Monday, February 23, 2009

A new profound love for Italian cinema: Part 1: Poliziotteschi

After a year or two or so without any Italian movies, I went back to the country that gave me my love for cinema, and was a huge part, among many others, in shaping me into the Bearded Movie Aficionado I am today. And the movies I went back to weren’t so much horror, but Spaghetti Westerns and Euro Crime. This will, hopefully, be a two-part project, which will give you, the reader; information about these genres, movies and directors. Hope you enjoy.

Do you love breathtaking car chases, police brutality, blazing shootouts, neck breaking stunts and brutal violence? Have you ever seen Italian police movies? If your first answer is yes, and your second is no - you'll better get off your ass and see one!

Poliziotteschi movies, or Euro Crime, had its glory days in the 70’s. The Italian directors were very influenced by American action movies, and they wanted their own set of cop/action/mob movies, but what they probably didn’t know at that time is that they would overthrow the American action movies and create their own genre with a tremendous cult following.

Most Italian directors have gone through every genre you can imagine: Horror, Crime, Comedy, Romance, and Drama. Directors like Lucio Fulci, Mario Bava and Umberto Lenzi, to name a few, are mostly known for their horror movies, but these directors has also made some of the best Euro Crime movies to date. But the popularity of Euro Crime descended when these directors got into the Horror genre. Italian Horror was a huge hit, and the genres that so many of the directors triumphed in, Spaghetti Westerns and Euro Crime, didn’t get as much attention after the 70’s. Contraband by Lucio Fulci was one of the last Euro Crime masterpieces to achieve this attention after the 70’s. But it was very close to the 70’s, since it was made in 1980. You could say that Euro Crime was born in 1967 with the heist movie Grand Slam, and died with Contraband in 1980. Well, the genre didn’t die. But those years were the decade for glorious Euro Crime.

Readers should not be confused by another crime genre from Italia - Giallo. Giallo is 'murder-mystery' crime films, and the genre title comes from the Italian word Giallo which means Orange. This term comes from old Italian 'murder-mystery' crime novels, which mostly had Orange covers. A lot of people, often new to the genres, get confused about these two “terms”, even though there are little to be confused about.

Umberto Lenzi is one of the masters of Italian Crime film, with movies that truly pack a punch: Almost Human is one of them. With Tomas Milian, the star of many Spaghetti Westerns and Euro Crime films, portraying a cynical thief, with a chip on his shoulder and who’s leaving a slew of dead bodies all over Milan. Almost Human is a one of a kind Euro Crime film. It is a Euro Crime/Exploitation hybrid. Most Euro Crime movies have a very violent element to them, but Almost Human is one of the most brutal. Umberto Lenzi is still alive, but hasn’t released a movie since 1996.

Another director that should be mentioned are Enzo G. Castellari, who had the most action filled Euro Crime films like The Big Racket and The Heroin Busters, both starring Fabio Testi. These movies are packed with action, and it is rare to see a Enzo G. Castellari movie without fullblown shoot-outs, explosions and incredible stunts. But he also has a humorous side to his movies. You always chuckle a bit when watching his movies. And I see it as very tentional. His humour in these films are very slapstick inspired. Castellari did some TV episodes, until 2001. After this we never heard much from the director, but there was talk about a movie with Franco Nero and maybe even Quentin Tarantino.

So, the genre may not be as productive as it used to be, but the spirit still lives on in all fans of the genre.

Here are some movie titles, directors and actors you should check out if this is something for you:

Grand Slam (Ad ogni costo, 1967)
Milano calibro 9 (1972)
Violent Professionals (Milano trema - la polizia vuole giustizia, 1973)
Revolver (1973)
Gang War in Milan (Milano rovente, 1973)
Rabid Dogs (Cani arrabbiati, 1974)
Street Law (Il cittadino si ribella, 1974)
Almost Human (Milano odia: la polizia non può sparare, 1974)
Syndicate Sadists (Il giustiziere sfida la città, 1975)
The Big Racket (Il grande racket, 1976)
Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man (Uomini si nasce poliziotti si muore, 1976)
Rome Armed to the Teeth (Roma a mano armata, 1976)
The Heroin Busters (La via della droga, 1977)
Contraband (Luca il contrabbandiere, 1980)

Mario Bava
Lucio Fulci
Umberto Lenzi
Enzo G. Castellari

Franco Nero
Fabio Testi
Tomas Milian
Maurizio Merli

Hope you enjoyed this and also have a craving for some Spaghetti Western.

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