Cine-Excess Final Schedule released this week…

Keep an eye on the Cine-Excess facebook page this week as the final schedule is due anytime…

Dear Cult Film Fans,

Very excited to be releasing the final Cine-Excess screening schedule later this week.

Expect UK theatrical premieres of fantastic new American serial killer movies, gritty, unsceen Australian ‘Last House on the Outback’ riffs, and one of the most terrifying new ‘realist’ horror film I have seen in years! Add to this some classic cult retro screenings from the Enzo Castellari and Sergio Martino archives (hand picked by the fab people at Dania Films), and I hope there will be an eye popping selection of screenings to please the Cine-Excess crowd.

We are also proud to be hosting a special Time Out ‘Script to Scream’ panel on how to write the perfect terror film. More details on all of the above from Simona and myself during the week….

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.

Mark the Narc

Mark il poliziotto (Stelvio Massi, 1975)

aka Mark the Narc

Packing a mean looking revolver and dressing in open-collared shirts and jeans tight enough to send your voice an octave or two higher, Commissario Mark Terzi (Franco Gasparri) is your typical mid-70s anti-establishment plain clothes cop. Drugs, namely heroin, are causing trouble on Mark’s patch and adding to the trouble is the return of Gruber (Carlo Duran). After a few years inside, Gruber’s a touch pissed off and going around town claiming back what was his, not thinking twice about cold blooded murder in order to speed things up. Heading up the heroin importation business is grumpy faced Benzi (Lee J. Cobb) a wealthy business man with a younger wife who has a penchant for expensive tiger skin capes.

With Benzi proving a hard character to pin any misdemeanours on and Gruber eluding capture whenever spotted by the police, Mark’s job is getting stressful but despite the pressure he graciously allows Irene (Sara Sperati), junkie girlfriend of a recent murder victim, a bed at his apartment in order to get her off the junk. Aided by his trusted colleague Bonetti (Giampiero Albertini), Mark goes out on to the streets in search of leads and after spotting a familiar criminal behind the wheel of an ambulance, he finally gets the break he needs. Chasing down the ambulance he discovers that it’s being used as a cover to transport fake oxygen bottles filled with heroin. Seeing an opportunity to trace the source of the drugs Mark ‘accidentally’ lets the driver escape knowing he’ll lead them to a much bigger fish. It’s not quite time to be patting each others backs yet though, as his junkie flat mate Irene has sneaked out of the flat and scored a large bag of smack that has OD written all over it…

Director Stelvio Massi’s fifth film– only his second foray into the Polizieschi genre after SQUADRA VOLANTE (1974)–sees ex-paratrooper and fotoromanzi model Franco Gasparri gain top billing status and the chance to show everyone what he’s made of. It turns out he’s actually pretty good, he’s certainly got the looks and he pulls off the action scenes without any problems whatsoever. Massi stages quite a few testing scenes for him too, with plenty of foot chases and a fair few bouts of fisticuffs. However, it’s the stunts with cars that really stand out; especially the set-piece where, faced with a getaway car full of armed bank robbers, Commissario Terzi stands his ground in the middle of the road, taking aim at the oncoming Alfa Romeo and shooting its driver. The out of control Alfa smashes into a parked car, leaps into the air, flipping on its roof as it lands and slides at speed towards Terzi, who casually side steps past the car as it slides by him upside-down.

Italian audiences must have liked what they saw as Massi, Gasparri and Lee J. Cobb all returned a matter of months later with a sequel, MARK IL POLIZIOTTO SPARA PER PRIMO (aka ULTIMATUM / MARK SHOOTS FIRST), which in turn was followed by MARK COLPISCE ANCORRA (aka MARK STRIKES AGAIN / THE .44 SPECIALIST) in 1976. With a successful trilogy of films under his belt it looked like a bright future for Gasparri, but tragedy struck in 1980 when he was paralysed after a motorcycle accident and confined to a wheelchair up until his death in 1999. The final film in the Mark trilogy was his last role in a feature film.

Cecchi Gori Home Video has released MARK IL POLIZIOTTO on DVD with a very nice 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced) transfer. There are hardly any flaws to note and it is definitely the best the film has ever looked on home video. Language options are limited to Italian audio, Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, and subtitles for the hard of hearing in Italian. Extra features consist of actor and director filmographies plus a 20 minute on-camera interview with screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti. Sacchetti talks about his work in the genre and the characters he helped create for actors such as Tomas Milian and of course Franco Gasparri.

While it is certainly not the best film by either the star or the director, MARK THE NARC is a thoroughly entertaining 88 minutes and comes highly recommended.

(Jonny Redman)

Katrin Talks to Mario Merola


 Katrin Talks to Mario Merola

This interview was first published in Katrin magazine No. 54 October 1979. It is reproduced here translated from the original Italian text.

Love will always be in fashion:

An interview with Mario Merola – Rome: October

For a number of years there has been a phenomenon that has interested both sociologists and the art house crowd in the world of the cinema.

While successful characters like Renato Zero and Amanda Lear, actors deeply rooted in costume drama, return to the fashion of the ‘Sceneggiata’ (see notes), a genre born out of the theatre of the ‘café chantant’. The ‘Sceneggiata’ is a representation of an ancient Neapolitan song in a particular form, where song and recital were founded. It also presents themes of reality, the sceneggiata usually recount stories of love and death which stem from crimes of honour, jealousy and passionate follies.

The most noted interpreter of this musical genre is Mario Merola who last year, with “Zappatore”, managed to affirm himself in the North of Italy where his film broke box-office records. But this is not enough; the popular ‘guappo’ from the sceneggiata is the star of two films centred on the Camorra in Naples. “L’ultimo guappo” and “Il mammasantissima” which have been appreciated by even the toughest of critics. The sceneggiata therefore, isn’t an outdated form, but can also draw in the attention of younger audiences, albeit with some reservations.

