Saturday, May 31, 2014

Fire Down Below

All you need to know about FIRE DOWN BELOW is that Steven Seagal plays an undercover Environmental Protection Agency (!) agent who tries to stay under the radar by wearing a ponytail and a dazzling display of brightly colored Asian tunics and expensive leather coats. On the other hand, any film that co-stars Kris Kristofferson, Harry Dean Stanton, and Levon Helm cannot be ignored.

Seagal’s cover, which is busted about two minutes after he arrives in the small Kentucky town where FIRE DOWN BELOW takes place, is a carpenter doing God’s work for Reverend Goodall’s (Helm) church, fixing up the congregation’s houses for free. He’s really there to avenge the death of a friend and get some evidence against wealthy Orin Hanner (Kristofferson), who made $300 million by dumping toxic waste into the local mines.

All the backstory is awkwardly dispensed via flashbacks over the opening titles, which whiz through Seagal’s friendship with the dead agent (John Diehl from MIAMI VICE) and his assignment from boss Richard Masur (THE THING). Since I know director Felix Enriquez Alcala (THE GOOD WIFE) didn’t hire names like Diehl and Masur to work for three seconds, much of what he shot hit the cutting room floor (also confirmed by scenes in the trailer that are missing in the film).

Alcala, a television veteran helming his first feature, may have been right to dump the introduction and drop Seagal (and us) immediately into Kentucky, though the script by Jeb Stuart (DIE HARD) and Philip Morton (12:01) is muddled all the way through. Surprisingly, there’s precious little action in the first two acts, the big exception being an exciting chase between Seagal’s battered pickup and a Mack truck that doesn’t end well for the anonymous driver of the semi. Alcala kicks the action up a notch in the final reels, along with the prerequisite quips from the star, who seems relaxed and even charming.

Seagal, whose eccentricities were duplicated by his screen characters, incongruous as they may seem, befriends Harry Dean Stanton (REPO MAN) and romances pretty Marg Helgenberger (CSI: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION), so we’re on his side, as if we weren’t already. Another odd bit from the screenwriters is a subplot involving Helgenberger’s brother, played by Stephen Lang (AVATAR), which doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the story Alcala’s trying to tell.

FIRE DOWN BELOW is entertaining enough, but not a hit for Warner Brothers. In fact, it was effectively the end of Seagal’s career on the big screen. His next picture, THE PATRIOT, went directly to home video, which is where, with a few exceptions, he has toiled ever since.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Force: Five

Writer/director Robert Clouse and producer Fred Weintraub collaborated to make ENTER THE DRAGON, the first American martial arts film, more or less. They then spent the rest of their careers trying to recapture the magic of that global sensation.

Their most obvious attempt is FORCE: FIVE, which replaces Bruce Lee with the less charismatic karate champion Joe Lewis for a similar story of martial artists infiltrating an island stronghold to battle a madman. The plot is actually identical to that of KILL AND KILL AGAIN, which was also released in 1981. Making the parallel to ENTER THE DRAGON more obvious, however, is the casting of Korean martial artist Master Bong Soo Han as the colorful villain, the same part he portrayed so memorably in KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE's parody of ENTER THE DRAGON.

Lewis’ career as a leading man effectively began with the disappointing JAGUAR LIVES and ended with FORCE: FIVE. He was fine in the action scenes, but limp as an actor, lacking even the charisma of a Chuck Norris or a James Ryan. Lewis heads the ensemble as Jim Martin, an international mercenary who’s indirectly hired by a U.S. senator to rescue his daughter Cindy (Amanda Wyss, later big in ‘80s teen comedies like FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH and BETTER OFF DEAD), who has joined the religious cult of Reverend Rhee (Han).

Rhee’s base is a holy temple, where only those robe-wearing disciples who are deemed ready to move up to the next rung on the spiritual ladder are invited to visit. In actuality, none are ever seen again, as Rhee has them sign over to him all their worldly possessions—including trust funds—before leading them into his basement labyrinth where they’re gored by a vicious bull!

Putting together a crack team of five specialists, including gorgeous kung fu kicker Laurie (Pam Huntington, then the “Charlie” girl in TV commercials), Billy Ortega (professional fighter Benny “The Jet” Urquidez), Lockjaw (Sonny Barnes), and Australian Ezekiel (Norton), Jim infiltrates Rhee’s private island sanctuary, where he discovers the allegedly peaceful minister’s drug smuggling operation.

