Saturday, June 3, 2023

Junesploitation 2023 Day 3: Poliziotteschi!



    Umberto Lenzi's THE CYNIC, THE RAT AND THE FIST (1977, TUBI) for the first time.

    A slightly above-average 'poliziotteschi' that brings together Tomas Milian and John Saxon (the 'Cynic' and 'Rat,' respectively) as criminal bosses trying to muscle each other out of Rome. And 'The Chinaman' (Milian) would have probably gotten away with pushing Frank Di Maggio (Saxon) back to New York if his personal beef with retired Inspector Leo 'The Fist' Tanzi (Maurizio Merli, the Franco Nero lookalike you hire when Nero turns your movie down) hadn't prompted him to send goons to Tanzi's apartment to kill him. As if surviving 'Chinaman's' assassination attempt and faking his death to go undercover without the shackles of police procedure wasn't enough, Tanzi's uncle running afoul of local criminals sends him over the edge. The first hour is a non-stop barrage of Maurizio Merli beating ass and outsmarting the criminals while keeping his police colleagues in the dark. It's a sharp contrast to 1976's "Violent Naples," where Merli's cop protagonist was on the receiving end of too much abuse and failure. Director Lenzi and co-screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti keep the narrative moving and the action beats (particularly a foot chase through a department store) entertaining.

    Alas, the last half-hour is a lengthy, slow build-up to a pretty underwhelming conclusion. Milian and Saxon's bad guys had earned spectacular send-offs, but they go out like trashy nobodies (boo!). Naturally the women who help Ins. Tanzi have either the crap repeatedly beaten out of them (Gabriella Lepori) or get a faceful of acid for their troubles. :-O This also has to be the most foul-mouthed English dub of a 'poliziotteschi' I've come across. Worth seeing because, despite coming near the end of this Italian sub-genre's period peak, "The Cynic, The Rat and The Fist" has the chops and recognizable supporting cast to make even its mundane 'going through the motions' scenes feel earned. 4 GOLF BALLS USED AS TORTURE DEVICES (out of 5).

  2. Sergio Martino's THE VIOLENT PROFESSIONALS (1973, TUBI) for the first time.

    After his friend and boss is gunned down by the Milan underworld, Lieutenant Giorgio Canepara (Luc Merenda, giving Fabio Testi a run for his money as hunkiest movie cop of Italian 70's cinema) goes undercover to find out who ordered the hit on his friend and to destroy Milan's organized crime from within. Lots of ass-kicking, shootouts, double crosses and car chases (sooooo many car chases!) follow, all of them entertaining. Hard to believe the same guy who directed the moody horror giallo "Torso" could also stage vehicular mayhem on such an epic scale. The English dub is kind-of lame (and feels Disney-esque compared with "The Cynic's..." blue streak of 'F' words), the print streaming on TUBI leaves a lot to be desired and the "surprise" twist can be seen comng a kilometer away. Still worth seeing. 3.75 GETAWAY CARS DRIVEN INTO ITALIAN POLICE STATIONS FILLED WITH TRIGGER-HAPPY COPPERS (out of 5).

    1. The Code Red blu-ray of this does not have much on it, but it does have the Italian language option. I do not know what to say about the English dub, but the Italian dialogue makes the motivations of the crimes very murky. There is a political element implied, not exactly sure if it was on the left (Red Brigades) or right (fascists).

  3. Last and certainly least, Stelvio Massi's EMERGENCY SQUAD (1974, TUBI) for the first time.

    This one peaks early with a group of criminals pretending they're a movie crew filming on the streets of Milan to steal the payroll for a real movie production company. What a neat and winking way to use staring-at-your-camera civilians to enhance production value, especially when guns are brandished and shots fired. :-D While the robbers hole up in an apartment and start getting restless with their too-calm leader (Gastone Moschin's Marsigliese), Ins. Ravielli from Interpol (Tomas Milian, sporting a Charles Bronson look) starts putting the pieces together to come to the realization that someone in this crew of thieves was responsible for the death of Ravielli's wife and infant child many years prior. It must have been traumatizing for our "hero" because the movie shows us a mother and baby gunned down... again... and again... in slow-motion, from different angles... over and over again!

    More of a talky mood piece and slow-burn revenge thriller than an action movie (though Ravielli beats plenty of thugs on his way to a showdown with his family's killer), "Emergency Squad" pails compared to most of the better 'poliziotteschi' out there. A car chase with machine guns is as close as we get to excitement. It's not a bad flick, just one more concerned with putting its lead character's stoicism and trauma ahead of more entertaining set-pieces. YMMV. 2.75 JB SCOTCH BOTTLES IN A HIDEOUT APARTMENT (out of 5).

