#8 – Eurocrime! The Italian Cop and Gangster Movies That Ruled the ’70s

Rating: ★★★½☆

Mike Malloy’s densely-packed documentary details the Italian Film Industry’s bizarre “Eurocrime” subgenre which emerged in the wake of the decline of both the Spaghetti Western and the Giallo genres. These crime pics brazenly ripped off the likes of Dirty Harry and The Godfather, though boasted their own unsavoury edge; real-life crime often became entangled in the productions, while the directors aimed to push the boundaries of sexual and violent taboos, as they shot in an unfussed guerilla style – that’s Eurocrime.

Though some might dismiss Eurocrime as a vapid pilfering of America’s superior cinema, the argument here is that it was a reaction to the Italian concerns of the crime, namely a surging crime rate and worrying trend of violence throughout the country. Often the most prominent figures of the genre – such as the American actors John Saxon (Enter the Dragon) and Fred Williamson (Crazy Joe), for instance – had intended to go to Italy to shoot art films with the likes of Fellini, but the immense tax breaks associated with these off-the-books productions often made it hugely financially rewarding for Americans. The films were shot on a conveyerbelt system, with direct sound not even recorded; it was dubbed – often very badly – later on in production.

Some of the more eye-opening insights emerge when discussing the taboos broached in the genre, such as extreme violence and misogyny, as well production taboos, such as using live ammo on-set, and having actors perform their own break-neck stunts, which is admirable if wholly, hilariously irresponsible. It wasn’t uncommon for a Mob presence to be on set, and in a few cases, directors were even kidnapped if they didn’t like what they saw. Meanwhile, terrorist sects such as the Red Brigade would also have a considerable impact upon the industry. It was with Eurocrime’s attempt to break into the U.S. that we see its decline, as directors became increasingly desperate to turn a profit for little expense, recycling as much as 40% of their films in other productions. Of course, the DVD market has invited a Eurocrime revival of sorts, giving many – even sometimes the actors themselves – the first opportunity to watch these films.

Malloy’s documentary is, at 127 minutes, certainly rather long, but fast-cutting and an inventive visual style keeps it clipping agreeably along. Also keep your eyes peeled for Troll 2 director Claudio Fragasso, who is interviewed extensively here, though sadly with no reference to the cult calamity. This is a scholarly assessment of the cult genre, but also a neat, passionate and informed one.

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This article was first posted on August 26, 2012