Monday, July 25, 2011

DVD Review: LIVE LIKE A COP DIE LIKE A MAN (1976)

LIVE LIKE A COP DIE LIKE A MAN (1976)
a.k.a. UOMINI SI NASCE POLIZIOTTI SI MUORE


LABEL: RaroVideo USA [RVDUSA 014]
REGION CODE: Region 1 NTSC
RATING: Unrated
DURATION: 94 mins
VIDEO: Anamorphic 1.85:1 Widescreen
AUDIO: English, Italian Dolby Digital Mono with English subtitles
DIRECTOR: Ruggero Deodato
CAST: Marc Porel, Ray Lovelock, Adolfo Celi, Silvia Dioniso


No stranger to disturbing exploitation cinema Ruggero Deodato's Euro-crime actioner LIVE LIKE A COP DIE LIKE A MAN (1976) opens with a horrendous  purse-snatching perpetrated by thieves on motorcycle. Unwilling to relinquish the bag they drag her for a distance until her head smashes against a lamp post. Still unable to wrench the bag from her deathgrip one of the thugs hop off the bike and savagely beats her. Abandoning their prize they speed off but unfortunately for them the commotion has caught the notice of the twisted Italian STARSKY AND HUTCH, the dark haired Fred (Marc Porel, Lucio Fulci's THE PSYCHIC) and sandy haired Tony (Ray Lovelock, LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE) whom give chase to the thieves on motorbikes in a stunning motorcycle chase throughout Rome, it's a wild ride. The dizzying pursuit takes them through cafes, over the tops of cars, up and down flights of stairs, whizzing in and out of traffic and taking the life of a seeing-eye dog leaving it's owner stranded in the middle of the street. Darkly funny, but funny nonetheless. The chase comes to a violent end when the thieves plow headlong into the back of a parked truck. The driver dies after being impaled while the passenger is thrown some distance, but survives, that is until Fred comes to assist. He helps the injured man to an upright position, cautiously removes his helmet and then discreetly snaps his neck. This was my bizarre and thrilling entry into Italian crime-action cinema and it definitely let me straight away that this wasn't going to be like any crime film I'd seen before, leave it to the Italians and Deodato in particular.


Obviously these two are not your average cops on the beat, these
crime-fighting anti-heroes are part of an elite task force called "Special Squad" run by The Boss (Adolfo Celi, THUNDERBALL). The task force is a secret arm of the law geared towards the apprehension of the city's most violent criminals by whatever means necessary. These two read perhaps too much into the "whatever means necessary" and the lengths to which their depravity extends is pretty scary. The film is a non-stop parade of sexual harassment, kinky sex, renegade justice, arson, torture, and the pre-emptive gunning down of would-be bank thieves, it's definitely a perverse form of justice, these guys just aren't fucking around. They're a mean-spirited, wise cracking duo but they're effortlessly charming characters who just happen to have a nasty sadistic streak, luckily there on the "good" side. The violence and the duo's brand of lethal justice is made a bit more palatable by the dark humor inherent in Fernando Di Leo's (CALIBER 9) script. It's a nasty bit of business that to me recalled some of the more demented morality seen in Nico Mastorakis' tasty slice of exploitation ISLAND OF DEATH (1976).


Special Squad's public enemy #1 is the elusive gangster Robert "Bibi" Pasquini (Renato Salvatori, Z) a notorious criminal who proves to be a formidable adversary. When one of the Squad's agents get too close for comfort he has him shotgunned in an elaborate set-up right outside headquarters in broad daylight. The duo taunt Pasquini at every turn, killing his henchmen, double-teaming his knock-out nympho sister Lina (Sofia Dionisio, I PROSSENETI) and setting fire to a fleet of expensive luxury cars outside of his social club.


