DAY 12. THE FRACAS AND THE FUZZ: Something revolving around cops and criminals.
While he may be most famous for Cannibal Holocaust, a movie so controversial that he lost his license to make films and was arrested for the suspected murder of the film’s cast, Ruggero Deodato is no one-trick pony.
After growing up nearby Rome’s film studios and being friends with the son of director Roberto Rossellini, he worked his way up to being the assistant director on the film Django before helping Antonio Margheriti finish Hercules, Prisoner of Evil, a peplum that also has horror elements like a werewolf. He also directed the superhero film Phenomenal and the Treasure of Tutankhamen and Zenabel before taking time away to work in advertising.
He returned in 1976 for the film Waves of Pleasure and then made the film we’ll be discussing today. Later Deodato films of interest include Jungle Holocaust (which stars future cannibal icons Ivan Rassimov and Me Me Lai), Concorde Affaire ’79 (which has a veritable murderer’s row of junk cinema stars in it, like James Franciscus, Mimsy Farmer, Joseph Cotten and Edmund Purdom), The House On the Edge of the Park (which rips off The Last House On the Left so much that it even has Davis Hess in it), the slasher Body Count and late in the game giallo like Phantom of Death and The Washing Machine.
But Deodato will forever be known for his cannibal excesses, so much so that he was in Hostel II as a cannibal character.
When Edgar Wright was writing Hot Fuzz, Quentin Tarantino played him this film and Walter Matthau’s The Laughing Policeman for inspiration. On the commentary track for the movie, Tarantino says that it has “one of the greatest titles of all time, and it lives up to its name.”
Screenwriter Fernando Di Leo was behind several of the most well-regarded spaghetti westerns, like A Fistful of Dollars and Johnny Yuma before moving into the poliziotteschi genre. His Milieu Trilogy, which he both wrote and directed, includes Caliber 9, Manhunt and The Boss.
This movie, however, is all about the Fred (Marc Porel, Don’t Torture a Duckling) and Tony (Ray Lovelock, The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue), two members of the Special Squad. This secret arm of the Italian police seems to have complete impunity and grants their agents a license to kill.
Fred and Tony take full advantage of that. The film begins with them chasing purse snatchers — to be fair, the failed heist leads to them killing a woman directly in front of children waiting in line to meet Santa Claus — for nearly twelve minutes before impaling one and breaking the other’s neck before the normal cops arrive. As people wait for them to be arrested, they just casually walk away and ride their motorcycle together. Yet for all the killing, shooting and wanton seduction of women these two will accomplish in the next 100 minutes, they really have no issue holding one another.
Keep in mind that Deodato shot this epic sequence with no permits whatsoever and you may see that he saw these two as kindred spirits.
Their boss is played by Adolfo Celi, who you’ll probably recognize for playing Ralph Valmount, the villain in Mario Bava’s Danger Diabolik. They pretty much drive him crazy for most of the film, with him opining that they’re probably worse than the criminals that they go after.
Yes, this is probably the only cop movie you’re ever going to see where the good guys wait for the bank robbers to start their job, then just walk up and shoot them with silenced handguns with no due process. And then they go off and do target practice, which is pretty much them shooting at one another and dodging the bullets.
Silvia Dionisio plays Norma, the tough secretary for their boss. The film pretty much sets its tone when they have their conversation with her before seeing him. You expect the Bond/Moneypenny type flirting until she tells them that men often talk a great game, but she can go twenty times in a night while they’ll be sleeping after one orgasm. That’s why she keeps flirting with both of them, because they may have to team up to satisfy her. It’s disarming and shows that she’s no shrinking violet. Also, if anyone in this movie was smart, it’s Deodato, as he married Dionisio right around this time.
The boys’ big assignment is to stop crime boss Pasquini, which they start by visiting one of his finest clubs and setting all of the patrons’ cars on fire. He eventually comes after them, even slicing out the eye of one of their informants (and stepped on the eyeball, in a screen that Fulci must have been jealous he didn’t direct) to get them mad. This scene was censored from how it originally was intended, but the intent is there. There’s also a bonkers scene where the boys visit a relative of Pasquini and end up taking their turns with his needy niece.
Of course, everything works out for our heroes, thanks to their boss being a much better cop than both of them. But hey — they still get to blow up a boat.
If you ever watched a movie like Lethal Weapon or Cobra and thought, boy the captain is coming down pretty hard on this cop and he’s just doing his job, you should check this out. These supercops make Dirty Harry look like a third-grader with their near-limitless brutality.
Sadly, this was Ruggero Deodato’s only poliziotteschi film. But really, where do you go from here? A sequel was in the planning stages, but ended up being canceled due to Marc Porel and Ray Lovelock not getting along.
This is one of the most entertaining films I’ve ever seen, a cops with guns movies that rivals the excesses that Hong Kong cinema would achieve a decade later. It really has no story, just hijinks, but you won’t notice. You’ll be too busy trying to get your jar off the ground, trust me. If it didn’t come through in all these words, I love this movie.
You can get this from Raro Video.