Movie Fan Man: Cinema Connoisseur

Traditional, Artsy, Genre-Within-Genre: A Little Something for Everyone

Quick Announcement

Hello to my followers, those I’m following, and all curious visitors,

I’ll be taking a brief holiday for the 4th of July, so no post for the upcoming week, but I’ll still be watching and writing. I’ll be finishing up the first installment of the Euro Crime series, and will be starting a new installment of Western Wednesdays afterwards.

As always, if there’s any particular film you’d like to see me write about, just leave your suggestions in the comment section below.

Tony Nash, MOVIE FAN MAN

Filed under: Annoucements

Big Time Crime in Naples: Betti Gets a Big Fish

by Tony Nash

( A Part of Poliziotto e Criminale: The Poliziotteschi of the 1970’s)

(Mild Spoilers)

(All opinions are of the author alone)

(This review is of the Italian language version)

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Napoli Violenta (Violent Naples/Violent Protection) (1976) R ****1/2

Maurizio Merli: Commissario Betti

John Saxon: Francesco Capuano

Barry Sullivan: “O” Generale

Elio Zamuto: Franco Casagrande

Carlo Gaddi: Brigadiere Silvestri

Giovanni Cianfriglia: Maffei, the Bodyguard

Guido Alberti: Il Questore

Silvano Tranquilli: Paolo Gervasi

Attilio Duse: Antinori

Luciano Rossi: Quasimodo

Maria Grazia Spina: Signora Gervasi

Written by Vincenzo Mannino

Directed by: Umberto Lenzi

Synopsis: Commissioner Betti is sent to Naples following a hearing into his vigilante antics in Rome. Once there, he learns of a plot by the old school gangster the General to make Naples a major crime hub as the city deals with an economic crisis and the sudden disbandment of the local government. With the local police overworked, Betti’s brand of justice is needed.

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The success of Roma Violenta (Violent Rome) prompted the producers to ask for a sequel, and while original screenwriter Vincenzo Mannino had a new script in hand, original director Mario Girolami was unable to return due to other commitments. With the story a little more centered on action and realism, the producers asked Umberto Lenzi, who two years earlier garnered acclaim with the popular and violent Milano Odia: La Polizia non puo Sparare (Almost Human) starring Tomas Milian to helm the vehicle. The result is a suspense and action filled crime drama that paints a fairly clear picture of what life was like for the people of Naples in the wake of the Commora’s (the Neapolitan Mafia) taking over the country as the government fled the city. Much like with its predecessor, Napoli Violenta tells its tale in vignette form, but this go around all of the little stories connect to a major central story of a fleeing mob boss looking to make the slowly maddening city into a new crime metropolis. Knowing the boss is too smart to leave loose ends, the police and Commissario Betti are forced to get really cleaver in convincing the rough necks helping to cement the man’s takeover to give evidence, all the while risking the public crying out the police abuse their authority.

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A really cleaver sequence in the film has Betti and company investigating the home invasion of a prominent businessman and the rape of the man’s wife by two punks. When the man and his wife positively ID the thugs, Betti puts a plan into motion. Using a fellow officer and his girlfriend as bait, Betti lets the thugs think they’ve scored another easy target, but find themselves set up as the cop and his girlfriend quickly disarm them, but the thugs panic and try to flee, leading to a chase that ends grimly for one of the brutes.

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Maurizio Merli returns as Betti, just as driven to clean up the streets as before. Sent to Naples as “punishment” for making his own brand of justice in Rome, Betti finds Naples as bad, if not worse, than Rome ever was. Finding the streets littered with hoodlums who rob in broad daylight with little to no regard for public decency and safety, Betti convinces his superiors and colleagues to come down as hard on the criminals as they legally can. When he “bumps” into the known and feared crime boss known as The General, he realizes something big will eventually go down. When local businesses begin to be vandalized and the owners threatened with harm and “accidents” if they don’t cooperate, Betti begins to suspect the General is looking to create a new empire of crime in Naples, and must stop him. If that wasn’t enough, Betti also fears an officer he had a shaky relationship with in the past may have gone bad, and must contend with public outrage at all the terrible things going on, and convince them the police need freer reign to deal with the scum that abuse the system to get off the hook for their actions.

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John Saxon, an Italian American character actor with numerous film credits in both the US and Italy, makes his first appearance in the Euro Crime genre as Francesco Capuano. A seemingly legit Neapolitan businessman, Capuano looks to be suffering the same as other entrepreneurs as the General makes his foothold in the city. In reality he’s in cahoots with the mob kingpin, but as the smaller hoods take offense to being ordered around, his paranoia becomes more acute. Betti gets an initial dislike of Capuano when a rape victim is found in the vicinity of his business establishment and the man shows very minimal concern or worry about how all of it went down. Saxon plays Capuano as cool and relaxed, even when paranoid, and holds up well when Betti and The Chief of Police question him on what he knows about all the recent vandalism and attacks on store owners and their businesses, claiming he doesn’t know a thing and have no evidence to suggest otherwise.

