Movies From the Black Lagoon: Violent Naples

Movies From the Black Lagoon
Violent Naples - 1976, Rated R
By Tom Doty

A maverick cop incites a war between two crime lords in this action packed "Spaghetti Gangster" flick from versatile filmmaker Umberto Lenzi.
Senor Lenzi was true Renaissance man when it came to genre movies. He excelled at action flicks but also churned out westerns and horror films. Here he makes excellent use of gore effects, car chases, and action set pieces to sell this gritty crime drama.
The story centers on a tough detective who is brought to Naples to help crush a protection racket. You know from the get-go that the guy is hard as nails. He sports a comb over, a mustache so thick you could stash a throw down gun in it, and rocks a black turtleneck under a grey sports jacket. He is so macho that no one ever makes fun of his name, Betty.
Betty shows his stuff right out of the airport when he foils a car thief by crunching his head under the hood. He also merits a welcome from Naples' top gangster, the "Generale". He settles the hash of his skeptical superiors by tendering his resignation right away and asking them to file it until they can't stand him anymore. Now it's time to wipe out crime.
Naples is, fortunately, under a severe crime wave. Betty checks in with two undercover cops and learns that he must contend with a protection scam as well as a series of bank robberies by a machine gun wielding crew.
His war against the protection rackets goes badly and he manages to get a potential informant killed. He also blows it with the hold-up guys who nail several hostages before Betty can finally take down their leader. Luckily he does this in spectacular fashion by putting three bullets into the guy while hanging upside over a moving train.
Following the rules soon tires him. He opts to act like a gangster himself and shoots the worst offender from the shadows, setting up another criminal to take the fall. He then retires but a chance meeting with the crippled son of a deceased crime victim convinces him that there might be some sequel potential here.
This one totally delivers on the frenzied action so some plot lapses are forgivable. It achieves its goal by staging several tense heist sequences, which are all, followed by an adrenaline pumping, high speed, motor chase. The best one is shot from the perspective of a motorcycle and convinced me that the safest place to be in Naples traffic is probably on another continent.
The cast is ready to party and lead by Maurizio Merli as Betty. He made few of these flicks and excels at the tough guy stuff. His stunt work is pretty good and he could pass for a blonde version of Burt Reynolds, with less giggling. You also get two Americans getting a free trip to Naples as the crime bosses. Barry Sullivan has a great moment as 'Generale." He has his men truss up a trader at the bottom of a bowling lane and then throws a perfect strike through the poor sap's cranium. John Saxon is even better as a tough guy who turns into a complete coward when the heat is on. The screenplay is basic though it appears to have been filtered through George Carlin's classic list of words you'll never hear on television - fun, bloody, and very quick (sort of like Mike Tyson's first twenty opponents).
This one is available on a super cheap DVD set called "the Mafia Kingpin Collection." For six bucks you get excellent prints of five Italian crime flicks with extra cheese. The set includes the U.S. debut of this flick and an excellent one called 'The Cynic, the Rat, and the Fist." These are fun flicks that also mangle American slang on their dubbed soundtracks, as you'll see in this week's quotes.
Best Line: "You crud, you make me want to beat your ears in." or "You'll die in prison, you turd."

Tom Doty occasionally emerges from the Lagoon to check his e-mail and to read to children every Wednesday at 10:30am at Borders in Hagerstown. If you'd like to get a message to him, write to: dotyfox@myactv.net.