I contrabbandieri di Santa Lucia

I contrabbandieri di Santa Lucia (Alfonso Brescia, 1979)

aka ‘The New Godfathers’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Jonny Redman)