Barry Sullivan, a popular Classic Hollywood leading man turned supporting player, oozes slime and charisma as O Generale. An old school Mafioso who believes the old ways are the most effective, the General has his lackies, and even the paid local riff raff make sure that everyone knows he’s in charge. Having to get away from the people who want him out of the way, and the authorities who’d like to get the hard evidence to put him away, the General chooses Naples as his new kingdom with the high abundance of petty thieves keeping the police occupied so he can focus his energies on extorting frightened business owners. While an older gentleman, the General isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty, and is willing to show anyone and everyone the price they’ll have to pay for trying to double cross him.

(Author’s Note: In looking through Barry Sullivan’s filmography on the IMDb, Napoli Violenta was his only foray into the Italian film industry, making him one of the few American actors of the Classic Hollywood period who didn’t have to go to Europe to rejuvenate his career. While he did appear in Take a Hard Ride, that was more of an American production with Italian and Spanish backing.)

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Taking a more vivid and true to life approach to the real goings on in the city of Naples, Napoli Violenta is a very interestingly done film with anecdotal moments that all tie in together to form a very intriguing finale. The action is quick, but brutal, and the characters are flawed, but also have some sense of personal honor and ethics, even if the ethics go against society and the law. More intricate than its predecessor, Napoli Violenta is a B entertainment film that also showcases a period in history where a city was slowly succumbing to the criminal element that would eventually rule the city without resistance, a period necessary to remember.

(I highly recommend this 2nd entry into the Commissario Betti Trilogy as it has plenty of action, and also mixes a nice amount of pathos and drama. That it remains relevant to the state of Naples today, and even in some parts of the US who never heard of the goings on of the times, makes it all the more interesting and tragic. The Italian DVD from Federale Video is of really solid quality, much better than the transfer of Roma Violenta though traces of age can still be detected here and there, the audio quality is equally excellent.)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google Images and their respective owners

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0074952/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Violent_Naples

https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Napoli_violenta

Buying option

https://www.amazon.it/Napoli-Violenta-Dvd-Maurizio-Merli/dp/B0015S4KWU/ref=sr_1_9?__mk_it_IT=%C3%85M%C3%85%C5%BD%C3%95%C3%91&crid=PXIYCTGTQIYI&keywords=maurizio+merli&qid=1561569656&s=dvd&sprefix=Maurizio+%2Caps%2C230&sr=1-9

Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics

Blog News #4

Hello to all my followers, those I’m following, and all curious visitors,

It’s been a little while since I’ve done one of these little updates, and even though not too much new happenings have occurred, I felt it was time to recap.

As I’ve mentioned in previous Blog News, my folks and I relocated to Ocean City, New Jersey from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania when our neighborhood started attracting a, let’s say “rougher” sort of people, and while my folks adore the house we’re currently residing in, additions to it are not feasible to have it be a year round residence. My folks have no intention of selling the property as very few original homes remain in the city, and anyone now with new property are millionaires practically, so we decided to have the house once again be our summer residence. We found a nice winter residence in Somers Point, New Jersey, not very far from where we are now, that my folks are making final settlement on this upcoming Monday. It has 4 bedrooms, two on the first floor, two on the second floor, which will give us all the space we need, and my folks gave me the downstairs rooms, the second of which will become my “Man Cave” area for all my DVDs and Blu Rays. Once we’re settled in come October, I’ll post a photo tour of the area, as well as my bedroom area to keep it fresh.

2nd, I’m in the early stages with the founder of the SWDb to do a little more hands on help with the site for newer articles, which will be exclusives to the site. It’s exciting, we’re just finding time sort out all the details.

3rd, I’d like to give another shout out to Ian Gordon and his site HorrorBabble. As many of you know from one of my previous News posts, Ian’s YouTube channel was demonetized for “lack of original content”, and “not providing informative or educational value,” all of which is total BS of course, and YouTube recently informed Ian that the channel was permanently denied monetary status, which again is BS. Ian’s moving forward from this and is currently in the process of doing new and exciting projects. If any of you can, be sure to give Ian any monetary aid you can on his Patreon page or Bandcamp page. Ian’s a very nice guy and a talented narrator and writer who doesn’t deserve to get pushed around like he has been.

Lastly, I once again want to say thank you to all the people who’ve clicked the follow button and are regularly updated on my posts, especially Make Mine Criterion! (aka Spine Numbered), Cinema Europa, Cracked Rear Reviewer (Gary Loggins), The Wee Writing Lassie, Renie529, and Guilty Pleasure Cinema Reviews. I never expected to have as many followers as I do, and would’ve been happy with 3 or 5 people following , so I just want to reiterate how happy and pleased I am that you all enjoy my posts and stay in the loop of what I’m writing about. Once again, thank you so much.