Clearly, there’s a lot of silliness in Clouse’s film, but it’s a lot of fun and features plenty of cracklin’ chopsocky action. Actual martial arts stars like Lewis, Norton, and Urquidez may not be the world’s greatest thespians, but Clouse uses them wisely, and if you aren’t annoyed by the many blatant similarities to ENTER THE DRAGON (including a hand-to-hand climax in a smoke-filled basement that’s ripped from ENTER’s famous mirrored room sequence), you should find FORCE: FIVE to be a dandy time.

American Cinema, which produced and distributed the Chuck Norris vehicles A FORCE OF ONE and THE OCTAGON, did the same with FORCE: FIVE. Stephen J. Cannell and Frank Lupo, creators of THE A-TEAM, must have seen it. Not only was their hit show about a group of mercenaries that traveled to fight evil, but one of them was a wacky helicopter pilot whom the team often had to break out of jail, just as Martin’s team does with wacky chopper pilot Willard (Ron Hayden).

Monday, May 26, 2014

Expect No Mercy

Billy Blanks and Jalal Merhi team on-screen for the third time (after TC-2000 and TALONS OF THE EAGLE), but they sure ain’t Gibson and Glover.

If you’re wondering what to expect from EXPECT NO MERCY, it stars Blanks and Merhi, it’s Canadian, and the plot revolves around virtual reality. You’re welcome—now you can move on to something else. But since I’m still here and have already subjected myself to the merciless inanity of EXPECT NO MERCY, I may as well continue.

Justin (Blanks) and Eric (producer/star Merhi) are government agents sent inside the Virtual Arts Academy run by Warbeck (TV Tarzan Wolf Larson, looking like Shaun Cassidy), who seems more cult leader than martial arts instructor. To compress twenty years worth of experience into a two-year program, Warbeck uses virtual reality to train his students. Instead of facing off against real opponents, they don headgear and “fight” ninja, samurai, and…clowns? It isn’t explained how or why this could possibly work, but Vicki (Laurie Holden, now a regular on THE WALKING DEAD), who seems to be the creator of the software, does a good job selling the premise, mainly with her smile.

But the VR angle isn’t why the agents are undercover. Warbeck also heads an assassination ring using some of his students as hitmen. His latest target is a government witness named Goldberg (Sam Moses), whom millionaire Bromfield (‘50s leading man Halsey, an old hat at this sort of nonsense) has hired Warbeck to kill. Sketchy plotting has Warbeck’s men kidnapping Vicki (on the good guys’ side) after their attack on Goldberg fails and luring Justin and Eric back to the academy so Warbeck can…blow it up? Why?

Merhi crony J. Stephen Maunder (TIGERS CLAWS II and III) wrote the screenplay, which is very light on story, but heavy on fighting, which is fine for this type of film. Unfortunately, the acting is horrible (Holden is okay though) and the R-rated action scenes shot without any perceptible style or grace. Worse are the visual effects, which need to be a lot better than this. It doesn’t appear as though Maunder, director Zale Dalen, Merhi, or anyone else involved had any idea how virtual reality works, and Dalen’s staging of the VR scenes is patently absurd, to be kind.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

In Search Of Historic Jesus

Sunn Classics made a ton of money in the 1970s by producing and distributing cheaply made dramas and “documentaries” aimed at a family audience. By jumping on fads like UFOs and Bigfoot, four-walling the pictures in small-town theaters, and drenching each market’s airwaves with urgent advertising aimed at the lowest common denominator, the Sunn Classics team were as much conmen as they were filmmakers.

Based in Park City, Utah, Sunn Classics produced and distributed big hits, such as THE LINCOLN CONSPIRACY (which posited that, among other things, John Wilkes Booth’s death was faked by anti-Reconstruction government forces) and IN SEARCH OF NOAH’S ARK. Certainly it was that movie’s success and the then-trendy Shroud of Turin controversy that spurred the production of 1980's IN SEARCH OF HISTORIC JESUS, a corny, cheap-looking laugh riot that nonetheless earned big box office.

John Rubinstein (CRAZY LIKE A FOX) portrays Jesus wearing a comically fake beard, who looks to a cloudy blue sky to receive marching orders from God (voiced by Peter Mark Richman!). He wanders about, placing his hands on the faces of lepers (wearing atrocious makeup), which makes their faces glow with cartoon animation. He calls for the resurrected Lazarus, who emerges from a cave looking fresh as the morning dew. He walks on water and makes storms go away just by placing his palms together. After his crucifixion, he appears to his disciples in an animated starburst like a sitcom genie.

