Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Italian Crime Film: Caliber 9

Of the many Italian crime films produced in the 1970s, “Caliber 9” is among the best.

This 88-minute movie from 1972 was made by one of the top directors of the genre, Fernando Di Leo, and it is almost non-stop action.

The story is simple. Local gangsters transferring a large amount of cash get ripped off, but cannot figure out how the package of money got switched with a bundle of blank paper. Their only clue is Ugo, played by Gastone Moschin, an unsmiling, man of few words who was in on the transfer. But Ugo will not help them. All he wants to do is get away from the mob and the cops, and disappear with his beautiful girlfriend, played by Barbara Bouchet.

Director Di Leo excelled in the action sequences, but the overly talky police-station scenes are stagnant. Fortunately there are not many of them.

This kind of violent, low-budget production has some disturbing moments and is definitely not for everyone.

“Caliber 9” is available from Criterion.

(For more posts on movies, TV and videos, check out Todd Mason’s site.)

Thursday, January 4, 2018

FFB: Act of Fear by Michael Collins

Michael Collins was an author new to me until this year when I read a review of one of his Dan Fortune books. The piece intrigued me enough to search out the first Fortune novel and that’s where I started, with Act of Fear.

Dan Fortune is a private investigator living in the Chelsea section of New York City, the neighborhood he was born in, raised in and turned to crime in during his juvenile delinquent years. His criminal career ended before it really got started when the teenage Fortune injured and later lost an arm during a heist. He straightened out and started snooping to earn a living.

In this 1966 novel, a young guy from the neighborhood hires Fortune to look for his friend, Jo-Jo, a car mechanic who disappeared. No one has seen or heard from him in several days.

Fortune accepts a fee and goes looking for Jo-Jo, but the guy is harder to find than the PI expected. A couple of serious crimes were committed in the working-class area including the mugging of a cop and the murder of a young woman. Fortune figures Jo-Jo was either involved in one or both of the crimes or knows too much about them to hang around where the perpetrators can find and kill him. Fortune worries that the bad guys may have already disposed of Jo-Jo and that is the reason no one has seen him.

Collins, the pen name of Dennis Lynds, creates a vivid picture of this tight-knit neighborhood, its hard-working people, and the hoods who prey upon them.

This is a decent mystery with well written scenes, good action, interesting observations on life in the old neighborhood, and unexpected touches like the phantom pain Fortune often feels in the missing arm.

(For more posts on books, check out Patti Abbott’s blog.)

Monday, January 1, 2018

Notable Viewing of 2017

Here are a few movies I thought deserved better critical reviews, or bigger audiences, or both:

Only the Brave
Wind River
The Hero
Paris Can Wait
Megan Leavey
A United Kingdom

And, here are two of the best things I caught on DVD:
Line of Duty
Tim’s Vermeer

Lastly, one of my all-time favorite low-budget crime films is still available on YouTube:
Blast of Silence

(For more posts on film and TV, check out Todd Mason’s blog.)