Tony Nash, MOVIE FAN MAN

 

Filed under: Annoucements

Crime Batters the Streets of Turin

by Tony Nash

( A Part of Poliziotto e Criminale: The Poliziotteschi of the 1970’s)

(Possible Spoilers)

(All opinions are of the author alone)

(This review is of the Italian language version of the film)

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Torino Violenta (Violent Turin/Double Game) (1977) R ***1/2

George Hilton: Commissario Ugo Moretti

Emanuele Cannarsa: Ispettore Tony Danieli (as Emanuel Cannarsa)

Giussepi Alotta: Unknown Role

Annarita Grapputo: Lucia Danieli

Franco Nebbia: Il Questore Torino Polizia

Laura Ferraro: Maria

Pier Giuseppe Corrado: Walter, Sandra’s Brother

Cinzia Arcuri: Sandra

Lorenzo Gobello: Dottore Guido Borletti

Ruggero Spagnoli: Sandro Donati

Sauro Roma: Colasanti

Loretta Mondino: Marta Borletti

Armando Rossi: Manfredi

Tonino Campa: Franco Solari

Written & Directed by: Carlo Ausino

The Chief of the Turin Police Department assigns inspectors Moretti and Danieli to a series of random crimes ranging from burglary to prostitution to murder that all seem to revolve around a turf war between the local crime syndicate and a band of French exiles. When several young women are murdered, the duo believes they’ve found the link. Unbeknownst to the department and his partner, Moretti is secretly taking to the streets as a vigilante taking out the riff-raff.

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In 1977, independent filmmaker Carlo Ausino decided to try his hand the Euro-Crime genre and took it to the little filmed city of Turin. Turin hardly got the exposure cities like Rome, Sicily, Florence, or even Naples did, and Ausino hoped a new venue of films would result from showcasing the equally nice, but less talked about city. While a less flashy city, Turin still has the flare and history to keep people curious to the varied aspects of Italian culture and those who’re from the city to have both a time capsule to preserve the now gone places and a chance to have their home preserved in the world pf cinema. Taking the common Crime-Cop film theme of a cop tired of the criminals managing to beat the system to continue their terror and taking matters into his own hands, Ausino goes a little deeper by having the cop lose his perspective and the line between justice and murder completely blurs. The addition of a case that connects a string of random crimes with the deaths of young women involved in illicit sex and a war between tow crime syndicates gives a nice mixture to an already curious plot line.

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George Hilton, in his only foray into the Euro-Crime genre, gives a fairly underrated performance as Ugo Moretti. A veteran detective of the Turin police, Moretti fromm the outset appears to be a very dedicated officer determined to keep his city safe, but that his first scene has him gunning down a suspect in cold blood, shows the audience the corruption of the city has seemingly gotten to him. While it’s not harped upon how he ended up as a vigilante, it’s clear Moretti has gotten tired of the criminal scum manipulating the system and decides to give the criminals his own form of justice. Hilton’s cool gaze and his ability to keep his emotions in order serve the character well as he’s able to fool everybody, and maybe even himself, in that he’s doing the citizens and the city a favor by taking care of the scum he and his colleagues can’t get in their official capacity. That he doesn’t seem to have any regrets for his actions shows how far he’s gone down the rabbit hole in his decision to become judge, jury, and executioner of the bad guys. That he cares about his partner tries to help him with his wife and even tries to patch things up with his old girlfriend shows he hasn’t completely lost his humanity.

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Emanuele Cannarsa, a little-known actor from Turin, gives a surprisingly good performance as Danieli. Looking a little like Charles Bronson, Cannarsa has Danieli as a fairly cynical cop who’s become almost completely numb to the nastiness of the streets and the criminal element he has to continuously bring to justice. When he manages to reconcile with his wife, who wasn’t very happy with being a cop’s wife, he gets a new lease and invigoration to make the sure the crooks don’t slowly take over the city. Certain there’s more to the murders at hand than the war between the local hoods and the French expates, Danieli begins to search for the link that ties everything together. When he gets the feeling there’s more to the case at hand than what even his partner believed was there, have him going to all forms of interesting lengths to put together the pieces that’ll bring the low life’s to justice. Cannarsa isn’t the greatest thespian, but his face and his sincerity in his performance makes him an actor that could’ve gone far had he been promoted right.  Like many Italian actors, his voice is dubbed over in this film, but what gives him a leg up is that he’s dubbed by Ferruccio Amendola, an Italian comic actor noted for being the voice of Tomas Milian, Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, and Sylvester Stallone.

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Unfortunately, Torino Violenta didn’t get the praise and cult status that many of its predecessors and contemporaries received. Ausino had no affiliation with any of the major studios or producers, and didn’t have access to the crews or effects teams that his contemporaries did. The ultra-low budget, the only major actor being George Hilton, though his co-star Emanuele Cannarsa could’ve gone very far in the industry had he been marketed more effectively. What many fans hate about the film is the slow pacing and the lack of action. Ausino was looking to keep the genre fresh, and decides to have the film be told not through the eyes of the detectives in charge, but also to focus more on the investigation of the case, and the interactions amongst the characters. This can certainly be boring when fans are used to the films of the likes of Tomas Milian, Maurizio Merli, Luc Merenda, and Franco Gaspari, but the ultra-low budget feel and the cleaver way in which Ausino effectively uses what he has at hand, make a curiosity that still manages to work in spite of its limitations. George Hilton himself even gave high praise for thr Turin cast and crew of the film, stating they had the same professionalism and dedication as any crew in Rome. What little action there is still works very well in the film and hardly looks low budget at all, and gives weight to the story and suspense at hand.

