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May 20, 2014

Gang War in Milan


Milano rovente
Umberto Lenzi - 1973
Raro Video BD Region A

I have to admit that this may be the prettiest Umberto Lenzi movie I've seen, due in no small part to some very nice Blu-ray mastering that help emphasise the bold colors. The deep sea blue of Antonio Sabato's apartment, the light blue cityscape of Milan, the red railings in a subway station, and the pop art dresses worn by Marisa Mell and Carla Romanelli are part of the visual charm here. The other advantage of seeing this film in its new home video release is that it is probably more complete, with a running time of one-hundred minutes, four minutes more than what's listed in IMDb - and it's not hard to guess what might have been cut.

gang war in milan 1.jpg

A French gangster who specializes in the drug trade tries to move in on Sabato, a Sicilian who controls prostitution in Milan. Nothing is really made of it, but the rivals both operate out of clubs named after animals, The Scorpion and The Red Turtle. One of Sabato's girls is found dead in his club's swimming pool, incongruously with sea weed in her mouth. From there, the two gangs work to disrupt each other's businesses while Sabato and Philippe Leroy try to find ways to blackmail each other. Lenzi's not been one to shy away from violence with the prostitutes scarred on their faces and breasts by Leroy's thugs. These same guys kidnap Sabato's lieutenant, with electric shock treatment where it hurts the most.

There is one scene which begs for some cultural explanations. Sabato and this closest gang members are having dinner at a restaurant, the classic Italian kind with the red and white checked table cloths. They are eating some kind of meat on a skewer, what appears to me as some kind of regional dish, but what is it and from what region, I don't know. The gang gets together to sing what the accompanying booklet only describes as a "folk song". As happens too often, the song lyrics don't get subtitles, so I have no idea if this might be a Sicilian song or what the song might be about. What makes this particular scene of interest is that it is cross-cut with a scene of one of Leroy's guys getting killed in the restaurant bathroom. Explanation aside, this is one part of Gang War in Milan that makes the film of more than casual interest.

Lenzi has previously stated that Raoul Walsh is one of his favorite directors. While not played out in the same way as White Heat, Sabato's character is characterized as something of a mamma's boy, doting on his ailing mother who dreams of returning to Sicily. One can push the comparison with Walsh's films further with the men, especially Sabato and Leroy, using their hyper-masculine personas to hide the more sensitive aspects of their natures which are reserved for very private moments. (And am I the only one who would like to see Lenzi's earliest films like the female pirate movie, Queen of the Seas get some Blu-ray love?)

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at May 20, 2014 08:17 AM