EUROCRIME!

Written by Joe D on June 8th, 2009

Mike Malloy and Mike Martinez have been working on a mind boggling documentary about the kick ass Italian Crime genre of the 70’s. They’ve got great interviews with some of the stars and filmmakers of that Golden Age. Here’s a prieview to whet your appetite.

Il Boss vs. Mafioso

Written by Joe D on January 17th, 2008

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I picked up a copy of Peter McCurtin’s 1970 pulp novel Mafioso. This is the book Fernando Di Leo adapted for his 1973 film Il Boss(USA Wipeout). The main reason I got it was to see if the story continued beyond the ending of Il Boss, because at the end of Il Boss, there’s a title that says CONTINUA (to be continued).
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I figured the story in the book must go on for a while to a conclusion. But I found out, although it has a different ending, the film actually has a few more scenes than the novel. Let’s start at the beginning. Nick Lanzetta (Henry Silva in the movie) is a rising star, ultra cold blooded killer, his first hit, blowing up a rival gang in a movie theater with a grenade launcher fired from the projection booth, is lifted right out of the book, the main difference being in the movie the Don and his cohorts are watching a porno film, in the book a gangster film. By the way the book takes place in Brooklyn and the author uses a lot of real locations, I lived there for a while and could easily picture where things were happening, the movie takes place in Sicily. The other main differences are, the head of the rival gang is a black guy named Coakley, in the movie he’s an Italian named Cocchi. Don Corrassco (Richard Conte in the movie) does not want to make peace with the rival gang because they’re not Sicilian, in the book because they’re black. In the movie the corrupt cop (Gianni Garko) wants to maintain order in the mafia that’s why he helps them, sort of a proto-fascist. In the book the corrupt cop is an old Irish guy, he’s just looking for some extra money.
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Pignataro Kills Don Corrassco. This is where the film really differs from the novel and for my money the film’s ending is vastly superior.

The main differences are at the end. In the book Lanzetta and his lieutenant, Pignataro recruit the other gang members and do a air/ sea assault on the Don’s Long Island compound. It’s the worst thing in the book. Di Leo’s denouement is far superior. Then Di Leo goes one step further, he has Pignataro try to kill Lanzetta, egged on by the lawyer who seems to represent the Pope! In the book Lanzetta and his men kill Don Corrassco and Lanzetta assumes control of Corrassco’s family. I think Di Leo found this unbelievable to an Italian audience. In America you can fight your way to the top of the heap, a guy starting out with nothing can become rich and powerful. In Italy with all the centuries of family history, it’s much more difficult to jump above your station. Case in point, when I was in Rome I met a lot of up and coming directors. A few complained to me that they couldn’t get their films produced while their contemporaries, whose families had been in the film business for generations got theirs produced right away. It’s just the way it is. Also I was surprised at how similar the scenes between Lanzetta and Daniello’s daughter Kate were. The arguments they have while shacked up in Lanzetta’s apartment are almost verbatim in the film and they’re great.
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Silva and the Dead Don’s Daughter

Great Art often comes from transplanting an idea from one culture to another and back again. This is an interesting study in cross cultural fertilization. Comparing the film and the novel was fascinating and I recommend the book to any fan of the film.

Fernado Di Leo, Il Boss

Written by Joe D on January 10th, 2008

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Maestro Fernado Di Leo between the two babes from Avere Vent’anni

I just watched an Italian language version of Fernando Di Leo’s great poliziotto Il Boss (Wipeout USA). A very cool film, I had the good fortune to see it on a double bill with Montaldo’s MachineGun McCain at Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse Film Festival. The Italian version is a bit different, for one thing a lot of subtlety is lost in translation, at least it seemed that way to me, the Italian language version created an overall impression of more political corruption and intrigue. It seemed more real in a way. commissario Torri (Gianni Garko) is in bed with local Mafiosi,
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Gianni Garko, commissario Torri, Order in the Mob!

informing them of police action, he has a house and bank accounts given to him by the Mob but he justifies his activities by saying he’s all about “Order”, and only the Big Bosses can maintain order among the Underworld. Is this a rationalization? does he really believe he’s helping Society with his proto Fascist philosophy? The film doesn’t give any definite answers but it’s the questions I find fascinating. Lanzetta (Henry Silva in one of his most iconic performances) is a ruthless, cold blooded killer.
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Henry Silva, looking like an Incan head carved from Stone

A monster raised by a Mafia don, almost like Frankenstien, except this monster succeeds in destroying his creator. The dialog between Lanzetta and Rina Daniello (Antonia Santilli) has more dimension in the Italian version.
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Have a shot of the Italian Gangster’s Favorite, J&B!

