Friday, March 28, 2014


A new action film full of hair-raising, breathtaking chases with automobiles, heavy-duty trucks and motorcycles, never before seen on the movie screen.” proclaimed the post-production press hype (8/76).

This admirable effort stars Ray Lovelock as Massimo Torlani, a cop about to go undercover as Massimo Salvatore, a new upstart that “fumbled” a jewelry heist, which lands him in jail.  This enables him to infiltrate a local drug trafficking syndicate run by Giulianelli (Martin Balsam) who - due to the ruthless machinations of his competitors - was recently jailed as well.  Eventually gaining the trust of Giulianelli and his right-hand man Piero (Heinz Domez), Massimo’s true purpose for going undercover becomes evident and, without giving away too much, it’s certainly much more revenge-driven as he seeks out various “associates” within Giulianelli’s organization.

Through a conveniently planned prison escape, Massimo blends into the organization with relative ease as he shoots anyone that Giulianelli wants eliminated (hence the film’s Italian title, which translates as “Ready to Kill”) much to Inspector Sacchi’s (Riccardo Cucciolla) chagrin, his superior and only trusted contact.  Sacchi vents his frustrations not very persuasively through some clumsy but amusingly dubbed dialogue courtesy of American tongue-for-hire Richard McNamara who equates his recent behavior to man-eating tigers and, for those that are interested, that’s the prolific Ted Rusoff taking on the task of dubbing Lovelock.  Not too concerned with Sacchi’s two-bit mutterings, Massimo continues to underhandedly work his way up to the masterminds of this international drug ring, which includes the hardnosed Perroni (Ettore Manni) and his astute secretary (Elke Sommer) who also has eyes for him.

Along with Lovelock, MEET HIM AND DIE is highlighted by a well-respected roster of seasoned Italocrime professionals like Balsam, Manni and Cucciolla and director Franco Prosperi does a commendable job delivering a relatively succinct action flick and, no, this is not the same Prosperi who, alongside the more infamous Gualtiero Jacopetti, directed on all those mondo films.  THIS Franco Prosperi actually helmed numerous Italocrime films including The PROFESSIONAL KILLER (1967) with Robert Webber and Franco Nero, RIPPED OFF (1971) with Tomas Milian and, after MEET HIM AND DIE he directed his final, but disappointing crime film, The DEADLY CHASE (1978) with Luc Merenda.   

Courtesy of Mike Ferguson.
Despite some perplexing plot developments during the last third, which tend to derail the original revenge plot, Prosperi’s rather clichéd story – unbelievably it took four writers to put this together – swipes a number of elements from Don Siegel’s DIRTY HARRY (1971) as Massimo pursues “justice” no matter what the cost.  Focusing on the extreme right, Massimo uses his rather modest and youthful exterior to his advantage; he actually proves to be a vicious foe whose tenacity and resourcefulness keeps everyone – including his superiors – on their toes. Throughout the relatively taut narrative, Massimo narrowly misses exposure on a number of occasions, as he gains more clout within Giulianelli’s organization.  But it’s not until later in the film, when Sacchi has him tailed that results in a nerve-racking shootout between himself and Piero that really amps up the tension.  This is easily one of the highlights but, instead of following through, Prosperi and his writers get caught up with some implausible detours, which rather harm an otherwise solid film.  It would have been nice to see the after-effects of Massimo’s risky undertakings, which is something directors Damiani, Castellari or maybe even Di Leo would have focused on; instead we get a shaky twist ending that is rather ineffectual and doesn’t really resolve anything. 

Ray Lovelock is a likable enough “hero” whose performance is very physically challenging, and thanks to the efforts of the Organizzione Acrobatica Cinematografica (OAC), he seems comfortable riding a motorcycle at high speeds.  Aside from some of the more outrageous scenes of carnage, he performs most of his own stunts and, according to Mike Malloy’s informative liner notes, this was made even more impressive since he was afraid of riding motorcycles at the start of his career after witnessing a nasty accident.

