[18 April 2014]
One fine day, Massimo (Ray Lovelock) tells his mom not to wait up for him. Then he goes out, puts on a ski mask, and bungles an attempted robbery of a jewelry store. When he’s thrown in prison with a local drug kingpin (Martin Balsam), we begin to suspect there’s more to the story, and these feelings are confirmed by a flashback and helpful expository dialogue. The plot’s twists include a break-out and eventual arrival in Genoa on the Riviera, where third-billed Elke Sommer finally shows up as a gangster’s moll who likes Massimo because he’s such a blond heart-throb who loves his mother.
Such is Meet Him and Die (in Italian, Pronto ad Uccidere or “Ready to Kill”), one of several releases from Raro Video that belong to the violent, action-heavy 1970s fad of Italian cop movies more or less inspired by Dirty Harry and The French Connection. In the liner notes and an onscreen spiel, genre expert Mike Molloy calls it an archetypal example, which is polite for “typical”. It’s not over the top like Lovelock’s Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man, also from Raro. Its straightforward hash of elements gets the job done in a genre that runs moral ambiguity almost into nihilism, and there’s a curiously ambiguous ending too.
Molloy observes that Lovelock’s persona has something of a Serpico vibe, at least if you squint. Many people get shot, and one mark of this genre is that instead of cutting away discreetly from the violence, the movie avidly goes to close-ups of exploding squibs. That’s where the money was, both in budget and at the box office. The highlight of action is a dangerous-looking chase between a truck (full of raw eggs!) and a motorcycle down a winding, picturesque road. Apparently this scene and others were instantly recycled in the next Lovelock vehicle, Gangbuster.
If you have any interest in this genre, you can’t fault a presentation that offers both the Italian and English tracks. Significantly, the English subtitles are real translations of the Italian track, not transcriptions of the English track, so you can note the differences if so inclined. Molloy helpfully explains the difference between the more general polizieschi (crime films) and the more specific poliziotteschi (Italian crime films), and he also explains that director Franco Prosperi isn’t the same Franco Prosperi who made the “mondo” documentaries. Those who prepared the booklet didn’t get the memo, and they included the biography of the wrong Prosperi.