The following review for Paolo Lombardo’s DAGLI ARCHIVI DELLA POLIZIA CRIMINALE (1975) was originally written for Vendetta Violenta, a long-shelved book on Italian crime films written by Steve Fenton (who also penned FAB Press’ long out-of-print Anticristo book) and myself, which unfortunately will probably never see the light of day. This was one of my many contributions.
Edmond Purdom stars as Teddy Webb, a hotshot special agent whose most recent assignment involves the whereabouts of an elusive microfilm, which contains incriminating evidence against a powerful mob led by “Joe il Maltese”. Once he retrieves this clichéd piece of evidence, he promptly delivers it to Inspector Vernon (Enzo Fiermonte), his superior at some mysterious and, rather threadbare, government bureau. Following their meeting, Vernon’s double-crossing assistant Larsen (André Montchal) promptly steals the microfilm and takes a flight to Tunis, but once Vernon gets wind of this, he seeks assistance from the “Criminal Investigations Department” and they assign their two best men – Larry Brenton and Peter Wilcox (muscle stars Alan Steel and Gordon Mitchell, respectively) – to reclaim the wayward microfilm. Mr. Webb is also dispatched to Tunis under the guise of Roger Morrison as further double-crosses ensue much to the confusion of everyone involved… viewer included.
Far from a typical poliziesco, this rather odd effort has more in common with the many spy films that came out of Italy in the ‘60s and, even though it features a number of underworld figures, the espionage angle and globetrotting narrative is much closer to a low-end James Bond rip-off than a mid-‘70s Italian crime flick. Spy stuff such as this was definitely not the craze by 1975, which may explain the patchwork of mismatched footage from some older, possibly unfinished film. The overly ambitious narrative is also a hilariously jumbled mess with every character trying to deceive one another every few minutes, so don’t even try to keep up with all the duplicitous behavior. At times it actually resembles a Turkish non-production in terms of its almost comic book approach to the dated material, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing either for anyone into el cheapo cinema. Also worth mentioning is the utterly bizarre and completely arbitrary main title theme “Mister Powder Man” which adds another bizarre layer on top of an already strange film. Oddly enough, the rest of Elvio Monti’s rather quirky score consists of mostly discordant cues that seem more appropriate in a giallo instead of something like this. Ultimately, it’s not surprising that DAGLI ARCHIVI DELLA POLIZIA CRIMINALE has remained so obscure, most casual viewers won’t find much entertainment in this slapdash production; even ex-peplum stars Steel and Mitchell (who’s onscreen for all of two minutes) don’t possess the combined muscle to rescue us from eventual tedium.
Director Paolo Lombardo is a bit of an enigma, even within the Italian exploitation film world. His credits are sporadic to say the least and, along with this film, his only other directing effort is the ultra low-budget gothic horror L’AMANTE DEL DEMONIO (1972 – released on US DVD courtesy of MYA as LUCIFERA - DEMON LOVER) with Edmund Purdom and Rosalba Neri. Some of his other work includes screenplay credits (along with Antonio Walter, Gian Battista Mussetto and Dino Tavella) on the The EMBALMER (1965), another cheaply produced but entertaining Italian horror film as well as a couple of spaghetti westerns; Sergio Bergonzelli’s EL CISCO (1966) and Alfonso Brescia’s underrated I GIORNI DELLA VIOLENZA (1967) with Peter Lee Lawrence.
DAGLI ARCHIVI DELLA POLIZIA CRIMINALE was previously available on an incredibly hard-to-find Italian videotape from Poker Video, a small label that seemed to specialize in obscure items such as this. The print itself was very worn and heavily cropped (on all four sides, no less) and, since most copies were usually bootlegged and several generations removed from the original, it was next to impossible to appreciate on any level. Released in Italy by Alan Young Pictures in the latter part of 2005, this once ultra-obscure film now boasts excellent resolution and crystal clear Dolby Digital sound to help better appreciate the eccentric vocals of “Mister Powder Man”. Aside from optional Italian subtitles, this Italian language DVD has no other extras, which considering its obscurity is not surprising.
This was also released as part of the “Poliziottesco Italiano Box Set”, a 4-disc box from Alan Young Pictures, which also included Giuseppe Rosati’s FEAR IN THE CITY (1976), Michele Massimo Tarantini’s CRIMEBUSTERS (1979 - no English audio) and Stelvio Massi’s EMERGENCY SQUAD (1974). Although out-of-print, DAGLI ARCHIVI DELLA POLIZIA CRIMINALE is still available from a few market sellers on Amazon Italy here.