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Friday, May 23, 2014

CITTA VIOLENTA / VIOLENT CITY (aka THE FAMILY) (1970)

Spaghetti Westerns & action fare from the ‘60s & ‘70s built a following for Italian director Sergio Sollima (a box set is out from KOCH), but this one came with Hollywood players in the leads and earned a belated Stateside release in ‘73 as THE FAMILY. (It also had classy tech credits with Aldo Tonti lensing and an Ennio Morricone score.  Now, Blue Underground DVD has restored about ten minutes of missing footage from its initial cut using the original Italian track & English subtitles as needed.) The opening and closing scenes are striking action fare: two all but silent set pieces, a sharply organized car chase thru the narrow streets, alleys & stairways of St. Thomas (it’s BULLITT GOES TO THE TROPICS), and a stealth sniper attack on an exposed elevator for a climax. The problem is everything in-between.  Charles Bronson, in ridiculously fit shape, is the hitman on vacation with slinky lover Jill Ireland (his real life wife and a perfectly lousy actress), but once ashore, they wind up chased on those winding island roads. Turns out, it’s Bronson’s own guys who are targeting him.  The rest of film sees Bronson tracking everyone down and coming up with Telly Savalas, his own lawyer and even the lovely (and frequently naked) Ms. Ireland either on his tail or out to double-cross him. This should play reasonably well, but neither Sollima nor co-scripter Lina Wertmüller bother to play by any rules of narrative continuity. Nothing adds up.  Worse, the distinctive Wertmüller thud of sexual violence and general misogyny gets dealt once too often. (At one ludicrous point, forced sexual violence between the Bronsons gets interrupted by a live-action illustrated lecture from Charles B. on . . . forced physical violence.) Still, those opening & closing action scenes are intriguing enough to recommend more Sollima.

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