If the titles Milano Calibro 9 (1972), Street Law (1974) and Napoli Violenta (1976) mean anything to you, then you might want to check out Mike Malloy’s new doc Eurocrime! The Italian Cop and Gangster Films That Ruled the ’70s (2012), which affectionately documents Italy’s decade-long love affair with the cop film genre. The film explores exactly why Italian directors suddenly started churning out this style of exploitation cinema and also what the public found so appealing about it.
The Italian film industry has always been prone to fads. The sword and sandal movies that came out in the shadow of Ben-Hur (1959), the perennially popular sex comedies and the Spaghetti westerns all had their time in the sun. By the early seventies, however, the Spaghetti western began running out of steam. Inspired by the success of American films such as The French Connection (1971), The Godfather (1972) and Dirty Harry (1971), Italian studios began to produce ‘poliziotteschi’, cop films which amped up the sex and violence and played fast and loose with storylines and especially originality.
Malloy’s Eurocrime! casts a fond eye over the genre via talking head interviews with some of the major actors of the age, including Franco Nero, Henry Silva, Richard Harrison and John Saxon. Anecdotes about the involvement of the Mafia in productions and the guerrilla-style of shooting schedules are plentiful. With only two available television channels, and even those only showing a couple of films a week, Italians who wanted to see movies had to go to the cinema. This created a rich and easily-exploited market for rehashed, slap-dash entertainment, which often quoted its American inspirations verbatim.
One criticism of that could plausibly be levelled at Eurocrime! is that given the sheer weight of numbers, no individual films really stand out. The clips used by Malloy are often short and used simply to illustrate a story, so if you’re not already an aficionado, there is no real compelling argument to sample a poliziotteschi. The sub-genre certainly ruled the Italian domestic film market, but unlike the Spaghetti westerns, they didn’t travel well – despite odd nods from fans like Quentin Tarantino.
However, for a niche market (perennially represented at Film4 FrightFest year-in, year-out), Eurocrime! will almost certainly hit all the right buttons. As a nostalgic look back to a bygone era of guerrilla filmmaking on the continent, this is undeniably an enjoyable way to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon.
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