Corpulent, sympathetic, with the air of a successful man, Mario Merola is a singular personality who is worth getting to know, even if his records probably won’t get played on the hit parade. A man like this doesn’t need to explain himself in intellectual circles, as many critics have tried to do. According to us, to comprehend the world of the ‘king’, who faithfully respects the spirit of the sceneggiata; it’s better to just listen to him. Here is how he responded to our questions:

Do you think the sceneggiata is a genre which has superseded the theatre?

Merola : Are you kidding? People run to see my films all over Italy, this means they like sceneggiata . On the stage people still act out stories of love and death which will never fall out of fashion. The sceneggiata is life: You just have to turn the pages in a newspaper and read the crime reports to realise this is reality. Men who kill their rivals out of jealousy, women being cheated, injustices left unpunished. I am not an intellectual. I speak with a Neapolitan dialect, but I understand “Pammore” (amore/love) is an eternal sentiment that can push us to commit foolish actions. I don’t know how to say it in English, but I think the person who wrote ‘Romeo and Juliet’ also thought like me.

Apart from love, what other themes occur in sceneggiata?

Merola: My films also talk about important social problems, like the drama of the immigrants living in strange countries who cannot adapt the problem of the exploitation of prostitution, contraband and violence in general. Too often, and in particular in the south, there is born a disinterest and ignorance.

You speak well for someone who doesn’t consider themselves an intellectual.

Merola: I am not an intellectual, but I am also not stupid. I didn’t go to university, but I went around the world and I learnt many things from experience that are worth far more than hundred thousand books. Sure, I’ve walked a long path! When I was a boy I used to load up the ships at the port. I remember, I used to wash the hold and I saw the world from reverse while I swabbed the decks. I was so poor I was engaged to my wife for thirteen years.

How did you become successful?

Merola: I knew how to sing, so, one day, I built up the courage and presented myself to an impresario. I re-launched the sceneggiata with a song called “A ciurara” (La Fioraia/The Florist) It was appreciated straight away, without any false modesty I think I know why. On the stage I live the emotions of my characters. The tears that come out are real and so pure and so authentic the emotions I feel in certain moments. I give my audience all of myself.

Do you appreciate your Neapolitan colleagues who don’t work in the same genre, like Peppino Di Capri and Massimo Ranieri?

Merola: Yes, but they don’t seem to express the true Neapolitan spirit. They follow the trends and are successful. I am happy for them. I am close to Ranieri because I’ve known him since he was a little boy. He comes from a poor family and he would often come and eat in our home. When I got married he gave a (wedding) packet to my wife. Even Ranieri has tackled the sceneggiata in “Napoli notte e giorno (Naples night and day) for Viviani and the director Patroni Griffi. They were all good but Naples is something else.

Who is the most extraordinary person you have met in your career?

Merola: I remember, with some emotion, my meeting with Toto. He came to assist my production and then he came home with me, begging me to sing my songs for him in private. He was a good man, aside from being a great artist.

What do you think of Sofia Loren, another celebrity from Naples?

Merola: To be honest, Sofia Loren was born in Pozzuoli. However, it is around these parts. What can I say? She’s a great woman.

Do you like young women?

Merola: You should ask them yourself! However, many of them come to see my films. A girl told me once; “Mario…” She said, “To get to the theatre, I had to pawn my gold bracelet because I didn’t have enough money to pay for the ticket.”

What do you think of feminism?

Merola: I mind my own business, and I don’t criticise others. In my mind, however, men and women are different and they can’t exchange ideas, let alone clothes.

Are you knocking women wearing trousers?

Merola: If a woman is beautiful, then she’s beautiful even with tights, but I prefer skirts. If she has good legs then they should be covered up. In Naples they say “A roba bella s’ha da fa’ vedere” (Good things don’t need to be seen…)

Don’t you feel a little old fashioned?

Merola: No, I live a happy life with my wife and our children. We have six in all because I adopted three orphans. My films are successful and I travel the world always collecting new experiences. I don’t feel like I am living the life of an old man.

Could you allow us one indiscretion: Are you a faithful man?

Merola: Certain questions shouldn’t be asked to a married man.

Would you forgive your wife if she betrayed you physically or spiritually?

Merola: Absolutely not. I believe in absolute faith. I don’t make a distinction between the physical and the spiritual. There’s no point talking about it, it’s all just talk.

(Translated exclusively for lovelockandload by ‘The Weeble that wobbled and fell down’ 16th August 2008)

*Notes explaining the ‘sceneggiata’ – excerpt from ‘Crime Naples Style: The Guapparia Movie’ by Roberto Curti, the full text of which can be found at the link at the bottom of the page.

The roots of the new hybrid (which could be roughly translated as “guapparia movie”) lie in the so-called “sceneggiata”, a form of play that belongs in the Neapolitan tradition and is characterized by a strong melodramatic component as well as a tragic fatalism: both lead to a final, emotionally powerful catharsis. Songs are an integral and binding part of “sceneggiata,” and constellate the narration in its various parts, while the social environment in which stories take place is that of the “guapparia,” the Neapolitan underworld. The hero is the “guappo,” a good gangster with strong moral values (family and honor) while the villain (“’o malamente” – literally “he who [acts] badly”) is a grim, unfair adversary who tries to seduce the protagonist’s woman or to soil his reputation. “Sceneggiata” is an enclosed universe, where love and hate seem to be part of a natural order not unlike life and death: always absolute, complete, desperate.

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)