She keeps calling him “Larry” which pisses off Lanzetta to no end. Their conversations seem almost improvised, very natural. The sequence where they shack up in Lanzetta’s apartment is one of the strangest in all Crime Cinema! A full blown Mob War is raging in Palermo and right at the height of it, the guy who started it all is locked away screwing his brains out with the daughter of his ex-boss! He even complains to her that he’s spending too much time in bed with her. It’s like it’s the first time this monster has had sex. Another point that struck me more forcefully in this version is this: the film opens with one of the greatest hits in all Mafia Films, Lanzetta fires a grenade launcher from the projection booth into a theater full of Mafia dons about to watch a Swedish porno film. It’s as if the projector literally becomes a Death Ray! The Power Of Cinema!
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Coldest Killer in Cinema!

But my point is this, in the aftermath of the killing, at the morgue, one guy is hysterical, screaming for revenge, nothing will satisfy him but blood!
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First To Rat!

This is Attardi (Gianni Musi), later when the gang has kidnapped the daughter of the Don responsible for killing half their family, Attardi wants to kill her with his bare hands, he has to be restrained by his brothers. But Attardi is the guy who rats out the family! He tells Lanzetta where they’re holding the girl! This strikes me as so true, the over dramatic guy, screaming for revenge is the one who rats out his family! Di Leo’s crazy characters really ring true! I also noticed a funny thing, when Lanzetta is in the projection booth preparing to send the audience to Hell, the projector is running but there is no film in it! The reels are empty! Check it out.
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The Boss Never Sleeps

Richard Conti is great as the insomniac Boss of Bosses and Pier Paolo Capponi is excellent as Cocchi, the rival hitman, he is like a tough Italian John Casale.
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Cocchi, Casale’s Cousin From Palermo

And here’s another strange thing, at the end of the film in the Ameriacan version it ends with Lanzetta walking off down a road, in the Italian version it cuts to the lawyers office where he gets a phone call and a title appears, Coninua, to be continued. What ever happened to Part Two? I guess it never got made, too bad, I’d love for this film to keep on going!
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I Wish!

I had dinner with the lovely, eternally young Barbara Bouchet during the Grindhouse festival. I asked her about working with Di Leo, she said she loved it, that when they made a film it was like one big happy family, a joy to be involved with. I was happy to hear that. As I watched Wipeout at the New Beverly Cinema Quentin was sitting next to me, he leaned over and told me that Di Leo is one of his, maybe his favorite director of all time. He also said he heard an interview where Di Leo was asked ” Are there any directors working today that you admire, or that remind you of your own filmmaking?” Di Leo replied, ” Yes, Quentin Tarantino!” It made Mr. Tarantino very happy.

Italia A Mano Armata, Franco Micalizzi,

Written by Joe D on December 20th, 2007

This is a killer clip of an orchestra in Italy playing the theme from Italia A Mano Armata (A Special Cop In Action, USA) an incredible piece of music by Franco Micalizzi. I have a story about this particular tune. I was working as an editor on Kill Bill. One day Quentin tells me that two great Poliziotto’s are playing at The American Cinematheque that night. So we go and see them, they were great. Italia A Mano Armata and Roma A Mano Armata. Cut to a few months ago. I’m working on Death Proof, QT cuts in a piece of music in the big car chase, it’s Italia A Mano Armata! He tells me he’s been wanting to use that music ever since we saw the films at The Cinematheque during Kill Bill! Enjoy! Have a glass of Nebbiolo!

Assault With A Deadly Weapon

Written by Joe D on August 4th, 2007

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Hey Amerikanski! Here’s the cover of the VHS version of Roma A Mano Armata. There is a wide screen version of it out there somewhere on DVD, but if you can’t find that check this out. A lot of these films were re-packaged for American release and played at your local grindhouse. In my case forty-deuce (Times Square before it was Disneyized), this version is cut down a bit and not widescreen but it’s still worth watching if that’s all you can find.

