Fabio claims that despite Oliver’s notorious appetite for the nectar of the gods, that he (Testi) had no trouble keeping up with Reed and that in response Reed chewed up some light bulbs as a way to presumably re-assert his superiority. Someone probably should have informed Reed that 100 proof and 100 watts were completely different matters.
Along with the wacky stories in the interviews on the DVD (director Sergio Sollima had to film all of Oliver’s scenes in the morning ASAP before Oliver got wasted!), you also get a really entertaining Italian action flick that’s well served by Reed’s intense performance as well as Testi’s charisma.
It also features quite a bit of violence and benefits from a variety of locations, lifting things out of the usual dirty city streets milieu we expect from these Death Wish-style movies. (When released in America, this movie was called Blood in the Streets and you can hear the narrator during the American trailer for it say that it makes Death Wish look like wishful thinking!” Take that Bronson!)
You’ve got a prison break in Italy, an escape across the border into France, and a big shoot out in the streets of Paris. It all did lead to one slightly incongruous image when a group of people including Testi and Reed are running across snowy mountains over the border like some kind of hard boiled von Trapp family who forgot to shave, but it was accompanied by Ennio Morricone’s standout score instead of “Edelweiss” or whatever cloying bilge Julie Andrews belted out in her mountains.
By way of a bonus, there is also a scene where a rock star, Al Niko, sings his number one smash, “Un Ami.” Just to assuage any fears you have that the presence of a sensitive rock and roll star with longish hair, beard, flowing robes and boots somehow takes the edge off this gritty hunk of Italian gut puncher, Oliver Reed is in just as much of a mood to hear some emo-rock from some priss while he’s busy searching for his kidnapped wife as we are.
You can rest assure that among the numerous beat downs Oliver metes out, one leaves Al in no condition for any encores once Ollie gets done “questioning” him about any information he might have on his wife’s whereabouts. Oliver also manages to thump Fabio a little during this confrontation as well, but it was one of the more minor beatings he administered to Fabio in this movie.
The story here is basically the old “let’s kidnap the prison warden’s wife so that he’ll be forced to release a prisoner we want” story. That’s the kind of criminal scheme that might work if the warden wasn’t a crabby drunk who ate light bulbs to prove his manhood!
The warden, Vito Cipriani (Oliver Reed), gets a call from a mystery man saying that he’s kidnapped his wife and that if he wants to see her again, he needs to release a prisoner by the name of Milo Ruiz (Fabio).
I think it would have been smarter (or at the very least easier) if Cipriani just arranged to secretly post Ruiz’s bail, but when you run the kind of prison where a guy can escape by prying off rotted two by fours from a few bathroom windows, the whole “fake escape” might be the most economical way to go, if not the smartest.
Cipriani though has a plan. He isn’t just letting this goon go in hopes that his wife rematerializes on his doorstep. As Ruiz is trying to walk nonchalantly down the street, Cipriani pulls up besides him and takes him prisoner!
As the film progresses and these two interact with one another (i.e. periodically beating the piss out of each other) we come to see that Ruiz isn’t just purely a crook and that he actually develops a conscience or at the very least a sense of responsibility to something larger than himself for once. As far as Cipriani goes, we see that he isn’t just a grouchy violence-prone drunk, but is a raving maniac who loves to use the F word and talk about spilling people’s guts all the time.
As Cipriani and Ruiz run all over Italy and France chasing down leads on the kidnappers, we learn the motive involves the kidnappers wanting to kill Ruiz. Without going into all the details of this scheme, the biggest problem I had with the whole movie was all the trouble these guys were going to so that they could kill Ruiz. Wouldn’t it have been infinitely easier to just arrange his death while he was in prison?
That particular quibble (that the story didn’t really make any sense) aside, it was very easy to become sucked into the film, especially whenever Oliver Reed was onscreen. In scene after scene he gives you a brutally believable performance as the enraged husband who descends further and further into a state of boiling desperation punctuated by horrific outbursts of violence. This guy is bloated, rheumy-eyed, has a scowl decorated with a five o’clock shadow, and grimly stalks every scene like a rabid junkyard dog!
Questions about the relative worth of human lives, what we owe society and one another as human beings and just what happens when the “right” thing to do and the thing we want to do are completely at odds, all intertwine and culminate in a shocking climax that won’t have you forgetting this movie for quite awhile. That and of course the story about the light bulbs. I imagine you’ll remember that as well. But the movie was really good, too.
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