Celluloid Apocalypse’s mini-festival of seventies Italian crime cinema

The Italian Connection poster 2The Melbourne based purveyor of boutique VHS, Celluloid Apocalypse, is about to unleash upon the world its special VHS edition of Mike Malloy’s excellent documentary, Eurocrime! The Italian Cop and Gangster Movies that Ruled the 70s. The documentary is a fascinating examination of the wave of Italian ‘poliziotteschi’ films that reached the height of its popularity in the mid-1970s, in response to the success of films like The French Connection (1971), The Godfather (1972) and the Dirty Harry films.

The films are fast past paced, ultra violent, ultra hard boiled and, at first glance, appear to yet another in the cycle of Italian rip-offs of successful American crime films, in much the same was as Spaghetti Westerns riffed off the popularity of the US Western. But while these films were cheaply made and quickly produced, for the most part they are far more interesting and sophisticated than simple knock offs.

While they utilised, and sometimes just plain copied, the standard tropes of seventies Hollywood crime film, they also interrogated uniquely Italian issues, including political dominance of organised crime, the wave of politically inspired terrorism characterised the country’s so-called ‘years of lead’, and the changing nature of society and gender relations in Italy. Another fascinating aspect is the fact that in addition to their Italian stars, many of these films boast performances by well known American and British actors who took the roles after their domestic film careers had began to decline.

To mark the release of its VHS edition of Eurocrime! Cinema Apocalypse is organising a mini festival of poliziotteschi cinema over three Wednesday nights in June. There will be a showing of Eurocrime! on June 15, along with a video introduction by Mike Malloy. On Wednesday 22nd June, Umberto Lenzi’s Violent Naples (1976) will play, with a special introduction by genre film specialist, Kier-La Janisse.

The third in the series, Fernando Di Leo’s 1972 classic, The Italian Connection, will show on Wednesday, June 29, and be proceeded by a special introduction by me. The Italian Connection is one of my favourite Italian crime films and possibly the best crime noir made in Italy.

The Italian Connection deals with a pimp who has been blamed for a shipment of heroin that has disappeared en route from Milan to New York. Two hit men, David (Henry Silva) and Frank (Woody Strode), are dispatched to kill the pimp but he proves far more cunning than anyone gives him credit for. In addition to Silva and Strode, the film boasts a cast including Mario Adorf, Adolfo Celi, Luciana Paluzzi and Cyril Cusack.

Details for the screenings can be found on Facebook here. All three events kick of at 7pm, at Loop Bar, 23 Meyers Place in the CBD. Seats are free but limited, so you’ll need to arrive early to make sure you don’t miss out.

Hope to see you there.

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