Roma A Mano Armata, Tomas Milian, Maurizio Merli, Umberto Lenzi

Written by Joe D on August 3rd, 2007

I love this movie! Almost non-stop action, not one but two excellent bank robberies, frenetic car chases, beatings, rapes, shootings, you name it’s got it! But seriously it’s the characters that are the best thing about this movie. Maurizio Merli is one hot head, ass kicking , tough cop! He will slap a punk silly in the blink of an eye, he has the most hair trigger temper you’ve ever seen.
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Go ahead punk, make my day

He’s the perfect foil for Tomas Milian. Milian plays an evil, amoral hunchback. He’s a cold blooded killer,but he’s kind of charming in his own repellant way. This is an amazing physical performence! The shambling gait, his obsequious posture when dealing with Merli. He’s like the villan from Dirty Harry and Joe Pesci from GoodFellas rolled into one person. We meet him at his job in a slaughter house! What an intro.
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The Butcher Of Rome

He gets arrested and is beaten by Merli during an interrogation, so he slashes his own wrist in the bathroom to get put in a hospital.
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After pissing all over the police station bathroom…

His gang kidnap Merli’s girl, take her to a junkyard and threaten to crush her in an old Fiat.
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They’re just trying to scare her

Merli retaliates by busting into Milian’s house while he’s having dinner, then forcing him to eat a bullet in front of his horrified sister. This seems to inspire Milian to escalating acts of savagery. He hijacks an ambulance during a chase and when the driver tells him there are passengers in the back Milian slides open the window, shoves his machine gun through and opens fire, killing a guy and his sick wife!
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Peek-A-Boo!

When the ambulance crashes in a crowded market, Milian hops out and begins spraying the crowd with his gun, creating a diversion so he can get away. Man!
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Dig that Crazy Scarf
A movie about a cop and a criminal messing with each other, trying to kill or catch the other is only as good as these two characters and here we have one of the greatest duels in history. Lenzi mixes it up by having the good guy (Merli) be so unremittingly violent and having the bad guy (Milian) have a physical handicap, we subconciously root for this poor guy, he’s very capable in spite of his deformity. He dosen’t take shit from anyone, even a killer cop, and he’s successful. He’s a skillful butcher, he drives a cool car, he wears snappy clothes, he has a nice sister.
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Coolest Car in Cinema- Le Citroen
A family that cares for him. Merli has no one, no family and his girl friend leaves town to think things out. Merli does have one pal, a fellow detective but of course he sacrafices his life saving Merli’s. The last criminal hunchback I can recall was James Whitmore in Jhon Huston’s immortal classic The Asphalt Jungle.
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Lenzi calls in a cameo

The score by Franco Micalizzi is spot on! Super 70’s synth funk Italian Style. I was working on Kill Bill and Quentin says ” Hey Joe, you want to go see some Italian crime films at the Cinematech tonight?” I say yeah, of course! And we saw this gem and The Cynic, The Rat, and The Fist. Cut to last year I’m working on Death Proof, QT puts a cool piece of music under the big car chase when the girls are out to get Kurt Russel. It’s the music from Roma A Mano Armata. QT says, “I’ve been wanting to use that music ever since we went to that screening!” So if you’re in the mood for a crazy ride check out Roma A Mano Armata. Tomas Milian will blow you away!
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Napoli Spara, Leonard Mann

Written by Joe D on July 22nd, 2007

Hey Guess What! It’s a small world! I went up to a birthday party this weekend, about 200 miles up the coast, central california, my wife was talking to a couple and naturally I butted in and one thing led to another, we were talking about tomatoes, then Italy, how he lived there for 15 years, how he went there in 1968 with just a backpack, how he starred in over 30 films!! His name is Leonard Manzella, but he acted under Leonard Mann. Some of his films are: Napoli Spara, one of my all time favorite polizotos, a couple spaghetti westerns,La Vendetta รจ un piatto che si serve freddo (Revenge Is A Dish Served Cold), Il Pistolero dell’Ave Maria (The Last Pistolero),a scifi L’Umanoide, (The Humanoid),and many others. Anyway we talked about Italian films and how they made them back in the 70’s. Something I’m very interested in, the atmosphere, the milleau of Roma 1968. A super creative time in world Cinema, a flowering of creativity, a new Renaisannce. I am going to interview Leonard soon and post it as a podcast so you all can hear it for yourselves. I also want to do a posting on the techniques of Italian film production (1960’s/70’s) style. So anybody that wants to can make a film Italian Style. So uncork a bottle of Nebbiolo, kick back and check out a film starring Leonard Mann, Napoli Spara is unavailable right now but I’m going to do everything I can to get it released here! In the meantime here’s a lobby card I found over at Stephen Grimes site- http://stephengrimes.blogspot.com/
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