Brad Crandall, whose deep voice is instantly recognizable as the narrator of the studio’s trailers and films, hosts this “documentary” with pomposity, dressed alternately in a three-piece suit or V-neck sweater and showing off impressions of the Shroud of Turin in his wood-paneled library. His “evidence” consists of passing off gospel and random musings as fact. One “expert” claims Jesus’ corpse released a burst of radiation to scorch the Shroud. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls by a goatherder in 1947 is re-enacted as truth without explaining why we should believe their authenticity.

Sunn Classics snared some recognizable character actors for HISTORIC JESUS, including John Anderson, Walter Brooke, David Opatoshu, Morgan Brittany, Anthony DeLongis, Lawrence Dobkin, Al Ruscio, Britt Leach, and Stanley Kamel. If you need any convincing that Sunn Classics is full of bull, watch no further than the scene in which Crandall visits an astronomer named Robert McLean at his observatory to get his theories on the Star of Bethlehem. “McLean” is played by actor H.M. Wynant.

Friday, May 23, 2014


Who can resist a Lynda Carter slasher movie? Unfortunately, HOTLINE was made for CBS in 1982, which eliminates any chance of nudity or bloody violence (even if the writer’s last name is Peckinpah—David Peckinpah, Bloody Sam’s nephew). It does contain other standard elements of the genre, such as a shower scene (I reiterate—no boobs), killer POV shots, and several guys acting creepy for no other reason than to be red herrings.

Less believable than anything else is the former Wonder Woman as an artist, a student, a bartender, and a telephone counselor working a crisis hotline for psychiatrist Justin Price (Granville Van Dusen, probably the busiest 1970s television leading man whom nobody has heard of). She also drives a cool vintage convertible and lives in a lavish beach house, so bartending four nights a week must pay great (she says she’s house-sitting for someone, but Peckinpah and director Jameson fail to elaborate).

Carter’s fab Brianne (pronounced “Brian”—who knew?) starts getting weird phone calls at work from a whispering maniac calling himself “the Barber” who may be a serial killer with victims dating back twelve years. Justin seems sketchy to us, but not to Brianne, who strikes up a romance with him.

Two other suspects are Tom Hunter (S.W.A.T.'s Steve Forrest), an Oscar-winning cowboy star, and Kyle Durham (Monte Markham), who used to be Tom’s stunt double until suffering a crippling injury. The two men are supposed to be best friends, but they clearly hate one another, which may or may not be part of the mystery.

There’s nothing particularly special about HOTLINE, except that it gives Carter a chance to play sleuth, stalkee, and Final Girl opposite what turns out to be a really weird (but unsurprising) killer. She’s up to the task, even if the simple script and routine direction aren’t.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Rainmaker

An enjoyable adaptation of John Grisham’s novel THE RAINMAKER, this crackling legal thriller boasts an excellent supporting cast, assured direction by THE GODFATHER’s Francis Ford Coppola, and a nice sense of humor. Coppola also wrote the screenplay and packs a lot of twists and turns into its 135-minute running time by ditching a few minor characters and subplots.

Matt Damon, who filmed this just before GOOD WILL HUNTING was released, plays young attorney Rudy Baylor as a moral man—one who knows all the lawyer jokes and wants to clear the profession’s good name—and one who’s a little nervous to be playing with the big boys, even though they aren’t as big as he thinks they are.

Rudy’s first job out of law school is with a shady Memphis law firm owned by Bruiser Stone (Mickey Rourke), who’s under indictment on racketeering charges. Bruiser teams him with the middle-aged Deck Shifflet (Danny DeVito in the film’s most enjoyable performance), a slick talker who hasn’t passed the bar exam after six tries, but doesn’t let that stop him from chasing ambulances.

Rudy’s case is a lawsuit against an insurance company on behalf of a decent but poor family whose son is dying of leukemia, but whose life may have been saved if the company had made good his claim. Damon and DeVito are likable enough to root for to begin with, but Coppola gives the duo a strong villain to compete with: Jon Voight (COMING HOME) in a delightful turn as Leo Drummond, a slick lawyer defending the insurance company—a guy who not only swims with sharks, but loves the challenge and the danger of it.

