20 FURIOUS ITALIAN CRIME CLASSICS
In the early 70s, during the decline of the Spaghetti Western boom, Italian studios began focusing on producing crime genre films. They were largely inspired by big Hollywood hits of the day like Bullitt, Dirty Harry, The Godfather, The French Connection and Serpico. European stars like Maurizio Merli, Tomas Milian, Franco Nero, Luc Merenda, Gastone Moschin as well as American actors like Henry Silva, Lee Van Cleef, Richard Conte and many others got plenty of work in these exciting mafia and police themed pictures. Much like the Westerns they provided audiences with an alternate take on their respective genre. One of the main differences between the American and Italian crime films was the increased graphic violence and how the police and criminals were depicted. The Italians clearly loved the Dirty Harry/rebel cop archetype and often the good guys were shown to be just as brutal and corrupt as the criminals. Also, during this time the Italian mafia was highly active for real and many of the films reflected the the contempt the citizens had for the underworld and their destructive methods. As with most genres they dealt with, the Italians had to do things much bigger and bolder. These movies came jam packed with shootouts, punchups, kidnappings, car chases and robberies. We definitely can’t forget their awesome soundtracks featuring music by such artists as Ennio Morricone, Stelvio Cipriani, The DeAngelis Bros, Luis Bacalov, Francesco De Masi and others.
Although they are mostly considered violent exploitation by snobby cineastes, they are undeniably the greatest crime-action genre movies to come out of Italy. Of course here at Furious Cinema, we unapologetically love them for their mad as hell, no holds barred style. That’s why we’ve put together our own little tribute in the form of this new list of 20 of our favorite films from the 70s Italo-Crime era. Ciao!
Milano Calibro 9 (1971, Dir: Fernando DiLeo)
Ugo Piazza (Gastone Moschin) has just been released from jail. His fellow mafia members led by the loudmouth tough guy Rocco (Mario Adorf) are waiting for him. It seems that Milano mob boss Marcado (Lionel Stander) and everyone in his “family” think he stole $300,000 of their money before being imprisoned but Ugo flatly denies it at every prodding or beating by Rocco and his men. Now he must try to clear his name before he’s killed. From start to finish this is the genre at its finest. DiLeo gem #1. Co-starring Barbara Bouchet, Frank Wolff and Luigi Pistilli.
Almost Human (1974, Dir: Umberto Lenzi)
Small time thug Giulio Sacchi (Tomas Milian) and his pals (Ray Lovelock, Gino Santercole) are tired of pulling petty robberies and living like dogs. Sacchi finally thinks up a sure fire way to be set up for life. This plan involves kidnapping the daughter (Laura Belli) of a wealthy businessman and holding her hostage. Meanwhile, ambitious Police Inspector Grandi (Henry Silva) is out to get Sacchi at all costs. A highly violent, furious work of Italian crime cinema that also went by the title The Death Dealer.
Live Like a Cop, Die Like A Man (1976, Dir: Ruggero Deodato)
Inspired by the hit American TV show Starsky and Hutch, Ray Lovelock and Marc Porel play two young wreckless cops assigned to a special unit that targets the really dangerous criminals in the city. They are basically free to do things the way they want to get the bad guys, and believe me, they do. These fellas make Dirty Harry look like an angel. Easily one of the best polizios of the 70s. Co-starring Adolfo Celi.
Mad Dog Killer (1977, Dir: Sergio Grieco)
Four criminals escape from a maximum security prison. They are led by the “Mad Dog Murderer” Nanni Vitali (Helmut Berger) a psychotic, bloodthirsty brute. Nanni isn’t out to hide, he’s out to get some revenge and his main target is Barbaresci, the fatcat who sent him up for his prison bid. Nanni and the gang kill the guy in a brutal way then continue their roving reign of crime after kidnapping his girlfriend Giuliana played by the beautiful Marisa Mell (Danger: Diabolik). Vitali stands out as one of the meanest characters in Polizio cinema. Also known as Beast With A Gun.