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Certainly not in the Top 10 or 5 of anyone’s Euro-Crime list, or even one of the best films the genre has to offer, Torino Violenta is still an interesting curio that deserves better than what it has been given over the years. Hardly the boring, slow mess critics and fans alike have made it out to be, the film certainly doesn’t follow the traditional elements and themes of the genre, but in its choice to be different offers a breath of fresh air the genre was in great need of. That it doesn’t dwell on the social commentary or political subtext that many of the other great films of the genre did is also a nice change up from the usual fare and sticks closely to the criminal cancer that needed to be eradicated, and to the line all policemen must try to avoid at all costs.

(I do recommend this film as, while it’s viewed as the worst of the Euro-Crime film craze, it’s actually quite good when viewers go into it not expecting it to be much. A low buck effort for sure, the film does its best with what little its cast and crew had to work with. Certainly not the typical type of Actioner fans of the genre are expecting, the characters are still fairly interesting, and how the two plots meld together is well done. The Blu Ray from the Euro Crime box set from Germany offers a really nice picture quality transfer, and decent audio transfers as well. The No Shame DVD of the film is long out of print and, despite most people disliking the film, is something of a Holy Grail among Euro Crime fans due to its rarity and that it includes the previously lost, and equally rare, sequel, Tony, L’altra Faccia della Torino Violenta (Tony, the Other Side of Violent Turin/Tony, Another Double Game), also starring Emanuele Cannarsa.)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google Images

For more information

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0211046/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double_Game

Buying options

https://www.amazon.de/Eurocrime-Box-4-Blu-rays-Maurizio-Merli/dp/B07D54LFTD/ref=sr_1_1?__mk_de_DE=%C3%85M%C3%85%C5%BD%C3%95%C3%91&keywords=eurocrime&qid=1560966258&s=dvd&sr=1-1

https://www.amazon.it/Eurocrime-Collection-Maurizio-Merli/dp/B07D54LFTD/ref=sr_1_1?__mk_it_IT=%C3%85M%C3%85%C5%BD%C3%95%C3%91&keywords=eurocrime&qid=1560966331&s=dvd&sr=1-1

https://www.amazon.it/Torino-Violenta-Dvd-George-Hilton/dp/B004TIOZQ4/ref=sr_1_2?__mk_it_IT=%C3%85M%C3%85%C5%BD%C3%95%C3%91&crid=VV9Q20AXK93J&keywords=torino+violenta&qid=1560966369&s=dvd&sprefix=Torino%2Cdvd%2C220&sr=1-2

https://www.amazon.it/Torino-Violenta-vari/dp/B000F0H6TI/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?__mk_it_IT=%C3%85M%C3%85%C5%BD%C3%95%C3%91&crid=VV9Q20AXK93J&keywords=torino+violenta&qid=1560966402&s=dvd&sprefix=Torino%2Cdvd%2C220&sr=1-1-spons&psc=1

Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics

The Coffee Film Tag: WordPress Style

From Tony Nash

(all opinions are of the author alone)

Hello to my followers, those I’m following, and all curious visitors,

A while back on YouTube there was a briefly lived recurring series amongst their film fan community called The Coffee Film Tag wherein those asked aka “tagged” to participate would pick films they loved and match them with a type of coffee flavor. I thought it would be interesting, so long as no one’s thought of it already, to give this Tag the WordPress treatment. Here are the coffee flavors for those who may not have heard of this previously:

Black Coffee – A Favorite Film That’s Hard to Get Into

Peppermint Coffee – A Favorite Christmas/Holiday Film

Hot Chocolate – A Favorite Children’s Film

Double Espresso A Film That Held Your Interest for the Whole Run Time

Starbucks: A Film That You’ve Watched More Than Any Other

Hipster Coffee Shop – Give an Indie or Foreign Film a Shout-Out

Oops….Got Decaf – A Film That Disappointed You

Perfect Blend – A Bittersweet Film Mix That Seems Perfect

Coffee With Your Sugar – A Film You Might Love a Little too Much

Friends Don’t Let Friends Have Starbucks – A Film You Tell Others to Avoid

My only rules with this version are to keep the Films pre 1990 if possible, the Holiday & Children’s Films and Films to Avoid being automatic exceptions, to keep the choices unique and interesting, and that two way and three way ties are welcomed and encouraged.

To get the ball rolling here are my picks

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Black Coffee: Shichinin no Samurai (The Seven Samurai) (1954) by Akira Kurosawa – While I enjoy this film very much, I feel as though Kurosawa takes a little bit too much time in fleshing out the characters and then getting the Samurai to the village. It’s still a magnificent film that’s highly recommend, but is just a little too slow in places

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Peppermint Coffee (tie): National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989) by Jeremiah S. Chechik & Ernest Saves Christmas (1988) by John R. Cherry III – Chevy Chase reminds us of the true meaning of Christmas in the third of the Vacation series as Clark Griswold does his upmost best in giving his family the best Christmas possible, with zany results ensuing in his attempts, eventually finding he’d already succeeded. Jim Varney gives us all back our childhoods as Ernest P. Worrell, again reminding us what Christmas is about and how the magic of the season makes good things happen.

