Wednesday, April 6, 2016


(Italy/France - 1972; US release 1975)

This obscure European drug trafficking thriller stars Ben Gazzara as Joe Coppola, an ambitious New York mobster trying to set up an opium/morphine/heroin route from Turkey, through Sicily and into NYC. Director/co-writer Ferdinando Baldi (TREASURE OF THE FOUR CROWNS) goes light on action but heavy on the methodical, step-by-step operation and the unholy alliances Coppola must form to make the deal work, whether he's dealing with an old-school Sicilian don (Corrado Gaipa, the go-to guy for old-school Sicilian dons) or a treacherous Manhattan-based crime boss (Steffen Zacharias, looking a lot like Gazzara pal Seymour Cassel). There's a few shootouts and a rather hapless attempt at a FRENCH CONNECTION-style car chase late in the film, one that starts in Manhattan and quite obviously ends somewhere on a dirt road in Rome, and the circumstances behind the final shot after a late-developing plot twist are pretty dumb when you think of security precautions. Nevertheless, THE SICILIAN CONNECTION, released in Italy as AFYON OPPIO and given the blatantly FRENCH CONNECTION-inspired rechristening by lowly exploitation outfit Joseph Green Pictures for its 1975 grindhouse and drive-in run in the US, is worthy of some attention after all these years. Gazzara turns in an intense performance, so it's too bad he didn't stick around to dub himself, leaving that to Marc Smith, who also handled the senseless revoicing of Franco Nero in ENTER THE NINJA. The supporting cast has a ton of familiar Eurocult faces and 1970s polizia fixtures (Jess Hahn, Fausto Tozzi, Luciano Catenacci, Silvia Monti, Malisa Longo, John Bartha, Bruno Corazzari, Luciano Rossi, Romano Puppo, Teodoro Corra, and Giuseppe Castellano). And Baldi and co-writer Duilio Coletti have an admirably cynical and bleak streak going throughout, such as the way it begins and ends with depictions of religious hypocrisy (a Sicilian funeral where the dead person is stuffed with heroin bags and a bunch of wealthy, greedy NYC one-percenters pretending to be a Bible study group when their deal gets busted by the cops).

Also with an insane score by Guido and Maurizio de Angelis, aerial shots of the not-quite-completed Twin Towers, and perhaps the best Times Square location montage in all of Eurocult cinema: everyone on the streets looking directly at the camera, and theater marquees boasting new and old titles like SLAUGHTER, BOXCAR BERTHA, ROMA, DAY OF ANGER, MELINDA, THE RETURN OF DRACULA, A TOWN CALLED HELL, OH! CALCUTTA, THE SEDUCERS, TOYS ARE NOT FOR CHILDREN, SUBURBAN WIVES, LAST OF THE RED HOT LOVERS, and FAREWELL UNCLE TOM!  THE SICILIAN CONNECTION was released last fall in a very nice-looking (but typically typo-riddled) Blu-ray by Code Red and distributed exclusively through Screen Archives Entertainment.  The hardcore Eurotrash connoisseur won't be disappointed. (R, 100 mins)

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