Claire Danes (HOMELAND) co-stars as a sweet teenager being abused by her softball-player husband. She and Damon make a nice couple, but this violent subplot adds a tinge of ugliness to what is otherwise a slick old-fashioned courtroom drama. It’s fun to spot the familiar faces ham it up in support: Dean Stockwell, Danny Glover, Virginia Madsen, Mary Kay Place, Red West, Teresa Wright, Randy Travis, Sonny Shroyer, and Roy Scheider.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Pier 5, Havana

Edward L. Cahn was known for cranking out features quickly, but he and producer/writer Robert E. Kent may have challenged some landspeed records getting PIER 5, HAVANA into theaters so quickly after Bautista’s fall from grace in Cuba. Castro gained control of the Cuban government in January 1959. Cahn began shooting Kent’s script the following month, and PIER 5 was in theaters before the end of the year.

Missing since the Cuban revolution began is Hank Miller, an alcoholic airplane mechanic and best friend of Steve Daggett (Cameron Mitchell), who flies from Miami to Havana to find him. He immediately suspects aristocrat Fernando Ricardo (Eduardo Noriega), who shows more than just a friendly attraction toward Miller’s estranged wife Monica (Allison Hayes, just off ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN).

Police lieutenant Garcia (Michael Granger) seems disinterested in the case, so Daggett investigates on his own and discovers a boatmaker named Schluss (Otto Waldis) who appears involved in a plot to bomb Havana and recapture the Cuban government for Bautista’s forces. But how does Miller’s disappearance tie into it?

More plot-heavy than Cahn’s other B-movies for United Artists, PIER 5 is less a political thriller than a private-eye movie with Mitchell’s air freight owner narrating in classic style. Cam and Cahn made three films together in less than two years (also THREE CAME TO KILL and INSIDE THE MAFIA), and it appears as though Cahn was a good influence on his star, who had a tendency to ham it up when not directed with a firm hand. Hayes does nice work as a woman torn between the husband she likes and the man she loves (Daggett).

Seven Cahn films were released in 1959—not an unusual pace for him, and one wonders whether it contributed to his 1963 death at age 64.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Tarzan Goes To India

Former stuntman Jock Mahoney, who played western hero Yancy Derringer on television and main heavy Coy Banton opposite Gordon Scott in TARZAN THE MAGNIFICENT, stepped into Scott’s loincloth for this exciting adventure shot in India. Also back to keep some semblance of continuity were producer Sy Weintraub and director John Guillermin (KING KONG), who had earlier helmed TARZAN’S GREATEST ADVENTURE.

Mahoney is leaner, more agile, and—at age 42—older than earlier screen Tarzans. I think he’s miscast as the Jungle King, but his natural charm and athleticism, as well as the stellar work turned in by Guillermin and the picturesque locations, more than balance it out. Jocko gets on our good side right after the credits by leaping out of a biplane into a lake—what an entrance! A Tarzan who can do his own stunts is a real boon to the movie, although shots of Mahoney fighting a stuffed leopard look just as phony as they did in 1932.

There is a human villain—Leo Gordon’s Bryce, a sadistic engineer who could care less about the lives of humans and animals—but it’s nice to have a plot based around a rescue, rather than crime. And a rescue of animals too, as Tarzan is summoned from Africa to rescue three hundred elephants trapped in a valley that will soon be flooded by the new dam being built by O’Hara (Mark Dana) and Bryce.

As mentioned above, Mahoney is lither than previous Tarzans, which takes getting used to. On the other hand, his physical dexterity allowed Guillermin to put him right into the action, so when you see Tarzan dodging a rogue elephant or getting caught in a noose trap, you can see it’s Mahoney. Weintraub’s decision to shoot completely on location on rather large sets packed with hundreds of extras (and elephants) gives the film a visual scale that makes every frame a joy to look at. Mahoney played Tarzan only twice and also guest-starred in two episodes of Ron Ely’s TARZAN TV series.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Border Incident

The wonderful Ricardo Montalban—then 28 years old and not yet a star, certainly not the household name of TV’s FANTASY ISLAND and Chrysler commercials—commands the big screen as the leading man of BORDER INCIDENT, filmed and released by MGM in 1949.