Wipeout! (1973, Dir: Fernando DiLeo)
Nick Lanzetta (Henry Silva) is a soldier in the mafia family run by big boss Don Corrasco (Richard Conte) and his associate Don Giuseppe Danielo (Claudio Nicastro) the man who raised him like a son. When a rival gangster Cocchi (Pier Paolo Capponi) seeks revenge on Danielo he figures a way to hit him the hardest: kidnap his daughter (who turns out to be a total nympho!). Lanzetta gets caught right in the middle of his mob allegiances and all hell breaks loose. This movie is equally violent and funny in all the best ways. DiLeo gem #2. Co-starring Gianni Garko, Claudio Nicastro, Pier Paolo Capponi. Also known as Il Boss.
The Big Racket (1976, Dir: Enzo G. Castellari)
Policeman Nico (Fabio Testi) swears to get the main boss running the drug and extortion rackets in the city. He decides to bring together the last survivors of the mob’s attacks to take out the criminals responsible. The film takes a “Dirty Dozen” approach with the group of psychologically broken but vengeful victims working together to take their revenge. There’s plenty of brutal action/violence, unique Italian charm/wit and colorful characters delivering some very funny dialogue. Co-starring Vincent Gardenia, Renzo Palmer.
Contraband (1980, Dir: Lucio Fulci)
Criminal Luca Di Angelo (Fabio Testi) and his older brother Mickey (Enrico Maisto) are forced to do battle with Frenchmen Francois Jacios aka the Marsigilese (Marcel Bozzufi) who wants to take control of the Naples underworld so he can bring his heroin into Italy. Il Maestro Lucio Fulci and the crime genre sure make a very violent and gory mix. Not for the squeamish!
Revolver (1973, Dir: Sergio Sollima)
Prison official Vito Cipriani (Oliver Reed) finds out his wife has been kidnapped as ransom to get an infamous prisoner named Milo Ruiz (Fabio Testi) released. Only once Ruiz is freed Vito holds him hostage on his own so there’s no errors in getting his wife back safe and sound. This doublecross drives the vengeful criminals to seek out Vito and get Milo back at all costs.
The Italian Connection (1972, Dir: Fernando DiLeo)
Two NYC mob hitmen, Dave Catania (Henry Silva) and Frank Webster (Woody Strode) are hired to goto Milan and execute a small time pimp named Luca Canali (Mario Adorf) for stealing a heroin shipment. Meanwhile, Luca, who is actually innocent of the crime, tries to find out who is trying to kill him and why. Hard boiled, action packed, brutally funny DiLeo Gem #3. Co-starring Adolfo Celi, Luciana Paluzzi. Also known as Manhunt in Milan, Hit Men and Black Kingpin.
Street Law (1971, Dir: Enzo G. Castellari)
Mild mannered Carlo Antonelli (Franco Nero) is attacked by some thieves during a bank robbery and nearly killed. When the police decide to drop the case, Carlo, a man who has never been violent in his life, decides to take the law into his hands and seek his own brand of justice. Co-starring Barbara Bach, Renzo Palmer.
Mean Frank and Crazy Tony (1973, Dir: Michele Lupo)
Frankie Dio (Lee Van Cleef) is a high level mobster that gets himself thrown in prison to find a killer thats knocking off his fellow criminals. Meanwhile, a guy named Tony (Tony Lo Bianco) worships Frankie and tries to help him but gets tossed in jail as well. While the two are in the stir, they form a friendship while keeping their enemies at bay and then plan a breakout. Co-starring Edwige Fenech, Jean Rochefort. Also known as Escape From Death Row and Power Kill.
Mr. Scarface (1976, Dir: Fernando DiLeo)
Tony (Harry Baer) is a small time collector for a loanshark that works out of a casino. When his new friend Rick (Al Cliver) owes a betting debt, a feared criminal named Manzari (Jack Palance) aka “Scarface” who he works for covers it with a bad check. Tony decides to steal the 10,000 lire Scarface didn’t pay to impress his boss. What he doesn’t take into account is that when Scarface finds out what he did, he’ll be gunning for all of them. DiLeo Gem #4. Also known as Rulers of The City.
