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October 25, 2022

The Great Kidnapping

great kidnapping.jpg

La polizia sta a guardare
Roberto Infascelli - 1973
Raro BD Regions ABC

If someone was completely unfamiliar with the Italian crime film genre known as poliziottesco, they could do worse than have The Great Kidnapping as an introduction. This particular stream of films reflected a period in Italy of political instability coupled with various crimes, some of which were carried out by political extremists on both ends of the spectrum. The main tropes of the genre are present with a determined police commissioner making an investigation that requires a few extra-legal steps and ruffling the bureaucracy. Also, there is at least one Hollywood star, usually an older actor, prominently billed regardless of the size of his role. At least car chase takes place within city limits.

The Italian title translates as "the police are watching" which is more accurate for this film. There are multiple kidnappings of the college age sons of wealthy businessmen. Enrico Maria Salerno plays the police commissioner investigating the kidnappings. He is convinced that the best was to stop the kidnappings is to not pay the ransom. Lee J. Cobb is the previous commissioner who tries to advise Salerno. Jean Sorel, usually seen in more action oriented roles, plays the prosecutor who seems to always get in the way due to the contradictory protocols of Italian law. Salerno sets out to prove that the kidnappings are related and are part of a greater scheme on behalf of an unidentified political group.

Unlike similarly themed films by Umberto Lenzi or Fernando Di Leo, The Great Kidnapping is relatively light in graphic violence. The knifing of a police informer is mostly obscured by the backs of the two killers with only the face of the victim visible. More surprising rather than shocking is the sight of Lee J. Cobb without a hairpiece, making him less immediately recognizable. While second billed with a pivotal role, Cobb does not have a lot of screen time. The film comes only with the Italian language track, with the absence of Cobb's familiar growl jarringly replaced with another actor's voice. The only supplement included is of "Tough Guy Film Expert" Mike Malloy discussing Lee J. Cobb's career with emphasis on his couple of Italian films. While the connections with other actors who would later appear in Italian crime films is of some interest, Malloy makes the mistake of conflating the House of Un-American Activities with Joseph McCarthy, who had nothing to do with the Hollywood blacklist.

The Great Kidnapping was one of only two films directed by Roberto Infascelli. Most of Infascelli's credits are as a producer with his best known films being the westerns starring Tony Anthony as "The Stranger". One other well known cast member is former Bond girl Luciana Paluzzi, appearing as the blackmailed step-mother of one of the kidnapping victims. The urgent theme music composed by Stelvio Cipriani sounded very familiar to me. As noted by someone in IMDb, Cipriani's score was recycled for What Have They Done to Your Daughters? the following year.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at October 25, 2022 07:31 AM