Friday, April 8, 2016

Retro Review: KILLER COP (1975)

(Italy - 1975; US release 1976)

At times looking like what might happen if Costa-Gavras made a Eurocrime movie, Luciano Ercoli's KILLER COP is one of the more politically-charged poliziotteschi to come out of Italy in the 1970s. Inspired by the 1969 Piazza Fontana bombing in Milan, the film centers on eccentric narcotics commissioner Rolandi (Claudio Cassinelli), who always carries a copy of Melville's Moby Dick for symbolism at its most cumbersome, being in the wrong place at the wrong time when he stumbles into the bombing while working another case. He subsequently butts heads with Armando "Minty" DiFederico (Arthur Kennedy)--so nicknamed for his Tic Tac habit--the hardass judge assigned to oversee the investigation. Both set aside their differences and work together--but not exactly in an if they don't kill each other first! buddy-movie capacity--when they eventually realize the bombings and the subsequent trail of bodies, starting with likable but mistake-prone detective Balsamo (Franco Fabrizi), point to police and judicial corruption and a cover-up from inside the department. Ercoli (1929-2015) was best known for gialli like THE FORBIDDEN PHOTOS OF A LADY ABOVE SUSPICION, DEATH WALKS AT MIDNIGHT, and DEATH WALKS ON HIGH HEELS, but KILLER COP is a thoughtful and thoroughly engrossing snapshot of the Red Brigades domestic terrorism affecting Italy at the time and influencing the country's wildly popular polizia genre in particular. Cassinelli has one of his best roles and the great five-time Oscar-nominee Kennedy, in prime "grumpy Arthur Kennedy" mode, is terrific in one of his standout performances from the often-dubious Eurocult phase of his career. The supporting cast includes familiar Eurotrash faces like Sara Sperati (SALON KITTY), Valeria D'Obici (ESCAPE FROM THE BRONX), Enzo Fisichella (THE GREAT ALLIGATOR), Ugo Bologna (NIGHTMARE CITY), and Enzo G. Castellari regular Giovanni Cianfriglia. Stelvio Cipriani's score is one of his greatest. According to IMDb, Jack Lemmon recorded an introductory voiceover narration for the film's US release, but there's nothing on YouTube, Google, or in the liner notes of Raro's 2015 Blu-ray release of the film, to corroborate this highly suspect claim.

KILLER COP was released in the US in 1976 by grindhouse outfit Joseph Green Pictures. It was in regular late-night rotation on Detroit's WGPR Channel 62, which went on the air in 1975 and was the first African-American-owned TV station in the US. It focused on religious programming (the call letters stood for "Where God's Presence Radiates") and niche fare like the talk/variety show ARAB VOICE OF DETROIT, but after hours, the station would air "All Night at the Movies." These were mostly old movies and serials, but at some point in the late '70s, WGPR must've acquired the admittedly limited Joseph Green library, showing their sometimes racy titles uncut in prime 2:00-6:00 am insomniac hours (I can personally attest to the stories in this link: 62 came in fairly clear in the Toledo area and in the early '80s, I caught Jose Gutierrez Maesso's 1975 actioner ORDER TO KILL, which proved to be a watershed moment in my grindhouse education as I witnessed nude Sydne Rome on broadcast TV). WGPR struggled as Detroit's least-watched station until it was purchased by CBS in 1994 and the call letters were eventually changed to WWJ. (R, 97 mins)

No comments:

Post a Comment