Saturday, December 7, 2013

COGS, SPOOLS AND 1/2" TAPE #3 - HUNTED CITY VHS REVIEW


Welcome back to the world of long, lost VHS tapes.  For this third installment, let’s travel to Greece and check out Stelvio Massi’s 1979 poliziesco HUNTED CITY starring Maurizio Merli.

A recent rash of murders involving highly respected and influential people have been afflicting Milan.  Working at the European Anticrime Organization in France, commissario Paolo Ferro (Maurizio Merli) is transferred back to Milan to help sort out the escalating problem.  Upon his arrival, a businessman is violently gunned down by a group of masked men and, in a highly contrived scene, Ferro just happens to be in the vicinity and gives chase.  A brief but appreciated car chase follows, which ends in a spectacular explosion as the car careens into another.  Milan is about to explode and, with the help of his partner Arrigo (Nando Marineo) and an expedient local underworld figure (Francesco Rabal), Ferro has come to the conclusion that all these murders must be part of some “Murder Incorporated”, which involves the unctuous and very powerful Don Raffaele Acampora (Mario Merola).

Similar in tone and feel to much of Umberto Lenzi’s best poliziescos, the main narrative involving the mysterious “Murder Incorporated” almost seems like an afterthought as Ferro and his partner Arrigo wind their way through all of the film’s numerous sub-plots; Ferro disrupts a “secret meeting” between the warring factions of the Sicilian and French underworld; his nephew is selling drugs that leads to the inevitable conclusion as they face off with their guns drawn; and, in another highly contrived scene, a robbery prevents Ferro from enjoying his mid-afternoon coffee as he gives chase once again.

At 103 minutes, Stelvio Massi’s effort is a little more reliant on dialogue than your usual Merli outing, but the film still features enough bursts of gunplay and motor vehicle mayhem that should please most crime film enthusiasts. Pier Luigi Santi’s effective and well-balanced photography is one of the film’s stronger points with nice location shooting and some frenzied compositions during the action scenes.  Unfortunately, the film is a little episodic and fat through the middle that slows considerably whenever Merli or Merola aren’t on screen.  As usual Merli plays the one-dimensional, no-nonsense cop you’ve come to expect with relative ease, his character is virtually indistinguishable from any other commissario he’s essayed in similar films.  Merola’s role as Don Acampora is considerably smaller than first anticipated, which is a shame as more interaction between he and Merli would have been welcome.  Aside from Rabal’s comatose presence as the helpful Don Alfonso, the rest of the cast is comprised of mostly unknown bit players.  Massi, Merli and Rabal would collaborate on The REBEL (1980) the following year.

Be forewarned, the English dubbing on this particular production is rather wretched which, even for those that are quite accepting of this common practice in Italy, seriously lowers the overall quality of the entire production.  The same dubbing team also collaborated on both Michele Massimo Tarantini’s A MAN CALLED MAGNUM (1977) and Gianni Siragusa’s 4 BILLION IN 4 MINUTES (1978) as well as most Eurociné productions.

Originally released in Italy as Sbirro, la Tua Legge è Lenta… La Mia… No!, HUNTED CITY was available on VHS in Greece courtesy of LEV and, like most Greek videotapes, it was in English with Greek subtitles.  Along with fellow Greek VHS companies Key Video and Sunrise, LEV’s tapes were some of the better-looking tapes to come out of Greece, which tracked properly most of the time and the Greek subtitles were not big and obtrusive.  Hunted City also turned up in Japan on Shochiku Video in English with Japanese subtitles.

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