Friday, September 4, 2009


The polizia train rolls on! Mr. Merli is your conductor! WOO WOOOOOOOO!!!

Original Title: Italia a mano armata
Year: 1976
Director: Marino Girolami
Writer: Leila Buongiorno (screenplay), Gianfranco Clerici (screenplay), Vincenzo Mannino (story & screenplay)
Genre: Polizia

Commissario Betti has moved on from Rome and Napoli to the greener pastures of Torino (?) and Milan to fight crime in only the way he knows how. He just may try while there to knock off a crime boss in the process!

This is the third and final appearance of the Inspector Betti. The director of the first film in the trilogy, Marino Girolami, is back here for the third, and while he seems to have learned a few tricks from Lenzi, still cannot put together what I feel is a successful film.

Where the previous two Betti films had a strong opening, the first HALF of this film started off at a snails pace for me. Again, as with Violent Rome, Girolami gets bogged down with forming "complex" relationships, and by complex I mean going beyond calling someone a fucker and slapping the snot out of them.

Gone are the cramped, damp streets of Italy, largely replaced by dirt roads and greenery. A busload of children are kidnapped for ransom, and banks are robbed. None of these seem to have anything to do with one another, and as a result the film just meanders along for 45 minutes.

Sure, we get the standard faire from Merli as Betti once again, but Merli I think just lacks the acting chops to truly travel the road that Girolami was paving with the character development in the first two acts. Be ready for a painfully cliched scene in which a distraught person cries and lashes about with Betti trying to comfort her. Betti has some interesting moments, in particular the second bank standoff in which some puzzle pieces finally (and conveniently) start to fit. The kidnappers are kinf od interesting I guess, but the kids are highly annoying. There are a few shining spots here, but we are lacking that oompf we want to see in these films.

When the most exciting part is a panty shot followed by a bumbling rape scene, you just can't feel too great about how everything will ultimately wrap up. Is it just me, or is women's underwear essentially break-away in 70s Italian cinema? Those things just disintegrate at the first sign of struggle.

Thankfully, and mercifully, Girolami puts his foot on the accelerator, and finally I crack a true smile while watching. Merli gets his wake up call in a way and the character we came to see emerges from his slumber! What we get now is some over the top action. The car chases and crashes, the SLAP fighting, PRISON SCENE, Girolami even gets a hair up his ass and throws in some SLO-MO! Yea, boy! Gettem!

Betti is now targeting crime boss Albertelli (played by the fantastic John Saxon) after making some connections that we'll just have to go with.

Here's Saxon looking like a beast!

This back half of the film saves it from being a disaster. We are now treated to the sleazy, violent ride we came to see. Girolami just took an eternity cinematically speaking to really get Betti and the film as a whole a real focus. The fact that Saxon's character Albertelli is not even mentioned until close to the halfway point was a complete mistake if you ask me.

As I said, Merli is his normal self here. It works when he is playing Dirty-Harry Betti, but when he is playing serious-with-a-potential-love-interest Betti, you will be longing for Franco Nero instead. The supporting characters are either forgettable I think or just grating. I'm looking at you, distraught overacting lady (Mirella D'Angelo.) Saxon is a beacon here and really plays a true asshole. His scenes are enjoyable, especially the poolside conversation with Betti.


I have to mention the score for the film as well. While there are some very cheesy/sappy strings in there, the main theme is one for the ages. I originally heard it during the closing of the Cinema Diabolica podcast, and loved it even then. It is repeated a lot throughout, but is mixed up, slowed down, etc. as not to get overly repetitive. Definitely my favorite music of the three films, as I am having trouble even remembering the music from the previous two.

I am having a hard time recommending this film unless you are a fan of the genre. The OCD in me says watch it to see the Betti character wrapped up and finish the trilogy, but the plodding first half just is not much fun.

It's worth a view for the action-packed second half, I suppose, and it was interesting to see the changes (for better or worse) that Girolami made in the one year or so that passed between Roma Violenta and this, most notably the addition of slow-motion in some of the action sequences.

Kind of a mess at times and not the best acting all around.

I'm sorry, Merli. I still love you.

5.5 out of 10
(or 3 out of 10 for the first 45 minutes and 8 out of 10 for the second!)

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