Friday, December 14, 2007
While not as strong as the best of his Italian crime films from the seventies, Sergio Martino's THE VIOLENT PROFESSIONALS (Milano trema - la polizia vuole giustizia) is a must for fans of the genre. Shot just before the legendary TORSO in 1973 and, like that great Giallo, taken from script by the great Ernesto Gastaldi THE VIOLENT PROFESSIONALS benefits from some truly inspired action sequences and a winning lead performance from genre favorite Luc Merenda.
Merenda plays police Lt. Giorgio Caneparo, a loose canon who has lost his faith in the legal system. After his mentor is murdered, Caneparo goes undercover to avenge his death. Clearly inspired by both Michael Winner's DEATH WISH and Don Siegel's DIRTY HARRY, THE VIOLENT PROFESSIONALS doesn't attempt to stray too far from a standard cop and revenge thriller but Martino's exceedingly fine direction and Merenda's ferocious charisma make it stand out much more than it would have otherwise.
Lensed by regular Martino collaborator Giancarlo Ferrando and scored beautifully by The De Angelis Brothers, THE VIOLENT PROFESSIONALS is a great looking and sounding film. Martino's trademark close-ups and inventive cutting style are firmly in place, and the film moves along at a quick and sometime frenzied pace. The score by the famed Brothers is very solid, although one key cut sounds suspiciously like a sped up version of Simon and Garfunkel's FOR EMILY WHEREVER I MAY FIND HER. Other cuts clearly are leading into their next work with Martino, the magnificent TORSO soundtrack...similarities aside though the score for the film is one of its biggest and most noteworthy aspects.
Many familiar Italian genre favorites pop up in the cast. Silvano Tranquilli, fresh from a film I recently covered MEAN FRANK AND CRAZY TONY, is featured in a major role and is as solid as usual. Martine Brochard is particularly good in her role, as is the American character actor Richard Conte (who was no doubt brought on to help with international distribution). BEHIND THE DOOR favorite Carla Mancini is featured in a smaller role, as is the always creepy Luciano Rossi (who had just completed work on Joe D'Amato's DEATH SMILED AT MURDER) as a crazed convict who violently escapes from a train early in the film.
Ultimately THE VIOLENT PROFESSIONAL falls a bit short. The film is a bit uneven as Martino handles the car chase and shooting sequences much better than some of the more dramatic moments, and they feel a bit stilted next to the action. Part of the blame for this probably goes to the disappointing English dub, which makes the film sound a bit too formal at times. Still, minor quibbles aside, this is a fine example of the early seventies Italian crime genre and shouldn't be missed by fans.
I saw the film through THE GRINDHOUSE EXPERIENCE set. It appears uncut but it seems to run about four minutes shorter than the import Wild East DVD. Whether this is a time transfer issue I couldn't say. The GRINDHOUSE EXPERIENCE print is thankfully widescreen at 2.35, although the ported from a VHS print is very murky and a bit dark. The sound is absolutely atrocious with an annoying scratching hiss that stretches throughout the entire print. Still it is watchable, and with the cost averaging out to just above a dollar I can't complain too much. Actually while I was watching it, the thought occurred to me that this is the kind of thing I would have paid twenty to thirty dollars for a decade ago from VSOM or ETC (and I would have been more than pleased with how it looked).
THE VIOLENT PROFESSIONALS is well worth giving a look to. Fans of Sergio Martino and Luc Merenda (still as charismatic as hell judging from his spot in HOSTEL PART TWO) should not miss it.