Category Archives: Fernando Di Leo

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.… Read more

The heist always goes wrong, part 2: reader picks and other favourite heist movies

ST 2My recent post The heist always goes wrong – ten of the best heist movies ever made, generated some great reader feedback. The best thing about the response was that it pointed me in the direction of a number heist films I hadn’t seen or that I need to revisit.

Based on your comments and the thoughts I’ve had on the subject since the original post, here are follow up list of other films that could be included in a best of heist films list (and my shameless editorialising regarding what I think about the merits of not of them).

Straight Time (1978)

A huge thanks to West Australian crime writer David Whish Wilson for alerting me to Straight Time, which I’d seen previously but forgotten. Dustin Hoffman plays a career criminal just out of prison, trying to stay on the right side of his ball breaking parole officer, masterfully played by one of my screen heroes, M. Emmet Walsh, and avoid the temptation of re-offending.

Straight Time is based on the book No Best So Fierce, by real life con Edward Bunker (who has a small role in the film). Everything about this film works, the script, the down at heel late seventies feel, the cast, which includes Theresa Russell, Gary Busey, Kathy Bates and Harry Dean Stanton.… Read more

Italian noir trilogy: Calibre 9, The Italian Connection, The Boss

Although Italian cinema has produced some fantastic crime films, it never really took to noir. The exceptions are three movies by little known director Fernando Di Leo, Milano Calibre 9 (Calibre 9), La Mala Ordina (The Italian Connection) and Il Boss (The Boss).

Connected more by similar themes and actors than plot, they nonetheless form a rough trilogy of films combining fast paced story telling and gritty violence with a highly political analysis of the changing nature of organised crime and the dissolution of the Italian working class.

The most overtly noir of the three films, Calibre 9 (1972) centres on low-level mafia foot soldier, Ugo Piazzo (Gastrone Mochin, a well known Italian comic actor at the time). Released after three years in jail, Ugo is braced by Rocco (Mario Adorf), a clownish but lethal mob associate working for a Milanese crime boss known as The Americano.

Still smarting from losing $300,000 several years earlier (a breath taking series of scenes in the film’s first few minutes), The Americano thinks Ugo took the money and stashed it away while he was in jail. So does everyone else, including the cops, his friends and his ambitious stripper girlfriend (Euro-crime regular, Barbara Bouchet).

Ugo denies the allegation.… Read more