  4. THE VIOLENT PROFESSIONALS (1973, Sergio Martino) – J.M. did a good synopsis of the film. I wanted to like this more than I did. That does not mean The Violent Professionals is not worth watching. Sergio Martino is among the great Italian genre directors, and he brought a lot of energy to the film. The car chases are particularly well done. Where the problem lies is the script, written by another Italian genre legend, Ernesto Gastaldi. Even after re-watching important scenes, I am still not sure what the motivation is behind the villains’ scheme. Luc Merenda is the Dirty Harry-esque cop with no tolerance for the limits placed on him by the law, and he goes down the vigilante path to a far more extreme degree than Harry Callahan. He seems as callous as the criminals he is trying to bring down. It was nice to see the actress Martine Brochard show up for a small role; I have liked her work in every Italian film she has been in.

  5. The Tough Ones aka Rome Armed to the Teeth, Umberto Lenzi, 1976

    You know what was missing from Dirty Harry. Tomas Milan playing a cruel Hunchback that shit bullets. It's Umberto Lenzi it's a mean sadistic movie and I expected nothing less.

    This is why I love Junesploitation. It was how I got into Italian Horror and Crime. Thank you Patrick!

    1. Probably my favorite of the genre. That rooftop chase is so good. Thank you Lindsay!

  6. Flatfoot aka The Knock Out Cop (1973, dir. Stefano Vanzina)

    Inspector Rizzo, a.k.a. "Flatfoot", is a rogue cop in Naples who doesn't play by the book but gets the job done. His Captain hates his methods but tolerates them because he gets results. Sounds original, doesn't it? When foreign mobsters start selling drugs on his turf, he'll use all his tricks and contacts to catch them.

    As you can see, the plot isn't much to write home about, so the whole movie rests on the shoulders of its lead. Fortunately, that lead is Carlo Pedersoli a.k.a. Bud Spencer. As a kid, I owned a few Bud Spencer/Terence Hill movies and watched them over and over again. I especially loved Spencer's screen persona, the big brute who rarely starts a fight but always finishes it. He's perfect for the role of a tough but jokey rogue cop.

    Flatfoot in Hong Kong (1975, dir. Stefano Vanzina)

    In the sequel, Flatfoot investigates another drug ring and has to travel to Bangkok, Hong Kong and Macao to both track down the drugs' origin and find out if there's a mole in his department. So it's one third police procedural, one third travelogue, and one third Spencer in fistfights (including one fight in the Hong Kong harbor, letting Bud showcase his chops as a former professional swimmer).

    The locales are pretty and a Bud Spencer fight scene is always a joy, so what more could you want from a movie like this?

    Btw, Carlo Pedersoli chose Bud Spencer as his stage name after two things he loved: Budweiser and Spencer Tracy.

  7. The Italian Connection (1972)

    A bloody, action-packed tale of criminals and worse criminals from the land where they don't even bother to put a mustache on a stuntman (or shave one off, for that matter). Two American hitmen come to Italy to track down a low-tier pimp who might have double-crossed his mobster bosses. But then, somewhat surprisingly, the focus shifts entirely to the pimp character as he desperately tries to survive a citywide manhunt and get to the bottom of what's really going on. Highlights include a nearly 10-minute car/footchase through the streets of Milan, a grisly showdown at a junkyard, and Henry Silva being a horndog.

  8. Almost Human - 1974, dir. Umberto Lenzi

    An obnoxious and psychotic hood decides to quit chickenshitting around and go for the big bucks - kidnapping and ransoming the daughter of a wealthy industrialist. Meanwhile, “I do things my way” cop Henry Silva is putting the puzzle pieces together, not to save the girl’s life, but to find the person who committed the crimes and become their judge, jury, and The Executioner™ (conveniently the alternate title for this film).

    This is the first pairing of director Lenzi and star Tomas Milian and despite how absolutely try-hard, petulant, and despicable the Giulio character is, you have to give Milian credit for his absolutely fearless performance. Despite reading about how volatile their working relationship was, I’m super curious to check out their seven other collaborations now that they’re easily available.

    Oddly enough, Silva is the one who feels kinda miscast. The film’s balancing act - having a villain so utterly vile and beyond redemption that you forget about what a complete fascist monster the rogue cop character is - relies on having a protagonist that is stoic and monk-like in this pursuit of justice. Instead of L’Uomo di Pipistrello e il Burlone we simply get il Burlone (Jack Nicholson) vs. il Burlone (Jared Leto). Maybe that’s the point, though? Maybe we’re MEANT to see Silva’s extra-judicial posturing for what it is, just like we see the poverty, crime, and corruption rotting the edges of Milan.

    Despite not knowing exactly what to make about the film’s politics and having to wallow in murder, torture, rape, and depravity, I’ll say it was definitely compelling overall and Milian’s performance is exceptionally malevolent.