Never released in North America, MEET HIM AND DIE first turned up on Italian DVD in 2006 courtesy of Raro Video under its original title PRONTO AD UCCIDERE in a bare-bones full frame release, which didn’t even offer an English language option.  Then a few months later, New Entertainment out of Germany came along with a slightly improved edition with two versions, which at least had the option of English audio.  The German version was letterboxed at 1.78:1 and, because it was shorn of 5m50s, all of the missing scenes were inserted from the full frame version, which was also included on the disc as a separate extra; it was certainly a compromised release.  Other extras included the German Super-8 version (34m30s) entitled Ein MANN GREIFT ZUR WAFFE, a promo trailer, a useless still gallery, a brief essay on the film (in German only) and an alternate credit sequence, which was exactly the same other than a different title card.  The DVD also had a couple of isolated music tracks performed by Ray Lovelock including this film’s title song “I’m Startin’ Tomorrow”.

Raro Video USA decided to re-visit this film and their new Blu-Ray is a vast improvement from the aforementioned DVDs.  While it may not look as good as some of their Fernando Di Leo Blu-Ray collections, it has never looked as good as it does here.  Detail is relatively sharp, but some scenes do look a little digitally “manipulated” but, despite some of this trickery, it's still worth picking up.  The film has both English and Italian audio options with the added bonus of optional English subtitles and the only extra is a brief but informative interview with Mike Malloy, director of EUROCRIME! THE ITALIAN COP AND GANGSTER FILMS THAT RULED THE ‘70s (2012), where he reveals all sorts of interesting facts related to the film.  A nicely illustrated booklet is also included with an essay by Malloy that covers much of the same material as his interview and a bio on the OTHER Franco Prosperi, a rather unexpected blunder. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014


I first heard about this oddity in 1987 courtesy of Chas. Balun’s now legendary book The Gore Score and, although it measured an impressive “9 on the gore score”, his review wasn’t all that endearing, but the fact that it was Canadian and gory as hell, I had to see it.  I distinctly remember renting this on VHS and, to be quite honest, I was a little thrown off by the cover at first, which made it seem like some third-rate action flick.  Actually, it turned out to be a third-rate gore flick instead, but I have to admit, I was kinda impressed by the chutzpah of the entire production, even though it was ridiculously silly but, like Chas said, it was still “good for a few yuks”.  Well, thanks to Mr. Jesus Terán and his Slasher//Video, this unique SOV effort has arrived on DVD jam-packed with a number of interesting and entertaining extras.

For those that have never seen this, this plays out like a genuine documentary that follows the day-to-day activities on a low-budget film set with a particular emphasis on, you guessed it, the splatter F/X.  The film in question, if you wanna call it that, is a post-apocalyptic action flick about infected mutants battling a bunch of scantily clad and very ‘80s-styled amazons as they rip each other apart in a multitude of ways.  A scene from the film usually plays out first and then jumps back to “reality” to document how that particular effect was accomplished, while a very serious sounding narrator chronicles everything for us.  A cartoonish mascot named “Fang” (Paul Saunders) is also on hand to provide some comic relief as he drinks blood, eats fingers and drools over the half-naked amazons.

Admittedly not very good even by 1986 standards, the nostalgia factor is one of the biggest drawing cards here but, like most of these ‘80s SOV efforts, the story behind their creation is always more interesting and SPLATTER: ARCHITECTS OF FEAR is certainly no exception.  Produced on a shoestring in Toronto, Canada by Bill Smith, an enterprising video distributor who essentially wanted to showcase a number of gory special effects “that had never been seen before”.  Mr. Smith and his team (including prolific Canadian TV director Peter Rowe) certainly go out of their way to deliver as much gore as possible (their production company is even called “Gory Philms”), but it’s all so gleefully naïve that, especially now, it’s far from offensive; it really is amazing that stuff like this actually caused a stir back in the ‘80s.  Released at the height of film censorship in Ontario, Canada thanks to the wonderful folks at the once powerful OFRB (Ontario Film Review Board) who, in the mid-‘80s, censored just about every horror title they got their hands on including DAY OF THE DEAD (1985), DEMONS (1986), BURIAL GROUND (1980), PIECES (1981), COMBAT SHOCK (1986) and many others.  So in order to avoid any possible issues, this was cheekily marketed as an “educational video”, which enabled them to get a PG rating even though it features some risqué nudity (courtesy of some local strippers) and tons of gore.  Of course, once the complaints came rolling in, the OFRB tried to retract the rating, but to avail.  Amazing stuff.

