Released in Italy as Fango Bollente (Boiling Mud), Savage Three is a brutal example of the Italian crime and murder genre known as poliziotteschi. It stars Warhol superstar Joe Dallesandro as Ovidio Mainardi, a man who pushes buttons all day in a factory and endures a marriage that finds his wife (Martine Brochard) giving her body to her boss to get ahead. There’s a scene early on where someone in his office explains why they keep the rats in a lab divided, as otherwise they will always attack one another. And there’s always one rat that starts biting the others.
He and his co-workers Giacomo (Gianfranco De Grassi) and Peppi (Guido Di Carli) go from starting riots at soccer matches to stealing cars to acts of outright insanity, including one scene where a nude Dallesandro chases a woman while driving a forklift, impaling her against a wall. Before long, the three of them are doing pretty much anything they want, as the police think the killings are politically motivated or the acts of southern Italians, exposing the racism within the country at the time.
The film tries to explain that blame away. Much like Ovidio and his marriage, Giacomo is overwhelmed by his crumbling home and abrasive neighbors, while Peppi is trapped in a home with generations of relatives living on top of each other. The film doesn’t make them seem innocent. But it does show how the modern world has dehumanized them and force them to explode into violence in a world that simply does not care.
Inspector Santagà (Enrico Maria Salerno, Inspector Morosini in The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and the Italian voice of Clint Eastwood in Sergio Leone’s films) is a cop who has been demoted for his violent way of dealing with crime and is also a man on his way toward retirement. Only he’s able to see exactly who the killers are, which is a surprise to him, as he knows Ovidio from computer lessons he’s been taking to try to remain relevant as the world passes him by.
Vittorio Salerno only directed three other movies (No, the Case Is Happily Resolved; Libido and Notturno con Grida), but I really enjoyed this and can’t wait to track down the rest of his films. This was written by Salerno with Ernesto Gastaldi (The Whip and the Body, The Sweet Body of Deborah and more than one hundred more movies).
Savage Three is a powerful and brutal film. It’s like a fantasy-free A Clockwork Orange that could happen at any time, even today.
Savage Three is one of five movies on Arrow Video’s Years of Lead: Five Classic Italian Crime Thrillers 1973-1977. These films are great examples of the Italian poliziotteschi genre and the set includes high def versions of this movie, Like Rabid Dogs, Highway Racer, Colt 38 Special Squad and No, the Case Is Happily Resolved. This disc has an interview with director Vittorio Salerno and actress Martine Brochard about Savage Three. You can get it from MVD.