EDITOR’S NOTE: This originally ran on the site on March 1, 2018.
Cauldron Films has released this before, but this is a reissue without slipcover of their astounding looking release of Fulci’s gangster masterpiece. Along with a 4K restoration from the original negative, this has new interviews with writer Giorgio Mariuzzo, actress Ivana Monti and actor Saverio Marconi; archival Interviews with actors Fabrizio Jovine and Venantino Venantini, cinematographer Sergio Salvati and composer Fabio Frizzi; new commentary by film historians Troy Howarth, Nathaniel Thompson and Bruce Holecheck; an image gallery; trailers and a reversible cover with alternate artwork. You can get it from MVD.
Imagine Fulci making a cop movie. Imagine that the budget ran out two weeks in. Imagine that real mobsters paid for the film, asking for a title change and for more violence (like Fulci was going to say no). Don’t imagine. All of these things are wonderfully true and make Contraband such a weird addition to your Fulci collection.
Luca Di Angelo smuggles near Naples with his brother Mickey. They have a close call with the police and suspect a rival gangster, Scherino, of turning them in. After sharing their concerns with their boss Perlante, one of Mickey’s prize horses is killed and a fake police roadblock leads to Fulci paying homage (or straight up ripping off, depending on your perspective) to the scene where Sonny dies in The Godfather. Luca escapes death while his brother is not so lucky. Despite warnings that he should leave town, he has a speedboat funeral for his brother and vows revenge. Breaking into Scherino’s house, he almost kills the man before running into his henchmen. He gets his ass kicked, but his life is spared after the boss tells him he had no part in the death of his brother.
Adele, Luca’s wife, wants him to forget this life. But he’s in deep after discovering that a vicious French criminal named The Marsigliese is responsible. We meet this criminal during a drug deal, where he responds to a bad batch of heroin by burning a woman’s face with a blowtorch. If you haven’t realized that you are watching a Lucio Fulci movie, this would be the point in the film where you realize that fact.
The Marsigliese starts killing all of the Mafia leaders so that he can become the sole boss of Naples. Even Perlante is nearly killed, only being saved by the fact that his chief capo was having sex with his mistress and triggered a bomb under the bed. After a meeting between Luca, Perlante and The Marsigliese, where they discuss working together, Luca warns his fellow smugglers that if the French boss has his way, there will be more drugs, more overdoses and more problems — with less money for all of them.
The police are using all of the intercine battling to round up smugglers, but Scherino saves Luca and suggests they work together. They meet at Perlante’s house, but Luca smells The Marsigliese’s cologne. That’s when gunmen bust in and shoot everyone but Luca, who escapes by crashing through a window. Scherino is mortally wounded, but not before shooting Perlante in the neck, killing him.
Again, in case you wonder who directed this film, The Marsigliese kidnaps Adele and demands Luca turn over his smuggling operation over the phone…and then plays him the sounds of our hero’s wife being beaten and gang-raped. Luca unites all of the retired mob bosses and old guard bosses, who are sick of hearing about the Frenchman taking over. They take out most of his men and Luca guns him down in a garbage-strewn alley in a scene packed with blood spraying everywhere.
Adele and rescued and Morrone, the leader of the old school mob guys, tells the police that he has no idea who Luca is.
Contraband was made as Fulci was starting to claim his gore crown. It’s his only crime movie, but it’s not a bad effort. And if you’re looking for his trademark tics, as you’ve read above, this film is full of them. It has way more blood and guts than any film of this type and subverts the genre it should be in, so it’s quite similar to how Fulci treated sword and sorcery with Conquest. This may not be one of his best-known films, but it’s worth checking out.