(Italy - 1973; US release 1975)
Directed by Sergio Martino. Written by Ernesto Gastaldi. Cast: Luc Merenda, Richard Conte, Silvano Tranquilli, Carlo Alighiero, Martine Brochard, Chris Avram, Luciano Bartoli, Lia Tanzi, Steffen Zacharias, Bruno Corazzari, Luciano Rossi, Cyrille Spiga, Rosario Borelli, Antony Vernon (Antonio Casale), Bruno Boschetti, Sergio Smacchi, Tom Felleghy. (R, 99 mins)
After the artistic triumphs of Dario Argento's gialli, the next most notable figure in the genre in the early 1970s was arguably the journeyman Sergio Martino. Frequently teamed with the stunning Edwige Fenech, Martino cranked out a series of verbosely-titled gialli like 1971's THE STRANGE VICE OF MRS. WARDH and THE CASE OF THE SCORPION'S TAIL, and 1972's ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK and YOUR VICE IS A LOCKED ROOM AND ONLY I HAVE THE KEY, and his 1973 masterpiece TORSO. Though directors like Umberto Lenzi and Fernando Di Leo also dabbled in gialli, their strengths at that point in time were the violent, politically-charged poliziotteschi, a craze to which Martino inevitably contributed a handful of entries, beginning with 1973's THE VIOLENT PROFESSIONALS, which has just been released on Blu-ray from Code Red.
score by Guido & Maurizio De Angelis, some not-quite-but-still-spirited FRENCH CONNECTION-style car chases and Merenda (dubbed by Michael Forest) a believably pissed-off lone wolf cop in the Dirty Harry vein (he even gets a final moment comparable to tossing his badge away in disgust). It's also worth noting for those with polizia experience that THE VIOLENT PROFESSIONALS is also the source of that oft-used shot of a car crashing through a stack of cardboard boxes engulfed in flames, which resurfaced in seemingly a dozen other polizias and even more trailers. Born in 1943, Merenda got his first big break as a doomed French racing driver in the 1971 Steve McQueen vanity project LE MANS. He would go on to work with Martino on several occasions, most notably in a supporting role in TORSO and in a pair of entertaining 1975 actioners, GAMBLING CITY and SILENT ACTION. Merenda was a regular presence in Italian action films throughout the '70s and he would shift to Italian TV in the '80s. He grew disenchanted with the entertainment industry and walked away, retiring from acting in 1992 to focus on his family and opening a successful antique shop in Paris, which he still runs to this day, taking a break only to make a one-off return to the screen when Merenda superfan Eli Roth talked him into accepting a small role in 2007's HOSTEL PART II.
|Richard Conte (1910-1975)