Sunday, June 21, 2015

COGS, SPOOLS & ½" TAPE #14 - DON'T SHOOT ON CHILDREN VHS REVIEW


DON’T SHOOT ON CHILDREN (1978) is yet another crimeslime obscurity that turned up in English thanks (!) to the once-indispensable wonders of Greek videocassette.

As the opening credits unfold, various newspaper headlines flash across the screen, which detail the exploits of children throughout Italy, but this rather arresting credit sequence rapidly goes nowhere, and its relation to the rest of the film is only tenuous at best.  Instead, the film focuses its attention on Dino (Giancarlo Prete), who works at a ceramics factory trying to support his family, which includes his ailing father (Giampiero Albertini) – who has cancer after years of working in the mines – and his delinquent brother Marco (Marco Gelardini), who does nothing to contribute.  When Dino is unsurprisingly laid-off from work, his father’s condition takes a turn for the worse and he is admitted to a hospital, but at the same time, is reacquainted with Beaumont (Italo Gasperini), an old friend who is willing to let him in on a score.  Dino is quite hesitant at first, but he eventually succumbs to the temptation, much to the chagrin of his girlfriend Ilda (Eleonora Giorgi).  Meanwhile, in a not-so-interesting subplot, Marco and his buddies merely loiter in the streets getting up to no good – either smokin’ dope or buzzing aimlessly through the streets on their motorcycles – which only frustrates both his brother and father.  As expected, Beaumont’s plan begins to fall apart, and in a last-ditch effort, they make hostages of a group of kindergarteners and their teacher (Antonella Lualdi).

Like his fellow compadre Demofilo Fidani (a.k.a. Miles Deem), director Gianni Crea’s forte was also in ultra low-budget westerns, and similar to Fidani, Crea was somewhat out of his element when helming non-western fare.  DON’T SHOOT AT CHILDREN is his only poliziesco and, like many of his rather humble westerns, it’s a threadbare production.  Although labeled a poliziesco, this poorly-paced effort has more in common with a sceneggiata (click here for more info regarding this genre) of the time.  Dino losing his job, his father in the hospital and the ensuing tragedy are typical plot points of any sceneggiata; the forced moralistic coda about one’s choices in life is another prime example for this genre of Italian film. 

Future action star Giancarlo Prete, here still using his real name prior to adopting his anglicized Timothy Brent moniker in the ’80s, tries in vain to inject some pathos into his character, but ultimately the tired screenplay – also by Crea – gives him very little to work with.  Frequent crimeslime character actor Giampiero Albertini is also completely wasted, as he lays in a hospital bed for most of the film’s duration while the usually captivating Eleonora Giorgi is given a throwaway part as Dino’s girlfriend, who tries to steer him back onto the straight-and-narrow.  Italo Gasperini, who also ‘starred’ alongside Richard Harrison in Mario Pinzauti’s rarely-seen CLOUZOT E C. CONTRO BORSALINO E C. (1977), is suitably scummy as the primary – and very manipulative – villain Beaumont, the pronunciation of whose name sounds more like “Bimbo” (!) than Beaumont in the clumsy English dubbing. 

This decades-old VHS tape from Video Alsen was, like most Greek videocassettes, in English with Greek subtitles and fullscreen, cropping Maurizio Centini’s photography from the intended 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  No big loss really, as most of it is pretty flat and TV-like just the same.  This was also available on Italian-language videocassette from New Pentax. 

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