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Hot Chocolate (tie): Mary Poppins (1964) by Robert Stevenson, The Sword in the Stone (1963) by Wolfgang Reitherman, and The Wizard of Oz (1939) by Victor Flemming and King Vidor – Impossible not to include Disney in these kinds of lists. Two Films that remind us that magic is all around us, especially in the most unexpected of places. Oz should really be on everyone’s list as a film from childhood, a classic in every sense of the word. Beautiful costumes, make up, story, cast, everything fits together perfectly.

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Double Espresso (tie): Yojinbo (Yojimbo) (1961) by Akira Kurosawa & Milano Calibro 9 (Caliber 9) (1972) by Fernando Di Leo – The close-up credits of the camera following Toshiro Mifune as he itches the fleas off of him makes for an intriguing start to Kurosawa’s masterpiece of action, drama, and intrigue. The bungling of a criminal gang’s secret payoff and the subsequent beatings and killing of the mules used to fool the cops is a unique way to start thrill ride of action, suspense, and mystery. the reveal at the end is a total WTF moment.

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Starbucks (tie): The Indiana Jones Franchise (Raiders of the Lost Ark [1981], The Temple of Doom [1984], The Last Crusade, and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls [2008]) all by Steven Spielberg – The Films and the character that made me a Film fan for life. All fine big budget homages to the classic serials of the 1930’s-1950’s. Spielberg and George Lucas created an all time modern classic that are still watched by fans old and young today. And yes, I really enjoyed The Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls.

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Hipster Coffee Shop (tie): Le Cercle Rouge (The Red Circle) (1970) by Jean-Pierre Melville, Le Mani Sulla Citta (Hands Over the City) (1963) by Francesco Rosi, & Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse (The Testament of Dr. Mabuse) by Fritz Lang (1933) – Three Films made on average budgets that came out better than expected. Meville tells one of the greatest stories of heists and of male friendship and loyalty with tragic pathos. Rosi takes his audiences through corruption and naivety as cases are made against a businessman with political ambitions as all sides of the government use his dilemma to their advantage. Lang creates one of the most timeless early sound films with a masterpiece that looks like it could’ve been made today.

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Oops…..Got Decaf: La Decima Vittima (The 10th Victim) (1965) by Elio Petri – I must say I wasn’t completely disappointed by this as there were several things I really enjoyed with it. Petri’s overall execution isn’t as up to par with the story as it should be and leaves audiences to wonder if there wasn’t more Petri could’ve done to make it one of his more viewer friendly fare.

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Perfect Blend: Lonesome (1928) by Pal Fejos – A simple love story told in a very extraordinary way. Just when it looks like things are going to turn to bad for the love birds, a very mundane action causes one of the most beautiful and happy endings ever.

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Coffee with Your Sugar: Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg) (1964) by Jacques Demy – For about 3 or 4 years I just couldn’t get this film out of my mind. When first saw it at the age of 20, I was captivated not only by the story, music, and colors, but also of star Catherine Deneuve’s beauty that made her my all time favorite actress. I may very well give this musical soap opera melodrama way too much praise, but there’s a beauty to it that I just can’t deny.

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Friends Don’t Let Friends Have Starbucks: Dark Shadows (2012) by Tim Burton – Probably the most ludicrous re-telling of a classic 60’s TV series ever! Tim Burton actually did the original Classic Dark Shadows a dishonor with this film, changing the characters around far too much, and making villains out of characters that need not be as such. Dan Curtis’ own film House of Dark Shadows (1970) of his series already did what he wasn’t able to do with the show. Avoid at all costs.

To wrap this up I’d like to tag

Make Mine Criterion! (spinenumbered) https://makeminecriterion.wordpress.com/,

Cinema Europa https://cinemaeuropa.org/,

Guilty Pleasure Cinema Reviews https://guiltypleasurecinemareview.com/,

Cracked Rear Viewer (Gary Loggins) https://crackedrearviewer.wordpress.com/,

The EOFFTV Reviews (Kevin Lyons) https://eofftvreview.wordpress.com/,

House of Freudstein (Progcroc) https://houseoffreudstein.wordpress.com/,

Mike’s Take on the Movies (mikestakeonthemovies) https://mikestakeonthemovies.com/,

I Found it at the Movies (Debbi) https://debbimacktoo.wordpress.com/,

and The Wee Writing Lassie https://weewritinglassie.home.blog/

And see what their picks would be.

Have fun everyone with this.

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google Images and the Wikipedia

 

 

 

 

 

Filed under: Film: Special Topics

The Cop Goes Rogue: Betti Takes Action

by Tony Nash

(A Part of Poliziotto e Criminale: The Poliziotteschi of the 1970’s)

(All opinions are of the author alone)

(Mild to Spoiler Free)

(This review is of the Italian language version)

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Roma Violenta (Violent Rome) (1975) R ****

Maurizio Merli: Comissario Betti

Richard Conte: Avvocato Sartori

Ray Lovelock: Undercover Cop Biondi

John Steiner: Franco “Chiodo” Spadoni

Silvano Tranquilli: Captain of the Mobile Unit

Daniela Giordano: Betti’s Girlfriend

Attilio Duse: Mar. Antinori

Giuliano Esperati: De Rossi

Marcello Monti: La Chinise

Mimmo Palmara: De Julis

Written by: Vincenzo Mannino

Directed by: Marino Girolami (as Franco Martinelli)

Synopsis: Inspector Betti, fed up with the brutal street criminals, asks for a special squad of men to round them up. When several people are senselessly killed in various public hold-ups and his undercover partner maimed by a notorious offender, Betti decides to take matters into his own hands. When he’s invited by a prominent attorney to join his vigilante squad, Betti begins to have an appreciation for the badge he swore to uphold.

