nude scenes). Barbara sees the spur-of-the-moment opportunity to set up the younger couple and seizes it, pretending to embrace their free love philosophy (using her body and sensuality towards Dick not unlike Ingrid with the various older men). The authorities really are the “finks” that Ingrid calls them. After fleeing Barbara’s house, Dick and Ingrid stupidly decide to stop for a swim at the beach. A police patrol car sights from a distance the young couple sunning on the beach and – rather than questioning why two murder suspects would take time to have a swim hours from the border – the cop radios in that a young couple on the beach might be the two suspects.

It is obvious that Lenzi enjoys working with his three leads. They all get great close-ups and opportunities to show off. Lovelock and Muti are engaging as the representatives of modern youth and Papas is better utilized here in the “Carroll Baker” role than in her supporting role in DON’T TORTURE A DUCKLING. Once she, literally, lets her hair down and rocks out with Lovelock, its easy to see why he’s fascinated by her.

Alfio Contini (THE NIGHT PORTER, RIPLEY’S GAME) provides some attractive Technicolor-Techniscope cinematography of Copenhagen and Italy, favouring rack-focus compositions contrasting the young and the old (actors in the frame, actors and background/foreground sculptures and statues). Bruno Lauzi’s score is less interesting than Piero Umilliani’s work on ORGASMO, Gregorio Garcia Segura’s on PARANOIA (conducted by Umiliani with a title song written by Terry Umiliani), and Riz Ortolani’s for SO SWEET… SO PERVERSE. Like those films, however, OASIS OF FEAR has a theme song: “How Can You Live” heard in two different versions in the film. Whilst not as good as the other films’ title songs it’s still memorable, catchy, and thematically relevant. The song is credited to “I Leoni” and Lorenza Visconti. I’m assuming that the main title version is performed by The Lions  and the version heard during the montage of Dick and Ingrid living it up is sung by Lorenza Visconti. The theme also shows up again as an “Indian” instrumental that Ingrid dances to in one of her body double’s nude scenes.

Shameless Film Entertainment’s PAL Region 0 DVD is the second official release of Lenzi’s film on DVD. The film first showed up on an Italian R2 DVD from Alan Young Pictures in an anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer (the cover incorrectly states a 1.85:1 ratio) with Italian 5.1 and mono audio and Italian subtitles claiming to have been transferred from the original uncut negative. If this is the case, then this Carlo Ponti production has not been well-cared for. The image quality is more soft and grainy than one would expect even for a film of this age (especially compared to the excellent transfers of the older Lenzi gialli PARANOIA and KNIFE OF ICE). Shameless’ release utilizes the same master but is apparently not a direct port of the R2 disc as the titles are in English (obviously newly created over a textless version of the montage shown under the opening credits). This source looks similarly soft and grainy but the audio is quite vibrant. Two separate fan dubs of the Italian source led to the discovery of significant differences between the Italian and English language version which are not so simply explained by the notion that one is a rougher cut of the other.

First off is the presence of an opening narration by Lovelock’s character following the opening credits in the English language version. This narration begins abruptly on my source for the English version – The Greek-subtitled VHS release – because that release was apparently an early attempt to integrate the footage from both versions. The narration is not present in the Italian version and has not been included in the composite English track on the Shameless disc.

 Next is a brief shot of Dick and Ingrid driving to the gas station (the Italian/Shameless version cuts from Dick distracting some nuns while Ingrid is posing nude in the photo booth).

When Barbara asks Dick to go down to the garage and get some more cigarettes, there is a brief extension in the  Greek English language VHS version where Dick protests that it’s too far (the Italian/Shameless version cuts from her asking him to a shot of Dick opening the garage door).

The next extension is in the scene featuring Barbara’s accomplice (Jacques Stany, PARANOIA) after he gives a statement to the police about a road accident. Once he leaves, there is a brief exchange between the two cops which Dick stumbles across on his bike. He turns around and is about to ride off when one of the cops calls him over. The Italian/Shameless version cuts from Stany pulling away to the shot of Lovelock riding towards the roadblock. The Greek/English version features a reverse angle two shot of the two officers talking before Lovelock arrives.

Finally, the Italian language version as seen on disc fades the music out with the ending of the credits while the Greek tape (which has Italian credits) continues the music for twenty seconds on black.

The Italian version, on the other hand, features two exclusive Italian language scenes. The first is between Dick and Ingrid in the garage which is then followed by a scene with them and a bound and gagged Barbara. There are also some Italian only scenes with subtitles in the English language versions but those feature Italian characters conversing and those were likely included in the English version in Italian because the Greek tape features original English subtitles for those scenes (cropped by the panning and scanning and sometimes covered up by the Greek video subtitles). It is highly unlikely that Dick and Ingrid would carry out an entire heated conversation in Italian together in a scene meant for the English language version; the same goes for the scene that follows that with Barbara since she also speaks English throughout. English subtitles are provided for the Italian only scenes on the Shameless disc. Curiously, the print also features the burned in original English subtitles to translate the newspaper headings early on. The Shameless release did manage to restore a brief sequence in which Barbara’s body double gives Dick a blowjob (this body double is reportedly the same one used for Muti’s nude scenes). The quality noticeably decreases from the already soft and grainy look of the rest of the transfer and the sound becomes muffled. I’m not sure for what version this scene was shot for but its inclusion – while welcome – is abrupt and may have been scrapped rather than used for some alternate cut. It was hoped that the Shameless release would restore the other footage seen only in the English version but this did not transpire.

Extras include a text commentary track by Kevin and Nicholas Wilson – who “hope you don’t take it too seriously” – that is informative, sometimes humorous and sometimes a bit smarmy. They manage to clear up some historical facts that would have been unclear to many a viewer; for instance, the popularity of aural pornography early on after pornography’s legalisation when the waters were still being tested. The significance of setting the opening in Copenhagen, which was one of the first countries to legalise pornography, would have had meaning to the movie-going public as many an American and British exploitation filmmaker of the time would disguise their films as Danish productions to attract audiences. There’s also a lot of trivia that is more familiar to Eurocult viewers such as Ray Lovelock’s Italian/British parentage and early musical career with Tomas Milian. A newly constructed trailer is underscored by what the commentators refer to as “Italian bubble-gum music” (the music Dick and Barbara are seen rocking out to early in the film). Other newly created trailers one for Shameless’ restored version of the interesting-looking THE DESIGNATED VICTIM that touts all of its attributes (another text commentary, English and Italian audio, deleted scenes), Corrado Farina’s restoration of his film BABA YAGA (branded with the subtitle “Reloaded”), WATCH ME WHEN I KILL, THE FRIGHTENED WOMAN, along with original trailers for TORSO and STRIP NUDE FOR YOUR KILLER.

Shameless has not given us the definitive release of OASIS OF FEAR but it could be argued that the missing scenes do not hurt the film and the picture quality may reflect the condition of the available elements.  They have, on the other hand, put an admirable amount of work into the release (text commentary, a surprising recovered scene, subtitling much of the Italian dialogue including some not translated in English prints) and their showmanship is infectious with one of their best self-made trailers and cool – nay, iconic – cover art that makes use of imagery from the Japanese poster.  Eurocult enthusiasts – especially lovelockandload members – who have not seen this film would be doing themselves a disservice if they skipped out on the film just because of the discs minor demerits.

(Eric Cotenas)

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)