Emergency Squad (1974, Dir: Stelvio Massi)
Ravelli (Tomas Milian) is an Interpol agent who has been trailing the killer of his wife for several years. When he arrives back in Milan after an absence he is quickly pulled into a new crime investigation when a group of robbers, who pose as an Italian filmmaking crew, hold up a payroll courier and steal $200,000,000 lire. The group are led by “Marsiellaise” (Gastone Moschin) a calm, ruthless criminal who seems to know just how to execute a crime to perfection. Soon Ravelli is on their tail and the action goes into overdrive.
Ricco The Mean Machine (1973, Dir: Tulio Demicheli)
Ricco Aversi (Christopher Mitchum) has just been released from jail after two years. His father was murdered by a mafiosi named Don Vito (Arthur Kennedy) and to make matters worse, the man stole Ricco’s estranged girlfriend Rosa (the beautiful Malisa Longo) from him. Ricco soon begins letting all his friends know he’s back in town and starts looking for some retribution. This movie has everything a good Poliziotteschi should: groovy music, hard hitting action scenes, sexy women and a great sense of humor!
Kidnapped (1974, Dir: Mario Bava)
A gang of degenerate criminals (Maurice Poli, Aldo Caponi, Luigi Montefori) who have just robbed an armored truck and killed several people in the process, kidnap a woman and force a man to drive them out of the city. This kicks off a highly volatile road thriller filled with ever increasing tension and sicko violence. For fans of Mario Bava it was a departure for him as he had never made a polizio before. Sadly the movie never saw the light of day due to unpaid production costs and red tape. It was finally released on DVD in 1998. One of Il Maestro’s last efforts that delivers on all levels! Also known as Rabid Dogs.
The Violent Professionals (1973, Dir: Sergio Martino)
When the chief of police (Carlo Alighiero) is murdered by an underworld organization, Lt. Giorgio Canepara (Luc Merenda) seeks revenge on his own terms. If you’re expecting lots of over the top violence such as pool hall brawls and car chases, you won’t be dissapointed! Co-starring Richard Conte, Silvano Tranquilli, Martine Brochard.
Weapons of Death (1977, Dir: Mario Caiano)
Henry Silva plays a flamboyant mobster named Santoro who is being tracked down by Captain Belli (Leonard Mann). No matter what Belli tries, Santoro seems to slip through his fingers. Silva, a veteran of the polizio genre gives another standout performance as a sadistic, slimy gangster without a soul. A fast paced, crackerjack crime adventure filled with shootouts, car chases and Gianetto De Rossi designed decapitations. Co-starring Evelyn Stewart, Ida Galli, Enrrico Maisto.
Blazing Magnums (1976, Dir: Alberto De Martino)
In this action packed murder-mystery, grizzled police officer Tony Saitta (Stuart Whitman) finds out his sister Louise (Carole Laure) has died and becomes suspicious of the causes. The autopsy soon reveals she was in fact poisoned. This leads him to a doctor that administered a medication briefly before she died. When another murder occurs, Saitta begins a dangerous hunt to find out who is behind it all. A unique polizio that blends the giallo style whodunit with adrenaline charged action sequences. Co-starring John Saxon, Martin Landau, Tisa Farrow and Gayle Hunnicut. This movie also went by the title Strange Shadows in An Empty Room.
Syndicate Sadists (1976, Dir: Umberto Lenzi)
Tomas Milian delivers another memorable performance as Rambo, a mysterious figure that arrives back in the city of Milan after being gone awhile. His first stop is to visit his old friend Pino (Mario Piave) a policeman who is working on a special assignment to take down notorious mob boss Conti (Luciano Catenacci). Rambo decides to assist Pino in his task even though he’s not law enforcement and the two are successful in apprehending Conti. This leads to the ruthless mobster seeking revenge on Pino. With his own past ties to the underworld, Rambo goes to an old mob friend (Joseph Cotten) for guidance.
High Crime (1973, Dir: Enzo G. Castellari)
Commissioner Belli (Franco Nero) arrests a Lebanese drug dealer but during the ride to the police station the transport is bombed killing everyone but him. Not knowing who to trust, Belli tries to get information from a retired gangster (Fernando Rey) but soon finds himself the target of the ruthless criminals who set up the attack and have infiltrated the local government. Another fantastic Nero/Castellari team up. Co-starring James Whitmore, Delia Boccardo.
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