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The success of Charles Bronson’s classic film Death Wish began a wave of vigilante protagonist films within the subgenre of Euro Crime in Italy. While Gene Hackman’s “Popeye” Doyle in The French Connection solidified the tough, no-nonsense cop who fights back hard against the criminal element, Bronson’s Paul Kersey solidified the same cops deciding the courts protected the guilty instead of the innocent and choosing to deliver their own brand of justice to the criminals. Roma Violenta was the first of these new kinds of Cop and Gangster films and doesn’t disappoint. When a senior investigator for the Roman police department decides enough is enough with the rampant and brazen crimes of street thugs, he decides to go after the criminals himself, dead or alive doesn’t matter, with or without the approval of his superiors. As he goes from crime to crime, the detective ends up learning quite a bit about himself, the law, and humanity. All the exteriors were shot in the city of Rome, and various highways and streets become battlegrounds as the police and citizen units step up to put a dent in criminal activity. The beauty of Rome is also on display as audiences get brief glimpses of historic landmarks like the Colosseum, and even get to see what a traditional Italian neighborhood and shopping district looks like.

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A common notion is that Euro Crime films were pro right wing and fascist, as the heroes are police officers who kill criminals without reprimand or trial, and the criminals are seemingly vilified low-level hoods who are only wicked because of social circumstances and because of personal problems. This idea is highly erroneous and a complete misconception as the majority of Euro Crime screenwriters and directors were prominently left wing who, while wanting to comment and incite change on what they felt was a growing criminal and terrorist threat, only wanted to tell exciting and thrilling stories audiences could sit back and enjoy, and at the same time learn more about what needed to be done to make Italy a better place.

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Maurizio Merli, a popular figure in the world of Euro-Crime films, gets his star defining role in Comissario Betti.  Groomed by his agent and producers as a Franco Nero lookalike, Merli found his niche as tough guy cops who were about getting the job done. Merli exudes a raw emotional power in Betti that oozes he’s all about helping the innocent and putting away the bad guys. Feeling as if his job is more of a hinderance than a help, Merli has Betti go his own way making sure the criminals are brought down for their actions. That he goes to many great lengths, including several chases by car, to catch the bad guys shows his dedication to the job and that he puts the public above his own safety. While not cynical in any way, Merli does give Bettit a kind of pessimism in that he can’t stop crime completely and that he can’t do it on his own, but still believes in liberty and justice for all, in spite of that he believes in his superiors’ incompetence in getting things done. Richard Conte, a veteran and respected Hollywood character actor who spent the last decade of his career in Italy, offers a brief but powerful performance as Sartori. A prominent lawyer who became fed up with getting criminals off the hook and failing to get justice for the deserving, Sartori decides to form his own civilian patrol unit who makes sure the criminals are arrested by the police, but not before having the assailants beaten to a pulp. Like Merli, Conte plays Sartori as a civic servant who believes in the law and justice, but soon realizes the justice he believes in is blocked by the courts. When two dirtbags attack his home and daughter as retaliation for the patrol’s taking out fellow criminals, Conte has Sartori come to that crossroads of wanting justice or revenge, a road Merli’s Betti will have to cross later.

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Ray Lovelock, an actor the product of an expate British father and Italian mother, is his usual cool and neutral self as Biondi. A former crook turned undercover cop, Biondi uses his street smarts to help Betti catch the bad guys. Aware that justice is a grey area instead of black and white, Biondi has more objectivity than Betti when it comes to how criminals work and think, as how the courts work in getting convictions, but still has that sense of wanting to make right what he used to help make wrong. When he’s nearly left completely paralyzed after helping Betti prevent a bank robbery, Biondi soon realizes his partner’s way of thinking may not be wrong, but still tries to warn him that the criminals they deal with daily aren’t afraid of the police and have no qualms about daylight or public reprisals. John Steiner, a British actor who worked in Italy gives a memorable extended cameo appearance as Franco Spadoni, alias Chiodo. A known felon with a long list of crimes under him, Spadoni is a violent man. When he shoots Biondi in the back as he and Betti foil Spadoni’s most recent job, the criminal must try to elude the now vengeful Betti who is now in shoot to kill mode. Steiner’s known penchant for sadistic and slimy bad guy roles comes in handy with the brief part as from the very start audiences already seem to despise him.

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The only flaw, a slight flaw to be fair, is the film’s story structure. It appears to play out as an episodic flare which isn’t a bad thing, but does make things a little difficult to pinpoint what the exact plotline is. With the consensus being that the film follows Betti as he comes to despise the city’s lack of being able to take proper action against the street punks terrorizing and killing the general populace then the episodic style works as it shows the protagonist’s gradual shift from one way of thinking to another.

