Wednesday, September 14, 2011
FOUR BY FERNANDO DI LEO
Imagine the grimiest 1940s bottom of a double bill film noir you can. Now imagine that same movie set in Italy, awash in garish 1970s colors, scored to a prog rock soundtrack. Then populate it with some of the swarthiest men this side of Vic Tayback's "Mel" from the TV show Alice. This, essentially, is the Fernando Di Leo effect. How much you like it may depend on your tolerance for Vitalis and overblown machismo. Me? I thought they were just OK.
CALIBER 9 (1972)
Familiar story of a thug who gets out of prison, wants to retire but is forced back into a job by the mob. Throw in a bit of hidden-loot intrigue-- did he or didn't he stash the money before going in the joint?-- a pretty blonde love interest, and you've got a standard crime movie that putters along well enough until a nifty downbeat ending that pumps it up an existential notch.
THE ITALIAN CONNECTION (1972)
The best of the bunch and, supposedly, the film that most influenced Tarantino's black-white hitman dynamic in Pulp Fiction. Here they're played by Woody Strode and Henry Silva and rarely talk of French fast food. In fact, they really don't factor that much into the plot. The star of the show is really the guy they're after, the small-time pimp Luca Canali (above) who's just a foil for some larger New York mob versus Italian mob in-fighting. And what a wonderful foil Mario Adorf is! The craftiest greaseball since Al Lettieri. And so many contradictions! He's a scumbag, yet he takes time out of a junkyard gunfight to rescue a kitten. Adorf's performance alone makes this movie.
THE BOSS (1973)
Henry Silva as a mob hitman again, this time with designs on the Family's top spot. The opening scene wherein Silva executes an entire screening room of baddies with a flamethrower is the end Nazi movie theatre premiere in Inglourious Basterds in miniature. Like Caliber 9, this one kind of putters along on crime film autopilot for most of the duration then nails it with a nifty twist ending. Also, there is some frothy Stockholm Syndrome intrigue with the boss's kidnapped daughter. Antonia Santilli, where have you been all my life? Ciao bella!
RULERS OF THE CITY (1976)
Must admit, I snoozed through large portions of this one. See the guy in the goofy cartoon Brazil t-shirt above? We're supposed to believe him as a top mob enforcer. You know, the guy who flexes his muscles and collects the money, NOT the dude who waits in line in front of you for Jens Lekman concert. Jack Palance is in this too...at least I think he was. I either slept too much or not enough. The gunfire at the end woke me up.