My notes on the documentary Eurocrime, out now from Nucleus Films.
Eurocrime! The Italian Cop and Gangster Films That Ruled the ’70s, is an impressively thorough documentary about a segment of cinema which has had almost no visibility outside a few fanzines – the cycle of 1970s tough cop/crook pictures which fits into the family tree of Italian exploitation cinema after the peplums, westerns, gialli (a different type of crime film) and gothics of the 1960s but before the cannibal, nazi, barbarian and post-apocalypse warrior films of the 70s and 80s. The trigger films are American, of course – The Godfather (arguably as Italian as anything else) and Dirty Harry – but whereas the spaghetti western was set in a mythic Tex-Mex Spanish desert representing a fantasy playground of America, the Italian crime movies were more specifically located on home turf, hence titles like Violent Naples, and dealt with specific national concerns like the mafia, corruption, kidnapping, the Red Brigades and the Catholic church.
Mike Malloy organises the material brilliantly, with sparing use of clips, animated inserts, montages of images and headlines and clear chapters – he seems to talk with everyone: directors (Mario Caiano, Enzo G. Castellari), homegrown actors (Franco Nero, Antonio Sabato, Sal Borghese, Luc Merenda, Nicoletta Machiavelli), Yank guest stars (John Saxon, Henry Silva, Fred Williamson, Christopher Mitchum, Leonard Mann, Richard Harrison), dubbers (Ted Rusoff), other ex-pats (Brit John Steiner). It says something for the completeness of the project that it seems odd that Tomas Milian and Umberto Lenzi escaped the interview net.
I might argue that not enough credit is given Jules Dassin, Jean-Pierre Melville or even Jean-Luc Godard for the French crime cycles which made a few Italian stars (Lino Ventura) and broke ground a little earlier, or even the German krimi – and it’s a shame that the exploitation focus doesn’t broaden a little to look at more hightoned stuff like Illustrious Corpses or Investigation of a Citizen Under Suspicion which certainly reflect the same times in a related manner. But those are cavils. This has got prime anecdotage, even some Rashomon bits as old set spats are revisited decades on, and goes a long way towards analysing the trend. Highly recommended.