Friday, August 8, 2014

COGS, SPOOLS AND ½” TAPE #9 - LO SGARBO VHS REVIEW


Salvatore Manini (Louis Vito Russo) is an enterprising, but reckless, mobster within the American underworld and during a rather messy drug deal in Las Vegas, one of his rivals (John Bartha) is killed during a brief gunfight.  Outdated and mis-matched stock shots of Vegas nightlife accompany the scene leaving no doubt as to the cheapness of this production.  Because of all the ensuing heat on Sal, New York crime boss Angelo Lupari (Arturo Dominici) advises him to leave the US and go to Palermo, Italy.

Once in Palermo, Sal is greeted at the airport by Vito (Leonard Mann) and escorted to a country villa owned by the powerful and influential Don Domini (Guido Celano) who also happens to be confined to a wheelchair.  Almost immediately, Sal befriends Domini’s wife Marina (Karin Schubert) and, in an incredibly brazen and dangerous move, begins an illicit affair, which also allows Schubert to flash her ample assets. 

Later in the week, Sal and Vito visit an illegal gambling house and before they even have a chance to lose money, they rob the premises and inadvertently kill the pit boss (Attilio Dottesio).  Then, in another risky move, the elusive owners of the illegal casino are gunned down in a hale of machine-gun fire before revenge can even be met.  Although he should be lying low, Sal seems to be stirring up more shit in Palermo than in the United States.  Later at a ritzy party, Sal befriends Betty White (Helene Chanel), a high-end call girl who introduces him to numerous high-ranking politicians.  Naturally, Sal sleeps with his “hostess” as more nudity fills the screen while Vito makes it with another girl outside in a chair.  Although treading dangerous territory, Sal begins to blackmail various politicians utilizing a secret hotel room with a two-way mirror as he and Vito photograph them in a variety of compromising positions.  Even more nudity fills the screen during a brief montage of scandalous behavior featuring plenty of jiggling breasts and, in a ridiculous moment, even some nude calisthenics.

More travelogue shots of Paris and London are liberally inserted into the narrative to help establish Sal and Vito’s escapades blackmailing numerous politicians throughout Europe.  However, their travel is cut short when they see a mysterious and vaguely familiar man  (Romano Puppo) at the airport.  Suspicious of him, they neglect to board their flight as a cheap toy plane explodes against a phony looking background.  Not taking any chances, Sal and Vito decide to do away with him as they leave the airport with a high-end scope rifle.  Further blackmailing ensues (“Lord Walley caught with call-girls!” screams The London Times), leading to another politician’s public embarrassment and eventual resignation.

Back in the US, Don Lupari is getting increasingly concerned with the uproar Vito has been causing in Palermo, which eventually leads to his murder while Sal and Vito’s blackmailing scheme also begins to slowly wither away when the police get wind of it, no doubt in part to all the connected politicians getting harassed.  Meanwhile, back at Don Domini’s heavily guarded mansion, Marina’s infidelities begin to get the better of him so, in a completely gratuitous scene, he forces some of his goons to rape her as he watches from his wheelchair.  Even though Lo SGARBO has been quite sleazy up to this point, this particular scene hits you like an unexpected punch to the gut and, quite honestly, is surprisingly nasty.  As various underworld factions begin closing in, Sal and Vito try and seek refuge at Don Domini’s villa and inadvertently surprise him and his goons during this vindictive act, which leads to the rather arbitrary finale.

Helmed by veteran director Marino Girolami under his usual alias of Franco Martinelli, this may have been a job-for-hire gig, which he directed between his more polished and infinitely more entertaining VIOLENT ROME (1975) and ROMA, L’ALTRA FACCIA DELLA VIOLENZA (1976).  Quite different from your average crime film, Lo SGARBO (which roughly translates as “disrespect”) has more in common with a softcore sex opus than a typical crime flick with copious amounts of nudity interspersed throughout the narrative. The climatic rape with Karin Schubert is especially nasty as well, a tactic Girolami always seemed to employ in most of his crime films with the same shocking and out-of-left-field approach.  The home invasion scene from VIOLENT ROME with Richard Conte helplessly watching his daughter raped in front of his eyes definitely comes to mind.  Maybe producer Gabriele Crisanti provided some input to help make it a little more “marketable” in permissive territories by upping the sleaze quotient, but of course this is all speculation.  Considering some of his later output though, including Andrea Bianchi’s super-scuzzy MALABIMBA (1979) and Mario Landi’s rather shocking GIALLO A VENEZIA (1979), this certainly isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

Overly enthusiastic plotting - both Antonio Margheriti and Luigi Russo had a hand in the script - may account for the rather uneven feel, but it moves at a decent enough pace and is certainly never boring.  The unknown Louis Vito Russo is also a suitably sleazy anti-hero who drops his pants more than he draws his gun, but that doesn’t stop him from crackin’ some heads in his quest to usurp as much power as he can.  Low-budget director and occasional actor Guido Celano also seems to relish his part as the tormented Don Domini who can only watch as his wife seeks the attentions of other men right up until the shocking and completely unexpected climax.

Never released on DVD, this was available on numerous Italian language VHS tapes including an imported NTSC release from Master Video Productions, a Canadian distributor of Italian language films back in the ‘80s and ‘90s.  By no means very good, this is mildly entertaining stuff as far as Italian crime films go, but fans Euro sleaze will no doubt find plenty to appreciate.  A subtitled copy would definitely add further enjoyment.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.