Eurocrime! The Italian Cop and Gangster Films That Ruled The 70’s Movie Review
With the exception of Suspiria or The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Italian genre cinema hasn’t really gotten alot of attention in the states. Thanks to genre afficianodos like Quentin Tarantino and Mark Hartley (Not Quite Hollywood, Machete Maidens Unleashed) you might assume that the exploitation era has pretty much been covered. Mike Malloy wouldn’t agree with that statement, which is why he’s brought us Eurocrime! The Italian Cop and Gangster Films That Ruled The 70’s. The subgenre known as poliziotteschi came in the wake of popular American crime films such as The French Connection, Dirty Harry, Serpico and The Godfather. The Italians have never been strangers to capitalising on successful formulas, which is evident in their long succession of spaghetti westerns, sword & sandal epics, giallos and macaroni combat films. The interviewees subjected in this film should be immediately familiar to anyone with passing interest in genre cinema as we get to hear from the likes of actors Franco Nero, John Saxon (Tenebre), Henry Silva and Fred Williamson, who you might have seen in Mad Max inspired Bronx Warriors.
The enthusiasm that Mr. Malloy displays for the subject close to his heart becomes contagious in the way Trailers From Hell can instantly make you reconsider titles that you might have previously dismissed. The original music that underscores the proceedings packs a nice authentic punch and really captures the sleaze to put you in the moment. Everything is broken into chapters and we can only hope to get a companion book to further expand on everything, after all there’s only so much information you can squeeze into a feature length film. There’s a wide spectrum of Italian directors that worked in the poliziotteschi genre that fans will immediately recognize like Ruggero Deodato (Live Like A Cop, Die Like A Man), Umberto Lenzi (Almost Human) and Lucio Fulci (Contraband). One of the most important elements that captured the atmosphere and drove the action were the scores that would sometimes be provided by the masterful Ennio Morricone or Goblin. There is an undeniable passion that comes across every chapter explored, but this is not all one sided glorification. The abundance of misogyny and lesser quality as time went by is brought to the viewer’s attention, as well as subject matter relating to true mafia related politics, graphic urine torture, tranny fights and no short abundance of genital focused brutality. Thjere’s a point brought to our attention early on about the cycle that all of the fad oriented genres have, there’s the rise, the fall and then a revival. These movies weren’t always meant to be purely exploitative either, there are examples of Italian corruption being commentated on in Napoli Violenta for example.
The stunt work alone can just about justify it’s own documentary. We are shown impressive footage of Jean-Paul Belmondo who without a doubt inspired Jackie Chan and many others. The impressive encyclopedic approach to this labor of love has an existential balance by telling things how they really were.
None of the subjects were being looked down on, but there’s plenty of material shown for comedic purposes. Wether it’s Fred Williamson ripping off Dirty Harry clear as day in Black Caesar or Troll 2 director Claudio Fragasso giving us some more of his personal insights which got plenty of mileage in Best Worst Movie. Henry Silva delivers a hilarious anicdote about Umberto Lenzi being the “screamingest” director he’s ever met in his life, so you get the point. Anyone already familiar with some of these films know they are trashy and mean-spirited, but if that was a problem for you, I doubt you would have even read this far. There’s also a revealing look at the Hollywood talent that was lured over to these productions that included actors ranging from Kirk Douglas to Harvey Keitel. Even more amusing was the approach that the distributors took to marketing these movies to grindhouse theaters. Some of them were so violently extreme that their posters would sell them as horror films.
Hopefully with more exposure this film can be instrumental in getting more of these titles proper releases. There’s a decent blu-ray collection available of Fernando Di Leo (Milano Calibro 9) that I would highly recommend. If you would rather start from the beginning, you should seek out Execution Squad, The Violent Professionals and High Crime. Mike Malloy has left us with a very strong impression and knows his stuff backwards and forwards, just ask him if Street Law ripped off Death Wish or the other way around. There’s been a resurgence of interest in Italian genre cinema thanks to this as well asthe giallo inspired features Amer and Berberian Sound Studio. If the bar remains high, I hope that filmmakers continue to breathe life into this era because it deserves to be remembered. I must mention that this would not have been played on the big screen in Charlotte, NC if not for Jay Morong and his Back Alley Film Series. If you live near this area and have an appetite for bizarre cinema that won’t get played anywhere else, I strongly suggest that you seek them out.