Deodato's eye for action is as keen as his eye for disturbing violence, the set-pieces are well-staged and the action is exquisitely kinetic, everything looks pretty great with the notable exception of an insert shot featuring an exploding miniature. Porel and Lovelock's chemistry is paramount, they're as vile and reprehensible as the crooks they kill but their charisma and charm goes a long way towards endearing them to me. The film is violent but it's not overly gory, there's a lot of thick 70's-era red-paint styled bloodshed, it's nothing compared to what Deodato would offer in later films. The film has a nice swinging soundtrack courtesy of Unbaldo Continiello (MACABRE) as well as a few daydreamy folk ballads from co-star Ray Lovelocke, which nicely juxtapose the film's violence. As for on-screen beauties Deodato's then wife Silvia Dionisio (TERROR EXPRESS) appears as the Special Squad's sultry secretary Norma who always has a snappy comeback to the duo's strong sexist come-ons.


It's too bad this would be Deodato's lone entry in the Italian Euro-crime action genre, it's a fantastic watch with no small amount of violent action, spilt blood, gunplay and perverse justice. This is actually what I would consider his most entertaining film I've seen thus far.



DVD: RaroVideo's re-release of LIVE LIKE A COP DIE LIKE A MAN is presented in anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen with original Italian or dubbed English Dolby Digital mono audio. The image is quite remarkable, the brand new HD anamorphic transfer from the original 35mm negative surprised me, it's a near-pristine print. The colors are nicely saturated, the greens particularly pop, with good black levels and a crisp image with a satisfying amount of fine detail.  There's also a fine layer of natural film grain left intact, no abusive DNR scrubbing here. This would have made a stunning Blu-ray, perhaps at a later date. The Italian and dubbed English mono audio is quite strong, there is some hiss and pop throughout, particularly the English dub, but it's nothing too distracting other than for a brief moment when the score drops out. 


The supplemental materials include the 42 min documentary 'Poliziotti Violent' which features interviews with director Ruggero Deodato, star Ray Lovelock, and actor Al Cliver (WAVES OF LUST) who does not appear in the film but actually turned down a starring role much to his own regret following the film's commercial success. Deodato delves into the amount of freedom he was given during production, illegally filming the motorcycle sequences that opens the film without permits, working with Porel and Lovelock, and a never-filmed sequel. While Deodato does speak to Porel's competitive style of acting Lovelock is quick to dismiss any friction between the two on-set. The clips in the doc seem to be have been sourced from RaroVideo's previous non-anamorphic edition of the film and the clips serve as testament to how stunning the new anamorphic HD transfer is, it's really quite remarkable. There's also a 21 min commercial reel highlighting Deodato's Italian TV commercial work with optional commentary from Deodato whom speaks about it with great affection. Both the doc and the commercial reel are in Italian with English subtitles. Lastly is a 4 pg. booklet containing an overview of the film and a Deodato biography by writer Robert Firsching.


RaroVideo USA  is a partnership formed in 2010 when Stefano and Gianluca Curti, owners of Rarovideo Italy, teamed with Nico Bruinsma, owner of U.S. DVD label Cult Epics with the shared passion of producing high-quality DVD, Blu-ray and VOD releases for American audiences. This is my first viewing of any of their titles and I'm quite enamored, definitely a label I'm willing to pump some of my hard earned cash into.


SPECIAL FEATURES:
- Documentary: Poliziotti Violent (42mins)
- TV Advertisements directed by Ruggero Deodato with Commentary (20 mins)
- Illustrated Booklet


VERDICT: LIVE LIKE A COP DIE LIKE A MAN is an insanely fun and violent Euro-crime actioner. If all you know Deodato by are his more infamous offerings like CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST and HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK definitely give this one a watch, it's still crazy violent but it's also darkly comedic and is a thrilling watch from start to finish. RaroVideo's gorgeous transfer and the 'Poliziotto Violent' doc makes this a must-have for fans of Euro-crime cinema, bloody action or just Deodato connoisseurs. As my introduction to Italian crime films it would seem that the benchmark has been set pretty high.




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