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September 26, 2014

Stunt Squad

La polizia รจ sconfitta01.jpg

La Polizia e Sconfitta
Domenico Paolella - 1977
Raro Video BD Region A

In the first scene of Stunt Squad a pair of repairmen show up at a tiny bar to fix a pay phone. Neither the owner nor the couple of patrons notice that the guys are planting a small bomb inside the small box holding the phone. After the repairmen leave, we see a guy, strangely shirtless, but wearing a fur lined jacket, making a call from a nearby phone booth. This is a rotary phone. Every time the shirtless guy dials a single number, the film cuts to a shot inside the bar. The viewer knows that that the bar phone is being dialed and that there is certainly a mechanism that is going to trigger a bomb. It's a simply done scene, yet very effective. There may be no surprise that there is going to be an explosion, but that still does not deny tension in this scene.

The original Italian title translates as "The police are defeated", and it is more accurate description of what happens in this film. The stunt squad devised by lead cop Marcel Bozzuffi is suppose be a bunch of Italy's brasher cops, guys who can speed through the streets on motorcycles while accurately shooting their targets at the same time. These guys are quite talented regarding stunts, but they aren't the most effective enforcers of law, managing to get picked off by the shirtless criminal, named Villa, who runs a protection racket.

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Villa is play by Vittorio Mezzogiorno, described in an unattributed quote as "perhaps the most gruesome and ruthless villain of the Italian crime drama". There is a later scene where Villa and his gang beat up the pimp that gave away his hiding place. The pimp is then subject to amputation of his penis with a straight razor, the surgery suggested by camera placement rather than anything seen onscreen. The pimp, holding onto his bloody crotch, is shot to death by the machine gun wielding Villa. Under those circumstances, I would consider this a humane ending for the pimp. For gruesome and ruthless, I'd nominate the character Tomas Milian plays in Almost Human, a smalltime hood who gets his kicks breaking into someone's house, and kidnapping and torture are just the beginning.

The modest pleasures of Stunt Squad stem from the low tech special effects employed here. The cars and motorcycle chases are done on real streets, crashing and catching fire, without the benefit of any computer generated effects. Stelvio Cipriani's score is inventive in using a slide whistle in the main theme. Paolella employs his background as a journalist and documentarian for a scene with the movie cops watching a slide show of photos taken of real and recent Italian crime scenes. The English dubbing is quite good here, which is how I like to watch genre films from this era.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at September 26, 2014 07:13 AM