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An underrated and overlooked classic within the Polizioteschi sub-genre of the Crime film, Roma Violenta offers an early glimpse into Italy’s other smash franchise that, while wasn’t as successful abroad as was the Westerns, was enjoyed all over. Mixing entertaining story and action with real life commentary on the conditions Italy was facing at the time, the film manages to touch all bases to become a cult classic.

(I highly recommend this one as while it offers up its story in more of a segments fashion, each part is compelling on its own merit into what was going on during that time period. The acting, especially from Merli, Conte, and Steiner are spot on and make audiences root for them to succeed, or root that they get their comeuppance. Sadly, the film has been overlooked and didn’t the restoration its two sequels did [Which will be discussed later in this series] and the only available DVD offers a clearly tired, but still very watchable print. I, as many others hope, that this film will get at least a 2K restoration that it truly does deserve.)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google Images and their respective owners

For more information

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073633/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Violent_Rome

Buying option

https://www.amazon.it/Roma-Violenta-Dvd-Silvano-Tranquilli/dp/B0015RWQNQ/ref=sr_1_1?__mk_it_IT=%C3%85M%C3%85%C5%BD%C3%95%C3%91&crid=19557WG3HPXFP&keywords=roma+violenta&qid=1560360824&s=dvd&sprefix=Roma+Viole%2Caps%2C213&sr=1-1

Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics

Those Hallucinogens Revealed The Truth

by Tony Nash

(A Part of The Cycle of the Melodic Gialli)

(Spoiler Free)

(All Opinions are of the author alone)

(This review is of the Italian language version)

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La Morte Accarezza a Mezzanotte (Death Walks at Midnight) (1972) R ****3/4

Nieves Navarro: Valentina, the Model (as Susan Scott)

Simon Andreu: Giovanni “Gio” Baldi

Pietro Martellanza: Stefano, the Artist (as Peter Martell)

Carlo Gentili: Commissario Sepavia

Claudie Lange: Verushka Wuttenberg

Ivano Staccioli: Prof. Otto Wuttenberg

Claudio Pellegrini: Henri Velaq

Luciano Rossi: Hans Krutzer

Raul Aparici: Juan Hernandez

Manuel Muniz: The Porter (as Pajarito)

Roberta Cifarelli: Delores

Written by: Ernesto Gastaldi, Mahnahen Velasco (as May Valesco), & Guido Leoni (dialogue), adapted from a story by Sergio Corbucci

Directed by: Luciano Ercoli

Synopsis: Valentina, a model and photography worker, is certain she’s witnessed a murder from the apartment across from hers. The problem is she saw it while testing a recently approved drug at the request of her journalist boyfriend Gio for his magazine. While the police inform her a drug smuggling related murder did take place at the apartment six months earlier, who Valentina identified as the victim and the killer don’t match. When nobody, including Gio, her ex-boyfriend Stefano, and the police, believes her story, Valentina is forced to take on the role of detective to find out if what she saw was real or a result of the effects of the drug.

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Filmmaker Luciano Ercoli takes his audience through a maze of deceit, lies, drugs, and, criminal intrigue with this effective and interesting Giallo. The genre was firmly cemented as a box office bonanza and many producers, directors, and screenwriters were taking advantage of the boom. Ercoli and the screenwriters once again set themselves apart from the pack by having the heroine of the film certain she saw a murder being committed, but being under the influence of a drug stimulant has everyone, except the guilty parties, certain she was out of her head. What follows is a mystery involving greed, deception, lies, gas lighting, drugs, love, sex, and murder. Whenever it seems the heroine is on her way to proving she wasn’t crazy or hopped up on drugs, something or someone disappears leaving her looking more foolish than before. After meeting two people who unquestionably believe her story, but finding they make even less sense than what others have said of her, Valentina starts to wonder if a mass conspiracy has been designed to get her committed to a mental hospital. When certain events and meetings occur sporadically, both the police and Gio begin to get the aching feeling that Valentina was right and is in a danger that even she couldn’t predict.

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An interesting foot note to the film is that the screenplay was based on a story/treatment by Sergio Corbucci, the noted Italian Western director. Corbucci penned the story sometime in the mid 60’s, but for one reason or another, sold the story to one of the many producers of the day. Little info seems to exist on whether he intended to turn the treatment into a screenplay himself, but given he didn’t take advantage of the Giallo or Poliziotto craze of the 70’s, and shamefully did little else but bawdy comedy, it doesn’t seem likely.

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Nieves Navarro, in one of her earliest top billed roles, gives a fantastic performance as Valentina. Unlike most female lead characters of the Giallo genre, Valentina is a very strong-willed woman who doesn’t take being told she’s loony, and often tells the males so right to their faces. When she discovers her boyfriend took advantage of her drug induced stupor and gave her name as the test subject of his article, instead of giving into his charms and looks, she openly berates him in front of his colleagues and even physically attacks him, a very much need forward thinking reaction for the period. She still caters to the typical themes of the Giallo heroine in that she screams out terror when she’s certain she’s being stalked people who want to see her dead, but for the majority of the film maintains a stoic and dignified personality that rises above the typical characters seen in the genre. Even when faced with the idea she’s all alone in what she knows she saw, Valentina doesn’t give up in proving she saw a murder being committed.  Navarro’s spitfire personality served her very well with the role, and her explosive outbursts to anyone who calls her a liar are very ahead of their time and much needed at a time when Italy was still very much a machismo patriarchal society.

