Friday, July 22, 2011

You thought local cops were hardcore: LIVE LIKE A COP DIE LIKE A MAN


Ruggero's Deodato's sophomore film after the softcore sex film WAVE OF LUST was this hard as nails, almost fascist, Italian Police action film that holds the place card for being one of, if not THE most violent of that sub-genre. The Italian "Polizia" film was a popular sub-genre of the thriller that ran through the 70's with certain directors excelling at them. Writer Fernando Di Leo often wrote many of the era's crime pictures, and his name is on the screenplay for this one as well. Themes of corruption, street violence, and the Police having to be as bad as the criminals run through these films. LIVE LIKE A COP DIE LIKE A MAN takes these themes to such a hyper violent, almost absurd level that it almost has to be parody. But anyone familiar with the violent excesses of Ruggero Deodato's other films will quickly realize it probably isn't. He is just a director that likes to go over the top. He may very well have his political themes and concerns, but at the end of the day, he feels everything has to be turned up to eleven.

Ray Lovelock and Marc Porel star as Ray and Tony two off the cuff Italian cops who make up the "special forces" for the Rome police. Seems being the "special forces" in Rome equates to having a license to kill, beat up and maim whomever you may need to for any case at any time. The movie opens with a seriously impressive motorcycle chase when two scum bags snatch a lady's purse and drag her a half block, smashing her into a fire hydrant in the process. Our heroes see it happen and go after the thugs. It is important to mention the two of them seem to just cruise around together on a motorcycle with no where really to go irregardless if they are on duty or off. They may not be portrayed as gay, but bunked up on the motorcycle together holding each other tight, they certainly look that way more than once. The chase ends shockingly with the thugs wrecking into an open truck, one of them impaled on the handlebars and the other once bleeding internally. To which Ray viciously snaps his neck. When our dudes are walking away from the scene one asks the other "Did yours die on his own? I had to help mine along!"

From here they set out to find a local gangster and to do so they decide to flush him out by setting fire to all the fancy cars in the lot of one of his clubs. So they burn all the Rolls Royce and other big shot cars, as well as the night watchmen working there! Later in the movie Ray is shocked to find out the cars were not insured and feels a pang of remorse for burning the automobiles!!! They slap around the Mafia guys big tit sister and take turns fucking her since she is a nymphomaniac (In real life this actress was the sister of Ruggero's wife, so there is a little bit of weirdness there. Ruggero's wife plays the sexy Secretary the guys keep trying to seduce with no success because she is too smart and liberated to fall for their horseshit!).

The duo also break up a hostage situation,and stop a robbery, both by sneaking in and literally cold blooded shooting everyone involved, one by loading up silencers and sneaking onto the scene and wiping everyone out. Their boss constantly treats them like they are overzealous kids, not the murderous psychopaths they clearly are.

The movie walks a fine line between being a straight out action film, a piece of right wing propaganda, and some sort of weird violent parody/ fantasy. It works best when looked at in the last category as a berserk parody of Italian action and cop films where things are never what they should be. Instead they are way more violent and insane. The only movie in this realm that compares is LUCIO FULCI's equally over the top CONTRABAND (1981).But that film plays it straight as a gangster picture. This thing is like a hyper violent cartoon satirizing the cop genre.

Interestingly enough this is one of the best looking productions I have seen from Deodato. Slickly directed with great actions scenes and just great, knock about moments. While his horror films are well regarded sometimes his stuff can feel cheap (THE BARBARIANS, DIAL HELP, THE WASHING MACHINE) but this consistently feels like a top notch production and is well worth checking out.

The new RARO DVD has trailers and a 42 minute documentary about the making of the film with interviews with most of the surviving key players in which they all reminisce about the making of the film, the apparently made up on set controversy between the lead actors, and yes, how it was supposed to be a serious action film.

Review © Andrew Copp

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Elegance of being a "Kept" woman: CAMILLE 2000

CAMILLE 2000 (1969)
CULT EPICS - Blu Ray and DVD

Radley Metzger came to international prominence with his Danish lensed sexy potboiler I A WOMAN (1966), a movie that set the international stage for what for what was to be expected from a foreign soft core art film. But after this success he began to direct his own movies and a distinct sense of style emerged. American label CULT EPICS has begun to release some of his best and most renowned work on Blu Ray and DVD totally remastered and restored. The began with his hardcore bi-sexual epic SCORE and have followed with THE LICKERISH QUARTET (a review coming soon) and CAMILE 2000.

CAMILLE 2000 is an ode to the sad side of the playboy lifestyle popular in the swinging "Mod" England in the close of the Sixties. The young Armand (Nino Castelnuovo) comes to England to represent his businessman Father but is here really to get out his wild oats. He teams up with is pal Gastion (Roberto Bisacco) who soon introduces him to Marguerite Gautier (Danièle Gaubert) aka Camille called so because of the flower she carries with her everywhere. Armand is instantly smitten, even though it is explained to him she is a "kept" woman by the local Duke. Meaning she is more a or less his whore, whom he keeps in a high price lifestyle, with jewels, money, a house and a rather nasty drug habit. But Armand his a bull headed your sod, and puts himself into her crazy Mod lifestyle anyway. Soon he is partying at her house, hanging with her crazy dress designing friends, and before you know it, sleeping with her.

And wouldn't you know it, she falls for his boyish good looks, and charming uncomplicated ways. But being a kept woman, she can't continue to be his. Even though she continues to promise to. Many talks of trying to go away together happen and one attempt that almost works until Armand's vengeful Father steps into the fray. All this leads to a third act of the film that includes an S+M party, voyeurism, almost group sex, a card game straight out of CASINO ROYALE, and a truly tragic last reel that make this one of the most cynical love story/sex movies I have seen. All in all a good deal more thoughtful than these kinds of movies ever attempt to be. But then again would you expect less from Radley Metzger?

It really is the last third of the movie that makes this work, but discussing it too much is difficult without giving it away. Up until that point it is really just a beautifully photographed, but very lightweight sex romp. Though I cannot stress enough how gorgeous the movie is, from costumes, to set design to the cinematography nothing is being left to chance as to what is appearing on screen, making this more about images, tones, shapes and movement than even really about sex at all. It IS very sexy, but it really is not the kind of thing that will get you off. It sort of goes into other more deeply resonant sexual places in your id. But once there the movie goes into that last act and that deeply rooted cynicism about love and sex. Especially during that time period of the late sixties when all of that is supposed to be free. It never is, it always comes with a price.

The Blu Ray is 12 minutes longer than any known previous cut, and has copious extras:
•On the Set of Camille 2000
•Restoration of Camille 2000
•Sylviane's Bare Striptease
•Cube Love Scene
•Audio Commentary Track by Michael Bowen and Radley Metzger

There is also a separate disc of the THEATRICAL version if you simply MUST have the version that replicates what you saw theatrically. That discs has outtakes that include the 12 minutes that are included in the film in the longer print.

Review © Andrew Copp

This is a FAN MADE TRAILER on You tube. This is NOT on the DVD or BLU RAY. But is actually better than the actual theatrical trailer that is included...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Sweet LIfe, is indeed pretty sweet

D. Rocco Simonelli
Synapse Ent.
1.78 DVCAM

This may be an unusual choice to see reviewed here on Exploitation Nation. A Romantic Comedy that has no evisceration, no nudity, no revenge or rape, or people being run off the road and eaten by tentacled monsters. Why you may ask is THE SWEET LIFE being covered on this blog, known for mayhem and naked flesh? Well, the movie is produced by one Roy Frumkes the man behind such revered, at least behind these walls, movies as STREET TRASH, THE JOHNSONS and to a much lesser extent, THE SUBSTITUTE. It also stars James Lorinz the brilliant comedic actor who starred in FRANKENHOOKER, and nearly stole the show in a supporting role in STREET TRASH. Any movie that is smart enough to put Lorinz in a prime starring role again deserves full props in our book. Finally the movie is being released by our homeboys at Synapse Entertainment and those fellas need no introductions on these pages.

But still at the end of the day, this is no exploitation film, it is indeed what it sounds like, a sweet natured, somewhat wise, very well done indie romantic comedy drama. The kind of thing that used to get little art house releases back in the 90's.

The movie opens with James Lorinz as Michael, narrating a flashback to when he was just a little boy. He explains that his first interaction with a love life was a failed moment we are witnessing. As a young lad he tries to put a box a candy on the door step of another girl he clearly has a crush on. He envisions it as a moment of wonder when she opens the card and sees he loves her and all is right in the world. Instead she shows up with his older brother Frankie (Robert Mobley)  on her arm, and opens the card and he and the girl have a good laugh, through the card to the side and eat the candy. His first interaction with women was not only a shattering one but also set him up to see his brother take her out from under him. A pattern that will continue into adulthood. Michael explains this one incident has made him set his sights with women spectacularly low for the rest o his life, because he never has felt he can get past his self esteem enough to get with someone better. This leads to a funny montage of him meeting and dating a series of clearly insane women, including one convinced she is infected with fecal parasites.

Flash forward to the present with Frankie and Michael out for drinks at a bar. Frankie is explaining  to a waitress that it is his brother's birthday, that she should come to his party but he is too shy to ask her. The whole thing is clearly a sleazy come on to get with the girl, a come on that clearly works. Michael chimes in with a joke, but neither the girl or his brother hear nor care. He is never really "there". His character is established quickly as the nice guy, who is finishing in last in his brother's aggressive shadow. On a cab ride to another bar they discuss women where Frankie enlightens his brother with a very telling speech about how women will always do what he wants because they think he will walk away at any given moment. He never lets them have any power, and treats them like dirt. Not to the point of abusing them, but just never lets them have a upper hand or think they have any control. He explains women respond to that, to power to confidence. That Michael has none of that. That his nice guy stance will never get him anywhere. He is very correct, if still kind of an asshole.

At the next bar we meet Lila (Barabara Sicuranza) a pretty bartender with a flare for life. Frankie is in a relationship with her, even though he is clearly not faithful to her. She clearly take s little bit of a shine to Micheal even though he comes across like a pussy. Her and Frankie go home and have sex, and he does his little emotional power play dance and it is clear she is not getting what she needs. They also agree to set up Michael with her Roommate played by Joan Jett (who also provides a lot of the music). A boozing, psycho alcoholic. After a night on the town with her that increasingly resembles Scorsese's AFTER HOURS. Michael ends up at her apartment consoling Lila because his shit heel brother has broken up with her. This night, a twist of fate ends up bringing the two together as fast friends, where Michael realizes Lila has a lot more to offer as a person than his brother ever wanted to even know. Lila finds that Michael encourages her to be more than she ever was willing to do on her own. It seems destined to work, to be good as two kind people find each other.

But real life never works out that way, and this is were THE SWEET LIFE becomes more than some simple Rom-Com. Because in the second half the movie throws some serious curve balls. Curve balls that feel like real life, not scripted fiction that are set in motion to get the girls in the audience crying and then safely make everything work out okay. Real life doesn't work out that way, and thankfully neither does THE SWEET LIFE. There are no good guys and bad guys, things are varying shades of gray colored in ,by everyone's own needs. A lot of times those are more selfish than people realize, and this movie does a wonderful job of exploring that without ever being preachy while retaining a sly sense of humor.

The likable leads go a long way to making it that way. As I stated before any movie smart enough to put Lorinz in the lead has done a good thing right from the start. He has always been funny leading man material and thankfully here is a movie that lets him get to explore it in good context. He is likable, funny and self-depreciating in the best way. He is like Woody Allen without the glasses and the desire to have sex with your own step kids.  Barabara Sicaranza is equally charming, her character is actually fairly whiny and sometimes a bit obtuse, but her strong performance keeps her constantly likable, even after she makes some really shitty choices in the film that make you want to NOT like her anymore.

Likewise the smart script and direction by Rocco Simonelli. Likable, unobtrusive and lets the actors take the material to heart. In the extras Rocco and the actors talk a lot about how autobiographic the film is. We even meet Rocco's actual brother and sister in law in the behind the scenes and they try in vain to explain what in the film is real and not real. The movie feels almost like a confessional after watching the extras.

If I can land a complaint on the movie it is the fact they shot it on DVCAM, and apparently PAL at that. It looks like a freaking soap opera which for me is continually distracting. The movie itself is shot well, with nice camera moves, great editing, the sound is done well, and considering shooting on the streets of New York that was probably a nightmare (the refeyrence that in the extras, so it clearly was),but the actual LOOK of the movie is just like a Soap Opera because of the professional grade video they chose to shoot on. Which is weird because the clips of the movie in the extras do NOT look like the finished movie for some reason. They look rougher around the edges as if processed or a generation away or something,and look BETTER for it. But with that said that is a technical complaint, and one coming from a filmmaker, so normal folks probably wont notice that or give a shit. This is a movie about acting and characters, both of which really shine. It is also a movie about a good script from Simonelli and Roy Frumkes both of whom do a good job.

This is a nice change of pace for both me as viewer and everyone involved who normally seem to do genre work. So give THE SWEET LIFE a shot. I'm sure lots of you folks reading this blog have girlfriends or boyfriends who are not big genre fans. This is a nice stop gap when you can't always be watching sleaze and exploitation. It is a nice New York love story with a true life pulse.

* Also for you super obscure cult film fans there is a quick in joke to Simonelli and Lorinz's never completed film SWIRLEE about a mafia hitman made of Ice Cream. An ad for it appears on the back of a bus while Michael is riding a motorcycle. Blink and you will miss it. A test reel for SWIRLEE has bounced around the underground for years and is one of the funniest things I have ever seen. It is out there if you know where to look. 

Review © Andrew Copp