    1. This is a great writeup that gets to the heart of what makes the Lenzi/Milian movies so special!

    2. I watched this today as well. I had never seen it before and really enjoyed it. I totally agree about Milian, he is quite something - an unforgettable performance. However I also LOVED Henry Silva playing the "good" guy for once. I thought he was great as he became more and more outraged leading to the highly satisfying conclusion. What a movie.

    3. "having a villain so utterly vile and beyond redemption that you forget about what a complete fascist monster the rogue cop character is"

      This is something I noticed about The Tough Ones as well. Almost as if Lenzi has just as much disdain for the police as he does for the criminals. I haven't seen any other of Lenzi's poliziotteschi but I wonder if its a reoccurring theme or trick he uses.

  9. THE BIG RACKET (1976)
    dir. Enzo G. Castellari.

    A dynamite opening with a knockoff Goblin score! Cars rolling down hills. Corrupt lawyers. Kinda kung fu fights. Mr. Cosmo Mushnik. One more revenge seeker and they coulda been Il Magnifico Sette!

    (Trigger warning for a graphic rape scene. At least they played it as the gross act of cruel cowards and not for prurient interest.)

    “All politicians love chaos. It gives them greater control over their constituents.”

  10. Highway Racer aka Poliziotto Sprint (1977)

    Despite my "grindhouse" compilation DVD starting with some tv car racing and a random Jodie Foster title card, this VHS dub kicked into gear after some tracking adjustments made by the faithful encoder. This is a really fun movie. I enjoyed the dynamic between the hot shot younger driver and the wary mentor who eventually hooks the protagonist with his ultimate driving machine. The sound of 30 Italian cop cars with sirens blazing is wild.

  11. Milano Calibro 9 (1972)

    Ill just start by saying the music in this movie is astounding, not what I wouldve expected for this.

    Ugo Piazza gets accused of stealing money, he denies it, Italian mafia shenanigans ensue. But is Ugo really a victim of unfortunate circumstances ? Did he really steal the money ? Was he doomed from the start ? Was prison only a delay for his inevitable fate ? Who knows ! Its up to you to discover !

  12. FREE HAND FOR A TOUGH COP (1976, d. Umberto Lenzi)
    First-time watch on Severin BluRay, 7/10.
    This isn't my favorite Lenzi poliziottesco, but it's got enough violent, chaotic atmosphere & groovy tunes to keep me happy.
    And yes, it WILL be my strategy once I go into a life of crime to get plastic surgery that makes me look like Henry Silva. And that's no spoiler.
    “It’s really a national sin to waste all this milk.”

    1. This was my pick too, as it was the only Lenzi/Milian collaboration I hadn't previously seen. Just as you said, it's good but not my favorite. I did really enjoy Milian's performance and the little bit of Henry Silva we got. I have a feeling I'm going to get a lot of mileage out of that Severin box.

    2. Yeah, the duo really bring out each other's strengths, although Milian is a treasure in general.

  13. New-to-me: THE COP IN BLUE JEANS (1976)
    A two-bit cop used to busting muggers and purse thieves ends up going after a pair of international crime lords. I really enjoyed this! It's a amusing slice-of-life "cop on the beat" stuff combined with slick action movie stuff. Lots of goofy humor and rough n' tumble fighting. And then Jack Palance shows up as the final boss, because of course he does. Wikipedia alleges that this is the first in an 11-film series! Marathon, anyone?

    Old fave: THE FRENCH CONNECTION (1971)
    I'm not that familiar with Poliziotteschi as a genre, so instead I went with one of the films that allegedly inspired it. This movie holds up excellently, and yet I wonder how mind-blowing this must have been for audiences in 1971. Everybody loves the big car chase, but not everyone remembers that it's the culmination of a tense tailing sequence followed by a foot chase, and then the car. The finale gunfight is also thrilling. And one scene was filmed at Hotel Edison, which is where I always stay whenever I visit NYC.

  14. Si può essere più bastardi dell’ispettore Cliff? (1973)

    They tried other titles for this movie — Mafia Junction, Super Bitch, Blue Movie Blackmail (in the UK, where Stephanie Beacham’s nude scenes were the selling point) — but there may have never been a film with a better name than Can Anyone Be More of a Bastard than Inspector Cliff?

    Also: No. There cannot.

    Inspector Cliff Hoyst (Ivan Rassimov, as always, a sinister and suave man) is an undercover cop who spends as much time committing his own crimes as he does stopping drug smugglers like Mama the Turk (Patricia Hayes). Meanwhile, Beacham plays Joanne, a sex worker who gets rich men on camera and then blackmails them. Cliff may or may not love her, but he knows that he can take her away from all this if they can put Mama’s gang up against the gang that Joanna works for, run by Morrell (Ettore Manni).

    Then, they can get that statue filled with heroin.

