Rupert Pupkin Speaks: RARO VIDEO: MEET HIM AND DIE & NIGHTMARE CITY on Blu-ray ""

Monday, April 7, 2014


MEET HIM AND DIE (1976; Franco Prosperi)
I gained a decent working knowledge of Italian poliziotteschi  films via one of my favorite podcasts, The Gentlemen's Guide To Midnite Cinema. They are huge fans of his films over there and they have reviewed countless scads of them. Tarantino's love of these films also informed some of my interest in them. His turning a light onto filmmakers like Fernando Di Leo certainly had an impact on me. These Italian crime films or gangster films are pretty fun once you get on board with them. They often contain lots of great action sequences (such as car chases, gunfights, fistfights and so forth) and have a different feel than their American counterparts from the same period. Overall there is a much grittier, more frenetic feeling to them that is really quite immersive. As much as the gang movies of the 1970s made New York feel like not such a safe place to live, so too do these films create the same unease about the streets of many Italian cities. One is left with the feeling that one could be mugged, shot or just plain run over by a high-speed pursuit whilst just walking down the streets. And of course the Italians have much less of a filter for their evil characters and the things they sometimes do to people in these films than American cinema did. It all adds to that grittiness and makes it feel like anything can happen when things go bad in these movies. One of my favorite things in Italian crime cinema is the use of American actors like Henry Silva, Woody Strode or even in this case, Martin Balsam. I've always liked Balsam since I first encountered him in DEATH WISH III (and later PSYCHO, THE TAKING OF PELHAM 1 2 3 and others) and he elevates this movie as well.
A plot synopsis (from Raro's site):
"a robbery goes terribly wrong for a hapless criminal Massimo (Ray Lovelock) when he tries to break into a jewelry store only to have the steel shutters immediately slam down and lock him inside until the police arrive. Naturally, he is sent straight to jail but It doesn’t take long before he befriends a big time crime boss inside, but the plot thickens when it transpires that the young man is actually not who we think he is. the two execute a successful escape and we soon find out that we don’t really know the true background of these criminals or what is really motivating them. franco Prosperi (Last House on the Beach) directs this revenge themed crime film with Ray Lovelock and Elke Sommer. With its clever plot twists, fist fights, motorcycle and car chases, Meet Him and Die is an entertaining police action thriller."
One of the hallmarks of these films does often seem to be a crime gone wrong, often robbery or kidnapping. As I mentioned before, these films are known for their chase scenes and MEET HIM AND DIE is no exception. It has a motorcycle chase that is quite memorable indeed.

This disc features a restored frame by frame digitally  restored transfer. It's a little soft, but it's better than I'd think the film has looked in a while.
Below is a clip from the Blu-ray menu from this disc and you can see a bit of the action as featured in the film there:

Included as a special feature on this disc is a cool introduction by filmmaker and general Eurocrime authority Mike Malloy (7 mins). As an aside, anyone interested in this kind of film may want to keep an eye out for Mike Malloy's EUROCRIME Documentary, which may be coming to dvd soon:

Also from Raro Video...

NIGHTMARE CITY (Umberto Lenzi; 1980)
Quentin Tarantino once talked about the beauty of violence in Hong Kong cinema via filmmakers like John Woo and Ringo Lam, whilst comparing directly to Italian cinema which was also violent but with nothing pretty about it. He said that Italian films (he was speaking specifically of the Italian Crime films of Fernando Di Leo in this case) were just as violent, if not more so and went on to give examples of them being capable of some crazy stuff. Well, to me, Umberto Lenzi's NIGHTMARE CITY is one of the films that shows just how crazy and violent and out of control an Italian film can be when left to its own devices. 
Tarantino is an openly big fan of NIGHTMARE CITY (aka CITY OF THE WALKING DEAD) and has professed it being a big influence on PLANET TERROR, as part of he and Robert Rodriguez's 2007 collaboration GRINDHOUSE. He has a great story about 'Zombie Movies' vs. the subgenre of the "Infected People" movies:

You sometimes hear that this or that kind of cinema or that period of time was "the wild wild west". By that folks mean it was just anarchy right and that folks did crazy things when they were making movies. A lot of those stories are probably true, but Italian films really stand out for me as a bastion for insanity. Haven't you ever been watching a movie and then suddenly it goes in an unexpected direction or something out of left field happens? So then, at least for me, I often hope that the movie will just go off the rails and into lunacy and never come back. That rarely happens though and I find myself ultimately disappointed that whatever movie it wasn't didn't go as far out as I'd arbitrarily hoped. Well, NIGHTMARE CITY isn't one of those films. It's a forerunner in the "batshit crazy" territory genre and that's what I love about it. These "infected people" don't give a crap about anything and the Italian filmmakers know no bounds for what kinds of things they end up doing.

The main special feature on this disc is a 49-minute interview with director Umberto Lenzi himself. I've not seen a lot of interviews with Lenzi (though he fascinates me) but this one was pretty good (outside of constant awkward shots of the interviewer interspersed throughout).

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