Monday, January 9, 2012

If this wasn't streaming on Netflix, would anyone remember it existed? Volume 1: STREET PEOPLE (1976)

This review was originally published in slightly different form at the Mobius Home Video Forum in March 2011.


(Italy - 1976)  Directed by Maurizio Lucidi.  Written by Ernest Tidyman, Randal Kleiser, Gianfranco Bucceri, Roberto Leoni, Niccola Badalucco, Maurizio Lucidi.  Cast: Roger Moore, Stacy Keach, Ettore Manni, Ivo Garrani, Fausto Tozzi, Ennio Balbo, Romano Puppo, Rosemarie Lindt, Franco Fantasia.  92 mins.  R.

Confusing but diverting Italian crime thriller, shot in Sicily and San Francisco, one of the many post-GODFATHER/FRENCH CONNECTION-inspired films to come out of Italy during the mid '70s (SHAFT author and Oscar-winning FRENCH CONNECTION screenwriter Ernest Tidyman is among the six credited writers, along with future GREASE director Randal Kleiser and SANTA SANGRE co-writer Roberto Leoni). This one's headed by a miscast Roger Moore as half-Sicilian/half-British mob lawyer Ulysses, who teams up with his fast-talking race car driver buddy Charlie (Stacy Keach, who gives this a lot more than is necessary) to get to the bottom of a heroin shipment that arrived from Sicily inside a huge cross donated to the church by Ulysses' capo uncle Salvatore (Ivo Garrani). Salvatore claims to know nothing about tbe shipment, which appears to be the work of three rogue, low-level mob soldiers, among them an ill-looking Fausto Tozzi, who died a couple of years later, and Enzo G. Castellari regular Romano Puppo.

Directed by Maurizio Lucidi (his first name misspelled "Maruizio" in the credits), STREET PEOPLE won't make Moore's career highlight reel, but Keach has a few memorable scenes and pretty effortlessly steals the film.  Whether he's test-driving a mobster's car and intentionally destroying it (the best scene), or cruising around San Francisco's red-light district looking for the three thugs, or threatening another mob flunky with "I'm gonna spread the word that you're a turkey deluxe!", he seems to be having a good time during an odd phase of his career that saw him doing everything from the little-seen UK crime thriller THE SQUEEZE,  acclaimed television like JESUS OF NAZARETH, being a foil for Cheech & Chong in UP IN SMOKE, and somehow co-starring in the Italian cannibal gorefest MOUNTAIN OF THE CANNIBAL GOD.  Moore, despite being the star, doesn't really have much to do in one of the more bizarre credits on his resume. You'd think he'd be entertaining better offers than B-grade Italian mob films in between 007 movies, but Moore's always struck me as the kind of actor who considered script second and location first. If he was getting a paid vacation to San Francisco and Sicily, then sure, why not? He's always been an engaging screen presence, tireless humanitarian, magnetic raconteur, and all-around nice guy, but outside of maybe THE MAN WHO HAUNTED HIMSELF, I can't name one time when he busted his ass as an actor. And he definitely didn't exert himself on STREET PEOPLE.

STREET PEOPLE was issued on VHS in the '80s and was in regular rotation on late-night TV years ago.  Currently streaming on Netflix in an acceptable-looking 1.33 print, probably the VHS transfer.

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