Director: Emilio Miraglia (as Hal Brady).
Starring. Henry Silva, Beba Loncar, Keenan Wynn, Carlo Palmucci, Pier Paolo. USA. 1h 33m.
Emilio Miraglia has conjured up a vibrant Italian noir-crime thriller from a story co-written by Massimo De Rita who wrote the debut hit for Miraglia , Assassinsation (1967) which also stars Henry Silver who returns in this follow up as the heavy handed Inspector Sterling, a police inspector whose son has been brutally killed outside the family home in retaliation to his police work. Known for his brilliant Giallo and Poliziottesco movies such as The Red Queen Kills Seven Times (1972) and The Night Evelyn Came out of her Grave (1971), Miraglia’s successes came after these hard hitting Poliziottesco classics.
After his son is buried and his wife vacates the family home, the disgruntled Inspector Sterling goes out hunting the men that lead to this personal tragedy, unfortunately he’s been kicked off the force and is alleged to have killed a police informer, but with his life in tatters, he suits up and heads into town to find a few leads and then starts breaking heads. Although there are two very different cuts of the movie, the European version is about Sterling’s quest to find a man who murdered his son and framed him for shooting an informant, I’m totally unaware of the “other version” and would love to see how it’s all been spliced together, 2 films for 1 I guess.
Silva’s stern features and uncompromising determination is key in this movie which, will always remain a strong favourite, it’s quiet a side step from the typical action thrillers of the day, it’s not heavy on the violence, car chases and girls, instead there’s more sleuthing and putting the bigger picture together, Silva really has his Columbo hat on, and while he’s happy to throw hands, he much prefers to keep people under the thumb until they break, not wanting to let this unofficial case unravel as he really needs to find the person behind his sons murder.
The stakes have never been higher. He bribes and sneaks his way around the low lives of the city, knowing exactly where to do and how to get their attention and loyalty, instead of a car chase he just follows a model around town, she tries to give him the slip but he’s too smart for her, and I think that’s the key to this movie, everyone is a professional and just too smart, the kinds of mistakes which lead to desperate chases and fights just aren’t being made, it’s all very grown up. Silva is no perfect superhero, his backstory starts to unwind and reveals a long list of culprits who might be getting revenge after he beat confessions out of them but he’s doing it for the good of the people so that’s alright I suppose.
Tracking cons to the backdrop of San Francisco gives a delightful upbeat feeling to the horrors that Inspector Sterling begins to uncover, backroom drug dens being the most colourful.. With some detailed and vibrant cinematography from Erico Menczer who excelled in Slap the Monster on Page One / Sbatti il mostro in prima pagina (1972) and is able to conjure up a western feel in the backrooms of the cities, closing in tight on action screen and never giving a soft side to the relentless men that are surrounded by chaos.. Somewhere within the bitter narratives, where the complicated webs of alliances and betrayals are laid out with clean storytelling lines of force and set in motion with a pitiless momentum.
Silva remains quite stoic and pissed off throughout the entire movie, and with those chiseled features he’s totally menacing in what looks more like a grindhouse action film, but without the grind. I think the charm of this movie is that it doesn’t sit nicely within any of the genres that it’s associated with, but it’s pure cinemagic watching Silva stalk and manhandle his way through the web of crooks and lies to find out what triggered the series of events that lead to the death of his son. There’s definitely a brotherhood of men who have a desperate need to find the truth, Lee Marvin in Point Blank, Mel Gibson in Payback and Henry Silva in Falling Man. I feel these would make an awesome trilogy.
Related – The Red Queen Kills Seven Times (1972), Cry of the Prostitute (1974), Calibre 9 (1972)
List – A-Z Poliziottesco
Spotlight – Henry Silva