June 3: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie — is a movie with Henry Silva in it.
Henry Silva is 92 years old and if life works out the right way, he’ll outlive us all. He was so good as a student at the Actor’s Studio that when they did A Hatful of Rain, he made it to the Broadway play and the movie.
Yet amongst folks like you and me, we know Silva from showing up as mobsters, killers and general scumbags in all manner of movies from so many countries. He had his first lead in 1963’s Johnny Cool, killing off so many bigger actors, like Mort Sahl, Telly Savalas, Jim Backus, Joey Bishop and Sammy Davis, Jr. before Elizabeth Montgomery sells him out. But by November of that year, the President was dead and no one wanted to see a dark film noir.
In 1965, Italy came calling and Silva took a chance. He moved his entire family there and launched a career of playing, well, more horrible people. The next year, The Hills Run Red made him a star in Spain, Italy, Germany and France. And by 1977, he’d been in twenty-five movies. Stuff like Almost Human, gritty gangster versus cops films that audiences loved.
Silva made movies in Hong Kong (Operation: Foxbat), Japan (Virus), Australia (Thirst), Spain (Day of the Assassin), Canada (Trapped), France (La Marginal) and for TV (Buck Rogers in the 25th Century). He’s the kind of guy who can be in Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai just as easily as L’ultima Meta or Megaforce.
It’s hard to pick just one Henry Silva movie, but I picked perhaps one of his most brutal.
Playing as Quelli Che Contano (Those Who Matter) in Italy, as well as Love Kills and Guns of the Big Shots, this Andrea Bianchi-directed film is made of everything mean you can imagine. What else would you expect from the maker of Strip Nude for Your Killer and Burial Ground? A meditation on the value of mindfulness?
When the Italian mob families of Don Ricuzzo Cantimo and Don Turi Scannapieco keep their battles and crimes going to such a degree that they’re smuggling heroin in the body of a dead child — yes, this is how the movie begins — the big bosses leave the decision as to how to handle business in the hands of Don Cascemi.
He calls in an expert — Tony Aniante (Silva) — and tells him to kill everyone, which he does with no small amount of Yojimbo/A Fistful of Dollars influence. There’s a lot to deal with, like the fact that Scannapieco has it in for Cantimo because he killed his son-in-law and made his daughter go off the deep end while also crippled her son. And oh yeah, Ricuzzo’s week (Barbara Bouchet, more on her in a minute) decides that she’s got to get some Silva stirring up in her guts. If that doesn’t get confusing enough. Ricuzzo’s youngest son and Scannapieco’s younger daughter are also ready to play an eternal game of hide the cannoli.
Hey wait — didn’t you say this movie was brutal and potentially deranged?
Why yes, I did.
Before it’s over, we have heads exploding as they’re shot, a child’s body on an autopsy table, a head goes flying out a windshield, multiple dead bodies smashed by a steamroller, a bandsaw go clean through someone’s head and Silva drag Bouchet around a barn, beat her with a belt, then beat her in the face with the belt buckle, then have violent bloody sex with her in a grimy barn. Earlier in the film — because this is an Italian film where women come to enjoy all manner of upsetting couplings, our hero shoves her head into a bloody pig carcass while they make love — well, not really, right? — in the kitchen. To make things worse, Bouchet is totally turned on by this experience. Then she tells her husband all about it, because that’s the only way they can make love. Yes, this movie is the scumbag movie that scumbag movies warned you about.
Tony is brutally efficient, whistling his signature song before quickly blasting guys in the head with his Luger, like some unholy Italian western character combined with his Johnny Cool role. He’s death itself, as a scene of him walking into a Sicilian town has everyone closing their windows rather than even seeing him show up. Stick around for the end of the film, which neatly explains exactly why Tony whistles that tune as he murders everyone around him.
Released in the US with that garish poster above by Joseph Brenner Associates — the people who brought you Eyeball, The Devil’s Rain!, The Girl in Room 2A and many more — Cry of a Prostitute was sold with the tagline, “For a lousy twenty-five bucks, some people think they can do anything!” along with Bouchet’s abused face.
Bouchet would tell House of Freudstein, “That was unpleasant I didn’t remember it being that unpleasant when we made it. In fact I prefer not to remember too much about that one. When Quentin Tarantino arranged a screening of some of my movies in LA he opened with that one and I wish he hadn’t…” However, in Eurocrime! The Italian Cop and Gangster Films That Ruled the ’70s, Silva claims that Bouchet was tougher than nearly any of the men he met in those movies and intimidated him.
You can watch this on YouTube.