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Simon Andreu, a Spanish actor who occasionally worked in Italian films, does an interesting job in the role of Gio Baldi. While not the first ethically questionable journalist presented on screen, Andreu adds some interesting color by not being worried his girlfriend might sue him and his publisher for defamation and for not respecting her privacy. Certain his charms and wit will get him out of trouble, he almost has to be honest when the Police Commissioner threatens him with arrest for public hysteria after the article of drug induced identification of a murderer has the public demanding answers. Wanting to believe Valentina, and trying to clear himself of sensational yellow journalism charges, Gio tries to help the woman he loves prove her story to be the truth. Soon wondering if he’s the victim of his own hype and ethics, Gio worries his trick on Valentina is causing her to lose her mind. Constant questions from the Commissioner reinforce these feelings, but certain impromptu situations and thoughts have second guessing both himself and what the authorities have uncovered.

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Image result for La Morte Accarezza a Mezzanotte (Death Walks at Midnight)

Pietro Martellanza, an Italian character actor who went by the Anglo pseudonym Peter Martell, is an enigma as Stefano. A struggling sculptor who was once madly in love with Valentina, Stefano’s jealousy and occasional drunkenness robbed him of a great love. Concerned about what happened to her recently and trying his hardest to make her remember they had a good thing before he screwed up, Stefano seems to be the only light in Valentina’s world of haze and uncertainty. Soothing her with his unquestioning support in spite of believing the drugs played harshly with her mind, Stefano slowly starts to prove he’s a changed man. Claudie Lange, a Belgian actress who had a period of success in Italy, shines in the role of Verushka Wuttenberg. A woman on the verge of madness knowing her sister’s killer is still free and an innocent man locked away for the crime, Verushka tries to find the truth without exposing her identity and thus incur the wrath of her questionable husband. This true paranoia makes Valentina certain of a conspiracy as Verushka makes little sense in what she says, but her sincerity in wanting to prove her sister’s lover innocent and proving Valentina hadn’t imagined the whole thing has Valentina hesitantly trusting the mysterious woman.

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Packed with the twists, turns, and red herrings worthy of an Agatha Christie novel, Mezzanotte provides viewers with dizzying spectacle and an uncertainty of what’s going on. While simple in some respects like plot, the execution of the story and handling of the characters give it an added spice and suspense that give the simple story a not so simple unfolding. Keeping viewers in the dark as much as the characters as to who’s behind the whole affair makes for an intriguing ride as it allows for the revelation to come later on to have a powerful and a WTF effect that would leave any audience flabbergasted.

(I highly recommend this one for the unique way it tells the story it intends to tell and for the the well executed surprise near the end. The cast, especially Nieves Navarro, give fine performances worthy of the Mystery Thriller genre. Arrow Video once again does a fine job with audio and visual restoration of this classic of the Giallo genre, the only negative being a 3-5 minute sequence where no Italian audio has survived and the English dub suddenly crops up, but because those minutes don’t add a whole lot to the outcome of the story,  it’s not a distraction.)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google Images

for more information

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0068971/?ref_=nm_knf_i1

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_morte_accarezza_a_mezzanotte

Buying Options

https://www.amazon.com/Death-Walks-Midnight-Special-Blu-ray/dp/B01NCMILZS/ref=sxbs_sxwds-stvp?crid=69HQ4VHL6ZLG&keywords=nieves+navarro&pd_rd_i=B01NCMILZS&pd_rd_r=21c7bcbe-5f9d-4a50-a59e-5c083d3b3e6f&pd_rd_w=uj5nF&pd_rd_wg=jSR6g&pf_rd_p=a6d018ad-f20b-46c9-8920-433972c7d9b7&pf_rd_r=6YGJRN3FC9B0KMW4V651&qid=1559758835&s=movies-tv&sprefix=Nieves%2Caps%2C138

https://www.amazon.com/Death-Walks-Twice-Luciano-Midnight/dp/B01991ZKIW/ref=sr_1_13?crid=69HQ4VHL6ZLG&keywords=nieves+navarro&qid=1559758807&s=movies-tv&sprefix=Nieves%2Caps%2C138&sr=1-13

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Death-Walks-At-Midnight-Blu-ray/dp/B01N2TGR1S/ref=pd_sim_74_1/258-6123273-9630223?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=B01N2TGR1S&pd_rd_r=d99d20f8-87be-11e9-86c0-efb006a43254&pd_rd_w=e0HYo&pd_rd_wg=8NLii&pf_rd_p=1b8636ae-4f21-4403-a813-e8849dd46de4&pf_rd_r=W5M40NFDXWPDCEBCDEBJ&psc=1&refRID=W5M40NFDXWPDCEBCDEBJ

Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics