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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Weapons of Death (1977) review


Leonard Mann (Commissioner Beady), Henry Silva (Santoro), Jeff Blynn (Guido), Evelyn Stewart (Luchia Perizi)

"They pay me to protect everyone...the honest people...and the pimps like you!"

***WARNING! This review contains one pic of nudity***

Commissioner Beady is after a known mobster named Santoro, but his efforts go to waste as the wild criminal has an alibi every time a bust is made. Considering the Mob have been trying to keep their operations on the quiet side, Santoro prefers pulling off daring robberies and acts of violence on a large scale even participating in the operations himself. Fearing his aggressive behavior will attract attention to the syndicate, some of the other mob leaders go to confer with Don Alfredo, an aging mafioso. He refuses to listen as Santoro had stayed by his side when his son was killed some years before. Some of those that despise Santoro make attempts on his life which in turn brings about retaliation from his followers. Commissioner Beady soon finds out some crucial information that may aid him in making an arrest of the vicious Santoro.

Mario Caiano directs this entertaining action flick belonging to the 'violent cop' style of Italian crime cinema. What with its patchwork storyline it appears the film was rushed through production as several plot points seem like an afterthought. One late addition being the use of Luchia Perizi played all too briefly by Evelyn Stewart. It's barely even worth her time appearing during the closing moments. It seems like her character was hurriedly created at the last minute to integrate one last point of interest before the big showdown between Santoro and the inspector. Nonetheless, Caiano delivers a lot of great set pieces and stunt work to keep the audience preoccupied.

Leonard Mann plays his role in the same mold laid down by Franco Nero in HIGH CRIME (1973) and played to perfection by Maurizio Merli in his series of cop films. Mann isn't all that memorable of a performer, but he is far more lively in his modern day action films than he was in his spaghetti westerns, but that may have been intentional. Mann plays Inspector Beady and aside from the crippled boy, Johnny, Beady refers to his 'predecessor' before taking the job in Naples, which links this film with the Merli vehicle, VIOLENT NAPLES (1976). At least in the dubbed edition, Merli's Commissioner Betti from Lenzi's movie is never mentioned by name.

One other aspect of the film that recalls the previous movie, and Merli in particular, is the participation of Jeff Blynn. He plays an undercover special squad agent masquerading as a cabbie. He looks very similar to Maurizio Merli and he is featured on the poster pointing a gun along with Leonard Mann and Silva. I'm not sure if it was intentional, but it does bring Merli to mind.

Mann essays his role as most actors did in these movies. He screams, yells and gets in a good punch or knee to the stomach on the bad guys once they're caught. He's not as memorable as Merli or Nero, but he acquits himself well especially during some of the stunt sequences. One has Mann climbing atop a van in an attempt to pull over a gas truck by leaping from one vehicle to the other. I'm not sure if it's actually Mann doing the stunt across the big rig, but he clearly is the one atop the van. Leonard Mann was in a few Italian westerns before making the jump to the crime genre. He epitomized the wooden style of acting in the classy, dramatic western, THE FORGOTTEN PISTOLERO (1969) and CHUCK MOOL (1970).

Henry Silva was a regular in these movies and starred in two early examples of the Italian crime pictures, ASSASSINATION (1967) and THE FALLING MAN (1968) both directed by Emilio Miraglia. Silva also had a wonderfully brutal lead role in Di Leo's THE BOSS (1973) where he played a seemingly unstoppable hitman. Silva appeared in over a dozen of these productions. He also had a scene chewing role in Carlo Lizzani's classic western, THE HILLS RUN RED (1966). Curiously, in this dubbed version, Silva doesn't dub his own voice despite doing so in most other foreign films he appeared in.

Caiano was adept at other genres including the peplum and western films deliver such adventures as the interesting sword & sandal movies TWO GLADIATORS and TERROR OF ROME AGAINST THE SON OF HERCULES (both 1964), NIGHTMARE CASTLE (1965), TRAIN FOR DURANGO (1968), FIGHTING FISTS OF SHANGHAI JOE (1974) and crime movies like CALLING ALL POLICE CARS (1975) and THE BLOODY PAYROLL (1976) starring Claudio Cassinelli. As a movie, WEAPONS OF DEATH is just an average film, but as entertainment, it delivers oodles of mindless violence and a couple of gruesome moments. The car chases are fast and exciting aided and abetted by a varied score from Francesco De Masi.

One scene has Santoro involved in a high speed chase with Inspector Beady. Upon using a trick to cause the police to wreck their car, Santoro points his gun at the downed Inspector. Instead of killing him, he repays the policeman saving him previously from mobsters that wanted him dead. "You go your way, and I go mine", he tells Beady. Later, Beady's superior lays a hint that he is corrupt thinking it odd that Santoro would allow him to live. Believing that this is what the mobster wanted was for his rival to have his reputation tarnished, Beady instructs his men to pull a robbery on the illegal gambling house where Santoro was attacked a few nights prior. This is all part of Inspector Beady's plan to get a case against Santoro by nailing his colleagues.

Caiano delivers the required violence inherent in the violent cop pictures and a good amount of exploitation value including a gratuitous full frontal nude scene as well as a scene where a family is run off the road by a gas truck. The camera, leaving the action on the road, instead settles on the car as it tumbles down an embankment with blood splashing on the windshield followed by an explosion. Then the film cuts back to the chase. As for the gore, there's a decapitation of a motorcyclist and a castration of a pedophile inside a prison, the act of violence enabling Santoro to make his escape. There's also a nasty death scene during the closing moments.

There's also a couple of pint sized thieves one of them being the crippled boy from VIOLENT NAPLES (1976). Here, he makes his living by selling old newspapers to couples making out in cars to give them a bit of privacy as well as stealing tires off of parked cars and making a profit. One scene has the limping little boy make off with a race car leading the police on a chase through busy streets. It all seems to add up to nothing other than padding till a bit later when Beady finds Santoro and arrests him. Upon exiting the building, Beady spies a group of unwholesome looking hooligans ready to pounce on him as they enter the street. Santoro advises the determined cop to leave while he still has his life. Suddenly, Johnny, the crippled boy drives up in another apparently stolen car giving Beady and his captive a ride back to headquarters.

WEAPONS OF DEATH (1977) has all the earmarks to be a fan favorite as well as the participation of popular screen heavy, Henry Silva. Caiano's movie delivers lots of excitement, even though it slows down just slightly during the last half, it benefits from some jarring scenes of violence. Those looking for a more cerebral crime film would do well to look elsewhere.

This DVD can be purchased at TRASH-ONLINE. The site is linked below...

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