In keeping with the spirit of the film, the disc features a fun, easy-going, but fact-filled commentary track with Bill Smith, “Cannibal Cam” and Jesus Terán as well as an on-camera interview with Mr. Smith that covers much of the same stuff.  Paul Zamarelli of also contributes an on-camera review of the film and the standard, but still welcome, photo and trailer galleries are also included.  You can order it here.

Slasher//Video’s next release will be L. Scott Castillo Jr.’s SATAN’S BLADE (1984), a pretty much forgotten, low-budget slasher with supernatural overtones. This will be their first Blu-Ray, which will be limited to 1000 copies and it should see release sometime this summer. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


Welcome once again to the long, lost world of VHS tapes.  For this fifth installment, it’s my pleasure to welcome on board Mr. Steve Fenton, the incredibly prolific writer, publisher and all-around good guy who, after a rather long sabbatical, has been keeping busy writing once gain.  Keep your eyes peeled for his work in the latest issues of Cinema Sewer, Weng’s Chop and the newly resurrected Monster International.  So, let’s globetrot a little and travel to both Venezuela and Greece as he checks out Roberto B. Montero’s sleazy 1973 effort The SEWER RATS.

Mitchell, as Gordon: “There’s an old rule among thieves, Dick: ‘Never rob one another.’ Or didn’t ya know that, wise-guy?!”

So far as I can deduce, THE SEWER RATS never secured any sort of Canadian or US theatrical release — if it ever did, it would have to be only at the sleaziest of fleapit urban grindhouses, probably at the bottom of discount “3-for-1” multi-bills — but under that rather catchy Anglo export title, back in the ’80s this was released in English-dubbed, Spanish-subbed form onto grey-market (“bootleg”) Venezuelan VHS cassette, which was alternately titled in Spanish as UNA MUJER PARA SIETE MACHOS (loosely translated, “A Woman for Seven Tough Guys”).*

Based on a story idea by star Richard Harrison, this exceedingly grubby and modest (okay, minor) offbeat crime melodrama was heavily influenced by Spaghetti Westerns; as might well be expected due to its two leading men and the time during which it was made (i.e., toward the tail-end of the SW craze, which lasted for a good decade at least, but by then was very much on its last legs). Both Harrison and Mitchell had long earned their bread and butter in the spaghetti west, so who can blame them for trying to milk the market for all it was worth; which by this time often wasn’t much, but you takes what you can get…

