Magazine article Variety

Eurocrime! the Italian Cop and Gangster Films That Ruled the '70S

Magazine article Variety

Eurocrime! the Italian Cop and Gangster Films That Ruled the '70S

Article excerpt

FILM

Eurocrime! The Italian Cop and Gangster Films That Ruled the '70s

Documentary

One of Italian cinema's last widely exported genre cycles gets a bemused history/homage in "Eurocrime!" Mike Malloy ? long but lively documentary taps a first-rate lineup of surviving participants to reminisce about their "Me" Decade spent toiling in molto Italio ripoffs of the era's blockbuster U.S. cop capers and Mafia meliere. A fun ode to an arcane exploitation subgenre a la "Not Quite Hollywood," the pic will maintain shelf life as the films it showcases make their way into home-format release (notably via Raro video) and build a cult following that already includes (natch) Quentin Tarantino.

The intensely fad-driven Italo film industry had already burned through sword-andsandal peplum and spaghetti Westerns by the early 1970s. Seeking a new flavor to wring dry, producers were inspired by the massive international success of "The Godfather," but even more by rogue-cop actioners "The French Connection" and "Dirty Harry." These models offered infinite opportunities for violence, sex and violent sex, without requiring their organized-crime figures to take forms that might discomfort Italy's own (some of whom were rumored to have shadowy involvement in the film biz). Their influence was clear in three hits that kicked off the craze in 1972-73: "Execution Squad," "The Violent Professionals" and "High Crime."

Sometimes the imitations were blatant, but these Italian potboilers' borrowed elements were spun in energetic, trashy directions distinct from Hollywood's. Budgetary restraints meant thrills had to come cheap - mostly in the form of blood and boobs, with extreme misogynist mayhem often wreaked on women to handily combine both. (Unsurprisingly, there's just one female among the many interviewees here, and notably for an Italo ingenue of the era, Nicoletta Machiavelli refused to do degrading scenes.)

The producing nation's real-life violence (criminal and terrorist-political) was occasionally reflected onscreen, but more often the films soft-pedaled their origins for export purposes. To that end, they frequently employed faded or B-list English-language thesps (Martin Balsam, Henry Silva, John Saxon, etc.), some getting second-career winds after being blacklist ed back home. Some of the genre's biggest stars, however, were actors who had significant B.O. clout everywhere but the U.S. - among them Luc Merenda, Maurizio Merli, Richard Harrison and Chris Mitchum. …

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