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)