    Between killers who sing while doing their jobs, Rassimov laughing that sinister laugh and comedy actress Hayes seemingly having a blast playing a gangster, this movie is all about swinging London and the fact that for everyone here, death is around every corner.

    Massimo Dallamano was the cinematographer on A Fistful of Dollars, so you know he knows his double crosses. He was also smart enough to get a swinging score from Riz Ortolani that was so good, it was used in the movie he would have directed had he not died, Red Rings of Fear.

    There’s also an old rich politician who likes to dress up like a rabbit. I could watch Rassimov read a newspaper, so I was thrilled by having him as the hero — well, not really, more like villain who runs the story, I guess — and there’s so much strange stuff in here that it’s worth sitting down with.

  15. COLT 38 SPECIAL SQUAD (1976, d. Massimo Dallamano)
    Rewatch on Arrow BluRay, still 9/10.
    When I saw this originally on the old NoShame dvd (2006ish) it blew me away. I was hot with my love of ...SOLANGE? & COLT 38 convinced me that Dallamano was a relatively unsung master. The menace of Rassimov (I love him) along with Marcel Bozzuffi (I love him) & his borderline MAGNUM FORCE squad feel like a precursor to Nolan's THE DARK KNIGHT in terms of a city struggling under such a destructive villain.
    I also believe that Stelvio was born to score poliziotteschi.
    The icing: Grace Jones "singing" that groovy tune from NIGHTMARE CITY.
    [accidental plastic surgery poliziottesco double feature with FREE HAND FOR A TOUGH COP]

    1. Thus sounds incredible! Solange is one of my faves, too, so I am gonna hafta check this one out!

  16. CONFESS, FLETCH (2022):

    It counts.

    1. I considered watching Cobra. No shame here.

    2. Any excuse to watch this movie is a good one

  17. The Tough Ones(1976 Dir Umberto Lenzi)
    "We need stricter laws so that the criminals don't get killed. But I'm going to kill the criminals anyways."
    -Not an actual line of dialogue but heavily implied.
    Our hero Tanzini is complicated. But if you led his life you'd be complicated too. The man cannot go out of his house without running into a criminal in the middle of a misdeed. And not just jaywalkers or scofflaws but some straight up vile pieces of shit. The bad guys do some rough stuff in this flick. But Lenzi gave us such a rough hero in Tanzini that the criminals have to be just the worse to get us to root for the cop. This is a film where we cheer a Topher Grace look alike getting shot in the head because his crime was just so sickening. Morals are far and few.
    The one bright spot of morality seems to be Tanzinis partner. A cop still trying to play by the book. Of course the book ends up being his downfall of course. As going by the book being a bad thing is a continuing theme in the movie. I honestly have no idea if Lenzi even cares about right or wrong or if its all about setting up the next scene.
    And it works. The movie is a blast. The actions scenes are fun. Especially a few of the chases. And again the villains so good we can't wait to see them punished. Tanzini forces one to eat a bullet and that person shits it out, and keeps it to kill Tanzini. Thats just quality. And the type of stuff we look for in June. I'm going to be honest I have no idea what the scheme or master criminals plot was but it didn't matter.

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  19. Milano Calibro 9 (1972)

    I'm a huge fan of Italian horror and Giallo flicks but have never gotten round to Poliziotteschi. So, I just started with the top recommendation I read, tipped by the fact that Barbara Bouchet was involved, and I was not disappointed. I loved Mario Adorf's over-the-top Rocco, particularly in opposition to the stoic lead Ugo (Gaston Moschin), and the social commentary of the debates between the conservative and liberal cops (the latter played by Giallo stalwart Luigi Pistilli). And as Stuff mentioned above, the soundtrack was fabulous! I am grateful for the inclusion of this category in Junesploitation and for the above suggestions, definitely gonna check out more of these films!

  20. THE CYNIC, THE RAT AND THE FIST (1977, d. Umberto Lenzi)
    First-time watch on Severin BluRay, 8/10.
    Tomas Milian as The Chinaman plus
    gratuitous violence plus
    Maurizio Merli plus
    linguistic crudity minus
    story beats that feel like they were skipped plus
    John Saxon equals
    a real blast.

  21. Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man (1976, dir. Ruggero Deodato). This was a really fun movie about some incredibly cool and charming cops who refuse to play by the rules. And frankly, the police chief isn't even insisting they play by the rules, just that they get the job done. If that job is to murder criminals in cold blood, while winking at the camera, and sleeping with every woman they encounter, these guys are the best cops ever.

    I'm going to try to squeeze some of the other movies recommended here into free days.

  22. Death Wish (1974)
    I had trouble getting my hands on an actual Poliziotteschi so I instead watched Death Wish for the first time, which I know was partly influential. Bonus surprise: Super young Jeff Goldblum!