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April 25, 2023

The New Godfathers

new godfathers.jpeg

I contrabbandieri di Santa Lucia
Alfonso Brescia - 1979
Raro Video

The English language title is misleading here, hopping on the trend of the time to evoke an enormously popular film released seven years earlier. Yes, there are some crime family bosses, but they are not the main focus of this film. The original title translates as "The Smugglers of Santa Lucia" which is not quite as attention grabbing.

There are a couple of what I would call the obligatory requirements of the Italian crime film. A car is wired to explode when the ignition is turned on. If you have seen more than one such film, you can anticipate when it happens. There is also the inclusion of a Hollywood star, either someone who is a supporting actor stateside or someone getting by with name recognition. Edmund Purdom, whose career as a romantic lead in the mid-1950s flickered briefly, showing up for a couple of scenes as a commissioner of an unnamed agency. As revealed by film historian Mike Malloy in his supplement documentary, the two big car chases, also tropes of the Italian crime film, were recycled from other films. At least now I know why in the second chase there are mismatched shots as gangsters pursue each other out of a real New York City onto a highway where there is no other traffic.

Malloy also puts The New Godfathers into the context of other films of the time. Made with lower budgets, these films took place in Naples, had greater time spent on melodramatic situations, and were subject to more limited distribution even within Italy. Gianni Garko plays the customs official who tries to make a deal with a Neapolitan businessman portrayed by Antonio Sabato, to look out for a ship carrying heroin. In exchange, Garko will allow the smuggling of cigarettes, a trade financed by Sabato, to have a temporary reprieve from law enforcement. Where the film is most interesting is in its presentation of the lower level criminals, especially a family of street level husband and wife hustlers who get by selling smuggled cigarettes. Director Brescia also tries to tie his story with documentary footage making connections between the countries involved in the illegal trade.

In addition to Mike Malloy's short documentary covering the making of the film, the new blu-ray also includes the U.S. release version of The New Godfathers. Essentially it is the same film, dubbed in English. The difference of approximately half a minute is the loss of a little joke. In the original Italian version, we see the director appearing as a befuddled man walking up and staring at a large poster for one of his earlier films, scratching his head and asking, "Who's Alfonso Brescia?".

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at April 25, 2023 06:30 AM