This hard-hitting procedural was the fourth collaboration (if you include THEY WALKED BY NIGHT, which gives Alfred Werker the directing credit, but Mann worked on it) between director Anthony Mann, screenwriter John Higgins, and the great cinematographer John Alton, a master at realistic lighting for black-and-white film. Their previous films, T-MEN and RAW DEAL (as well as THEY WALKED BY NIGHT), are terrific crime dramas, tackling then-contemporary issues with a toughness and grit unusual for the 1940s, and BORDER INCIDENT deserves to be mentioned in the same breath with them.

BORDER INCIDENT delves into the illegal immigration of Mexicans across the American border—a hot-button issue to this day. In keeping with their earlier films, Mann and Alton tell Higgins’ story in semi-documentary style that gives it the immediacy of a newsreel and add edge-of-the-seat suspense for extra impact in scenes involving quicksand, a deadly tractor, and a stalking on a water tower. Anchoring the film are Latin lover Montalban and musical-comedy star George Murphy (THIS IS THE ARMY) as border patrol agents just doing a job—a dangerous job.

Mexican federale Pablo Rodriguez (Montalban) goes undercover as a bracero—a manual laborer—to crack the human smuggling ring from the inside. Meanwhile, his partner, American agent Jack Bearnes (Murphy), poses as a crook with counterfeit work permits to sell. Both paths lead to cruel California rancher Parkson (Howard da Silva) and his equally nasty foreman Amboy (Charles McGraw), both of whom use ethnic slurs to cow their meek braceros and could care less about murdering them if it means avoiding capture.

Adding to the realism is the casting of real Mexicans in Mexican roles, one exception being Arnold Moss (Kodos the Executioner in STAR TREK’s “Conscience of the King”), who is quite believable as a baddie. The sadistic violence, including Bearnes’ torture by car battery and especially the heartbreaking murder by tractor mentioned above, must have certainly raised eyebrows in 1949, but for Mann to have flinched at showing the brutality of the human trafficking world would have diluted the power of BORDER INCIDENT.

Both Montalban and Murphy are up to their unconventional casting and make a nice team, even though they spend most of the film apart. Murphy retired from acting just a few years later to go into politics, including six years as a U.S. Senator from California. Montalban, of course, became one of Hollywood’s most popular leading men, hitting his height as FANTASY ISLAND’s mysterious Mr. Rourke and as Captain Kirk’s vengeful rival in STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Rage (1995)

In terms of pure action, RAGE stacks up well next to many other films in its genre, even those made on (literally) one hundred times its budget.

Under the steady hand of director Joseph Merhi, who also produced the film and owned the studio, PM Entertainment, with his partner Richard Pepin, and stunt coordinator Spiro Razatos (THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2), RAGE bumps from one incredibly energetic and well-staged action sequence to the next.

Chases, fights, crashes, explosions, and stunts galore, RAGE not only offers a lot of excitement, but also mystery—as in, how did they pull that off without anyone getting killed?

In the logic department, well, the screenplay by PM regulars Jacobsen Hart (EXECUTIVE TARGET) and Joseph John Barmettler (SKYSCRAPER) falls a little short, but not any further than other (better) action movies. It’s the kind of movie where participants in a gunfight stand in the open with no effort to take cover, and the “medical experiments” that enable the hero to perform impossible physical feats are never fully explained. It’s likely Merhi figured you’d be too breathless from the action to think, and he was probably right.

British-born kickboxer Gary Daniels—a busy direct-to-video leading man in the 1990s—stars as Alex Gainer, a regular Joe and second grade teacher with a beautiful wife (Fiona Hutchison), a lovely suburban house, and a cute daughter. He also becomes a fugitive from justice after he’s kidnapped by corrupt government agents and a fat redneck cop who use him to test a new serum intended to breed a new line of super-soldiers with super-strength and super-stamina.

Unfortunately, the serum has serious side effects. One is that it kills its subject in just a few days. Another is that it sometimes pops its subject into berserker mode, which is what happens as Alex makes his escape, killing a lot of his captors and instigating a police manhunt.

Where RAGE stretches its muscles more than it has to is in its portrayal of the media. Alex isn’t just targeted by the la, but also yellow journalists who favor style over substance and sound bites over truth and fairness. While most audiences will be fixated on Gary Daniels kicking people and cars leaping through fireballs, the true heart of RAGE is Harry Johansen, played sensitively by familiar character actor Kenneth Tigar. Harry is a veteran television reporter whose old-fashioned style and sense of fairness has caused him to be considered a laughing-stock by his blow-dried colleagues.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Vengeance Is Mine (1978) aka Death Force aka Fighting Mad

Big James Iglehart, who had previously starred in SAVAGE! and BAMBOO GODS AND IRON MEN, wrapped up his shortlived exploitation-film career with yet another cheap action movie shot in the Philippines titled, originally, VENGEANCE IS MINE.

