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April 01, 2014

Meet Him and Die

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Pronto ad uccidere
Franco Prosperi - 1976
Raro Video BD Region A

I don't know if any heads will roll at Raro Video over this goof, but somebody wasn't paying attention. In his video introduction to Meet Him and Die, Eurocrime expert Mike Malloy makes a point of reminding viewers that the Franco Prosperi who directed this film is not the Franco Prosperi best known for directing the documentary Mondo Cane. Even in the perpetually mistake laden IMDb, it is noted that the documentarian was sometimes credited as Franco E. Prosperi, most likely to minimize confusion. And yet, in the booklet that comes with the disc is a biography of that other Franco Prosperi.

The Franco Prosperi for Meet Him and Die might not be known for the films he's directed, but among his conspicuous credits are a handful of collaborations with Mario Bava in the early Sixties, as an assistant director and/or screenwriter. Judging from the work here, Prosperi isn't the stylist like Bava, but there are a few stylish touches here, particularly a mirror shot of Ray Lovelock and Elke Sommer. The title, by the way, translates as "Ready to Kill", and most of the characters seem more than ready.

I saw this movie with the English language soundtrack. Keep in mind that most Italian movies were dubbed in post production during this time, so that the Italian voice you heard was not always the voice of the Italian actor on the screen. I chose the English track for the pleasure of hearing Martin Balsam speaking his own lines. And he sounds like he phoned them in, literally. Especially in the first few minutes, there is a metallic quality to his voice which indicates that Balsam did his dubbing at a different studio. At any rate, in this gig he took in between more high profile work in All the President's Men and Two-Minute Warning, we get to see Martin Balsam as an action star. Well, maybe not quite, but as a mob capo, he does a bit of shooting, and even takes a bullet in the shoulder. When one of the other characters suggests that Balsam get some medical attention, he responds, "The hell with doctors!". It's moments like that which may help explain Balsam's frequent trips to Italy in the Seventies, plus the ego boost of his name usually as one of the top billed stars.

There is a chase scene involving Ray Lovelock on a motorcycle in pursuit of a big truck. It's not that such a scene is unusual, but it is easy to forget how much more dangerous the stunt work was in the years before CGI. In his booklet notes, Malloy suggests that it was Lovelock who took several spills on the highway, as well as climbing on that fast moving truck. Whether it is always Lovelock we see in action or a stunt double, this last chase is one of the film's highlights. Probably less challenging for Lovelock was a bedroom scene with Elke Sommer, where the actress shows just enough skin to please her fans. Meet Him and Die might not be a genre classic, but the craftsmanship is undeniable.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at April 1, 2014 08:20 AM