Inspired by the success of The French Connection, Dirty Harry and The Godfather, many of same Italian directors who had made westerns in the mid-late 1960s and thrillers in the early 1970s moved into crime films in the middle of that decade. Some, such as Fernando Di Leo and Umberto Lenzi, truly excelled in the genre while others, such as Sergio Martino, sought to hedge their bets with genre crossovers.
Manhunt in Milan / La Mala Ordina
Fernando Di Leo | Italy | 1972 | 95 minutes
When a shipment of heroin disappears between Italy and New York, a small-time pimp in Milan is framed for the theft. Two professional hitmen are dispatched from New York to find him, but the real thieves want to get rid of him before the New York killers get to him to eliminate any chance of them finding out he’s the wrong man. When the pimp’s wife and daughter are murdered in the course of the “manhunt”, he swears revenge on everyone who had anything to do with it.
The second in Di Leo’s “milieu trilogy” has been unfairly overshadowed by Milan Calibre 9, but is perhaps best seen as more an equal than a sequel.
Almost Human / Milano odia, la polizia non puo sparare
Umberto Lenzi | Italy | 1974 | 99 minutes
A psychotic small-time criminal realizes that the everyday robberies, rapes and murders he commits aren’t making him all that much money, so he figures to hit the “big time” by kidnapping the daughter of a rich man.
Starring a totally unhinged Tomas Milian opposite fellow genre mainstay Henry Silva, this nasty and vicious entry in the genre was opportunistically marketed in the US as a horror film.
Suspicious Death of a Minor / Morte sospetto di una minorenne
Sergio Martino | Italy | 1975 | 100 minutes
When a prostitute is found brutally murdered in a sleazy boarding house, renegade Inspector Paolo Germi (Claudio Cassinelli) teams up with petty thief and pickpocket Teti (Gianfranco Barra) to investigate. The trail leads them to discover a series of interlinking crimes including an underage prostitution racket, blackmail, kidnapping, incest and drugs. The plot is extremely convoluted, with many surprises along the way.
This film is a unique blend of the Giallo and Poliziesco genres with the odd touch of bizarre comedy.
Young, Violent and Dangerous / Liberi armati pericolosi
Romolo Guerreri | Italy | 1976 | 100 minutes
It is often a tendency of Italian exploitation movies in general to eschew logical plotting and character development to focus on elaborate cinematic “set pieces”. This film is interesting because it does have a lot of character development, especially among the villains, three privileged youths that become desperate criminals after their clean-cut but increasingly psychotic leader, “Blondie”, starts a gun battle during a botched gas station robbery.
The head cop meanwhile is played by Tomas Milan, usually the psychotic heavy in these type of films. Milan lends an iconic presence and is an interesting character in that he is not unsympathetic but is also not the usual borderline-fascist “rebel with a badge” often seen in these movies.
Violent Naples / Napoli violenta
Umberto Lenzi | Italy | 1976 | 95 minutes
Commissioner Betti (Maurizio Merli) has been sent to Naples to help clean up the city. Armed robbery, rape, extortion, and murder are everyday occurrences in Naples. Betti soon realizes there are two crime bosses behind most of the mayhem – Capunao (John Saxon) and the Commandante (Barry Sullivan). The two are at war and Betti’s caught in the middle. Betti is a no nonsense kind of cop who is perfectly comfortable using whatever tactics necessary to get the job done. But how far is Betti willing to go to get his man?
Trying to do a short summary of Violent Naples is almost impossible. In reality it is little more than a series of action-packed set-pieces strung together with an all but invisible plot thread. Intricate plot details are hardly the point. Instead, it’s about the action and the pacing. Lenzi was as good at this as anyone who ever made a Poliziotteschi. Violent Naples moves from fire bombings to beatings to bank hold-ups to gunfights to rape without missing a beat. Lenzi doesn’t give you time to catch your breath before your off to the next action set-piece.
Beast with a Gun / La belva con mitra
Sergio Grieco | Italy | 1977 | 91 minutes
Remember that scene in Jackie Brown with Robert DeNiro and Bridget Fonda watching TV when Samuel Jackson walks in and goes: “Is that Rutger Hauer?” and Fonda replies: “No, it’s Helmut Berger.”?
Well, it’s this movie they’re watching.
Surely that’s all you need to know?! Okay, not enough? How about that Visconti favourite Berger is “Out of Prison … Out of Control … and Totally Out of His Mind!”