Perhaps not boding too well for the present film, the very first word heard coming out of Harrison’s mouth is “Shit!” Wearing an unflattering Andy Capp hat, he is first seen driving a psychedelic VW Beetle and spends the duration of the film limping about on a crutch (which sometimes serves double-duty as a defensive / offensive weapon). No sooner has his Bug conked-out at the side of a lonely rural dirt-track somewhere in the ass-end of beyond and he attempts to thumb a lift, than Harrison — whose typical onscreen characters were by this point in the actor’s career well used to such unexpected vicissitudes of fate — is forced to dodge an oncoming speeding truck. A short time later, his search for a mechanic leads him to a dilapidated huddle of wooden hovels resembling some alternate reality western ghost town. At the local saloon, Harrison learns that the big cheese in this motley cluster of (quote) “pigsty shacks” is Karl (Nino Casale) the very same guy who had recently tried turning him into roadkill, apparently for more than just cheap kicks. In this here no-horse town, not only does the surly, misanthropic Karl own the sole motorized vehicle to be had, but pretty well everything else besides; including all the available beer and whiskey, as well as even the only woman in the whole territory, namely Rita (the frequently semi-nude Dagmar Lassander [“You’re nuthin’ but a goddamn whore!”]). For all of Karl’s bastardly bluster however, the real top honcho is actually Gordon (Mitchell), who suspects that Harrison might be an undercover cop sent to case the joint in advance of a bust. Unbeknownst to most of the five other male residents of this outcast community, Gordon and Karl have been hoarding a sizeable fortune in gold excavated from a nearby mine by a crotchety old prospector. To protect their secret, the crooks have already murdered one intruder and buried him in the woods in a shallow grave. Having unflatteringly christened their game-legged unwanted guest “Cripple,” Gordon and Karl don’t take kindly to all Harrison’s officious snooping around. Both the gold and the corpse soon turn up missing (oxymoron alert!), prompting Gordon and Karl to begin covering their tracks by eliminating all the opposition. Big non-surprise here is that the guy from the grave was none other than Harrison’s brother Frank, who was murdered by the odious Karl.
While obviously shot entirely in Italy at Mitchell’s self-built-and-owned Cave Film Studios (seen in umpteen “Miles Deem”/Demofilo Fidani spagwests) THE SEWER RATS is laid in a generic, indeterminate geographical locale that could be just about anywhere. Disorientation is increased by the nondescript accents of voice actors used in the dubbing process (neither Harrison nor Mitchell bothered sticking around to post-synch their own lines). The usually dependable Franco Micalizzi’s score is bland and repetitive the same two-minute phrase is replayed ad nauseam and his work here falls well below the standard of his later energetic compositions for several key Umberto Lenzi crimeslimers.

When they’ve got nothing better to do which is often in this threadbare scenario locals get their jollies by tormenting a peeping tom / simpleton / deaf-mute / hunchbacked harmonica player nicknamed “Idiot” (crimeslime icon Luciano Rossi, with a pillow stuffed up the back of his jacket [!?]). You know you’re scraping the absolute barrel-bottom of human mean-spiritedness when typecast lowlife Luciano Rossi is playing a film’s most sympathetic character!

Just for a ‘subtle’ product placement, Lassander fends off a would-be rapist with a broken J&B bottle (“Get out, you goddamn pig!”), and enjoys exploiting all the volcanic sexual tension her proximity foments amongst the frustrated menfolk (“You’d sell yer mothers for a quick lay. Assholes!”). Although everybody else in town has got the uncontrollable hots for her (“It’s not my fault that men have a desire for me...”), it’s all Lassander can do just to attract Harrison’s attention, let alone get him to actually put the blocks to her. It takes several teasy glimpses of her thighs and a flash of her tits before we come to the distinct conclusion that it’s more than just Harrison’s leg that requires a crutch (“You some kinda queer?!”).

Most of the crimes depicted in THE SEWER RATS are of the ahemsexual variety. For instance, Rossi’s voyeurism and Casale’s extended abuse / rape of Lassander; which he ‘consummates’ while grunting like a hog after first slapping her senseless then ripping off her panties (hey, I don’t write ’em, I just report ’em, okay!). Other violence generally utilizes standard punch-up choreography which would still have been fresh in the two American stars’ memories from their western heydays. Other action involves a switchblade in the throat and a pitchfork to the midriff. Completely going against the usual grain for shootemups despite the SW comparison I made above, not one firearm is seen during the entire running time. The film ends as indifferently as it began, with Harrison killing-off the Mitchell and Casale characters, then casually driving away with the mortally wounded Lassander grudgingly in tow, like she’s unwanted baggage he’d gladly dump off by the roadside at his first opportunity.

Italo action fans could do quite a bit worse, but this one’s definitely only for those who are easily very easily amused. I suppose you can consider that some kind of recommendation, however backhanded it might sound. But it’s the best I can do, I’m afraid.

-Steve Fenton

*This very same English dubbed print subsequently turned up in Greece on PAL videotape courtesy of Sunrise Video, although this time with much better picture quality and Greek subtitles.