Well, cheap it is, yet it also appears to be one of Cirio Santiago’s most accomplished directing achievements. Clocking in at a whopping 110 minutes, VENGEANCE IS MINE offers several crowd-pleasing action sequences, cheesy gore, a coherent (if simple) plot, a good score by Jaime Mendoza-Nava, and a memorable shock ending that was cut from some earlier theatrical and video releases. It’s too long with a middle section that relies on repetitive violence to kill time, and VENGEANCE IS MINE would play much better if these scenes had been trimmed

Iglehart, Carmen Argenziano (THE HOT BOX), and Leon Isaac Kennedy (PENITENTIARY) are Vietnam vets planning to take over Los Angeles using the moolah they made smuggling overseas. Kennedy, who’s still in love with Iglehart’s wife (Jayne Kennedy, who was starring on THE NFL TODAY while this was in theaters; I can’t resist imagining Brent Musberger and Jimmy the Greek queuing up for a matinee of this), and Argenziano doublecross their old pal by slicing him and dumping him into the Pacific Ocean.

He washes up on a deserted island manned only by two Japanese soldiers (one of whom is Santiago repertory player Joe Mari Avellana with a Mifune topknot) who don’t know about the surrender in 1945. While Avellana trains Iglehart to be a samurai, Kennedy and Argenziano run roughshod over the L.A. rackets. Santiago and his editors crosscut between Iglehart’s more progressive learning and his former friends shooting random hoods in L.A. This stuff goes on forever and should have been shortened; however, it does provide a steady stream of squib work for the bloodthirsty viewer.

Eventually, Iglehart makes it home, where he finds gorgeous wife Jayne with bruises, courtesy of her real-life husband Leon, and goes to town with his twin swords, slicing, dicing, and creating hasty chores for the special effects crew in charge of building fake-looking headless corpses. Once James gets down to brass tacks and starts eliminating the anonymous hoods assigned to protect Argenziano and Kennedy, that’s when VENGEANCE IS MINE really starts cooking.

Let’s give Santiago his due in wanting to make a revenge movie with more meat to it than his usual fare. He isn’t entirely up to it—the stuff he probably considered arty just isn’t relevant to a tight action picture—but he still managed to complete one of his richer pictures. Shot on location with Manila posing as L.A., though a Century 21 sign in the background of one shot leads me to believe someone may have directed some reshoots in California. Film saw theatrical action stateside as DEATH FORCE and later as FIGHTING MAD with ads playing up Jayne Kennedy’s (clothed) layout in Playboy.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Italian Connection

Henry Silva (SHARKY’S MACHINE) and Woody Strode (SPARTACUS) are impressively badass as Mafia hitmen Dave and Frank, respectively, who are sent from the New York office (ludicrously personified by effete Irishman Cyril Cusack) to Milan to rub out a small-time pimp.

The real star, however, is Mario Adorf, who plays said pimp, Luca Canali, as a lovable teddy bear with an estranged wife (HERCULES’ Sylva Koscina) he still loves and a little daughter he adores.

Also after Luca is Milan crime boss Don Vito Tressoldi (THUNDERBALL villain Adolfo Celi), and the hell of it is that Luca has no idea why everyone wants to kill him. He smashes through the city like a barrel-chested bull in a china shop, and Adorf bring enough intensity to the role to almost make you forget that the charismatic Silva and Strode vanish from the movie for a long stretch in the middle.

An excellent chase scene that caps the second act and a pretty good junkyard shootout at the end constitute the bulk of the action. Armando Trovajoli’s pumping score adds much to director Fernando DiLeo’s atmosphere and deft navigation of the crime plot.

THE ITALIAN CONNECTION was probably its best-known title during its original U.S. release by AIP, but it also been seen, particularly on home video, as MANHUNT, MANHUNT IN MILAN, HIT MEN, HIRED TO KILL, BLACK KINGPIN (playing up Strode on the video box), MANHUNT IN THE CITY, and in its original language as LA MALA ORDINA.