Friday, August 1, 2014

Rosalba Neri Friday # 21 - TONY ARZENTA (BIG GUNS) 1973

    A really fine example of 70's Euro crime that features the great Alain Delon as a Mafia hit man out for revenge as he blasts a bloody swath through the underworld (along with various European cites) in this 1973 Italian/French co- production. The film neatly combines the Italian slam bang shooting way of doing things along the more restrained French film noir style and along with a very cold and coolly calculating Delon it also has a terrific line up of co-stars including Richard Conte and Anton Diffring along with Erika Blanc, Carla Gravina and Rosalba. Director Duccio Tessari sets up some really great car chases and the violent stylistic shoot-outs explode with frightening swiftness with each one of them being played out as an individual little movie with their own unique style.

    Alain Delon plays the title character who as loyal and highly regarded hit man for the mob feels that its the time to retire in order to spend more time with his family. Expressing his feelings to boss Nick Gusto (Richard Conte) that he's looking to make a clean break (always a hard thing to do with the organization) to which Gusto expresses his sympathy and promises to talk to the other bosses regarding Tony's proposed retirement. Naturally the other bosses including Han Grunwald (Anton Diffring from Hammer's THE MAN WHO COULD CHEAT DEATH) all agree that this is an impossible situation and order that Tony instead be eliminated. Gusto reluctantly agrees, but unfortunately the booby-trapped car intended for Tony explodes with his wife and child inside, which sets in motion his bloody vendetta.
    Delon was most famous at this point for his roles in the French crime films of Jean-Pierre Melville including LE SAMURAI, LE CERCLE ROUGE and UN FLIC. During the 70's and 80's he would occasionally appear in low budget films (as well as playing the captain in THE CONCORDE AIRPORT '79) and although by this time in his career he could probably play this type of role in his sleep he's quite good here and brings a great presence to the role.

    Although the plot very early sets this up as just a basic revenge story (and has been used in countless movies) thanks to some excellent character development and a mesmerizing performance by Delon (along with the above mentioned imaginality staged action sequences) it turns into a really excellent movie that  deserves a nice DVD or blu-ray release. Once Tony witnesses the death of his family there's a slow build-up to his retaliation as even though you know what he's going to do (as does he immediately) its fascinating to watch his stoic expressionless face as he attends the funeral of his family (where a priest warns" vengeance is best left to God"), visits his parents and as he quietly sits in his slowly decaying apartment.

   Once the vendetta starts we move from Paris to Milan and Copenhagen with Tony blasting a mobster on train which throws him partway through a window slamming him into signs and finally a bridge abutment and another shooting is punctuated by the bullet passing through the victims body and then exploding an aquarium behind him. Along the way there's several crash filled car chases (with one head on collision that leaves you wondering what happened to the stunt driver). Eventually he hooks up with a mobsters girlfriend (Carla Gravina from Tessari's other cool crime film THE VIOLENT FOUR) who suffers a violent beating trying to protect Tony's whereabouts. There seems to be a bit of romance developing, but with the overall pessimistic atmosphere looming over the proceeding's you know its not destined to be. One of this blogs other favorite actresses Erika Blanc shows up as a doomed prostitute who is set up as a decoy and dies spectacularly in a hail of machine gun bullets.

Dig that cool as heck 8-track player !

    For a long time Rosalba's role in this was a bit of a mystery to me. My first viewing was via a VHS which was picked up from a dealer at a Chiller Show back in the 90's and upon viewing it I found she was nowhere to be seen. A few years ago I found a budget DVD collection called Big Guns Crime Collection in which this was included and although a moderately nicer looking (and longer) print - still no Rosalba. Recently I finally managed to find the region 2 DVD and was rewarded with a very nice looking print and lo and behold Rosalba - in one scene lasting a grand total of about 50 seconds in which she plays the wife of the mobster Cutitta (who's later memorably blown away along with his aquarium). Wearing a black negligee she enters a room where her husband is on the phone, picks up their child and exits.
   However it must be noted she fares better then most of the other female cast members who are all either blown up, shot, beaten up and/or treated horribly by their male partners. Both her and Erika's presence here are bit of a head scratcher (although Erika does have a bit more screen time of the two) but it is pretty cool to see their names together in the opening credits.

    Photographed with a variety of over the shoulder pov's, mirror refections and thru windows with the camera many times focused on the opulent (and very 70's) decor with people set in the background it has a very different look then most other Italian/Euro crime films of the same period. However as often with this genre it does have what would seem to be at first glance to be an oddly lyrical & misplaced soundtrack by Gianni Ferrio (which has been issued on CD), but when listened to in context of he movie works well.
   Next up on Rosalba Neri Friday will be 1973's LA MUERTE INCIERTA in which José Ramón Larraz (VAMPYRES) directs her and Mary Maude (from THE HOUSE THAT SCREAMED) in a ghost story set in 1930's India.




  1. Sounds like a solid Eurocrime! Everything you’ve described makes me want to see it, although too bad for Rosalba’s minimum screen time here. I came across several Eurospys where she feels criminally underused. I also like seeing Erika Blanc, but I don’t think I’ve seen her in a “hail of machine gun bullets.” I’m real interested in LA MUERTE INCIERTA, too. Mary Maude was wicked but somehow likable in THE HOUSE THAT SCREAMED. I’ve been slowly exploring Larraz’s body of work, but I was not aware of LA MUERTE INCIERTA, yet.

    1. Yes, Rosalba never seems to fare very well in both Eurospy and spaghetti westerns. LA MUERTE is a pretty hard one to find (I got a copy off CG) as it only was released briefly on VHS in Spain (although I just noticed its on You Tube now). Its a very strange film - no gore or nudity (at least in the version I have - although I believe its uncut) but some really great atmosphere. I liked it but it has an odd low key feeling to it - especially when you consider Larraz's next film was VAMPYRES.

      I love THE HOUSE THAT SCREAMED. I think its one of the finest European horror movies ever and the cast is excellent. Your right, Mary Maude is somewhat likeable in it. I've always thought there was a bit of sadness in her character (even more so then the other girls) - its a shame she didn't have more film roles.

  2. Another one you have made me want to see! I *might* have that Big Guns collection - so it might already be in the video vault. Cheers!