Contraband (1980)

Contraband (1980)- * * *1\2

Directed by: Lucio Fulci

Starring: Fabio Testi, Ivana Monti, Guido Alberti, and Marcel Bozzuffi

Luca Di Angelo (Testi) is a Naples-based cigarette smuggler. He and his smuggling buddies ride their speedboats up and down the Italian waterways to deliver the goods, but it’s never anything really harmful like drugs. Luca has a wife and young son, and doesn’t want to jeopardize their lives.  Things turn deadly serious when a French drug kingpin, known as The Marsigliese (Bozzuffi) decides he wants to move into the Italian territory, with hard drugs and all. Being a sadistic torturer, he murders, tortures, disfigures or mutilates anyone who gets in his way. When his wife Adele (Monti) is kidnapped, the normally mild-mannered Luca goes on a rampage of revenge the likes of which Naples has never seen.  Will Luca get out alive?

While not, strictly speaking, a Poliziotteschi (because the role of the police is pretty limited and it’s not a procedural), director Fulci has crafted some kind of cross between the crime films prevalent at the time, and the gore films he is most known for these days. It’s all beautifully shot by cinematographer/master Sergio Salvati, and the make-up effects brilliantly done by artist/master Franco Di Girolamo and his team, and the music is stellar as well, done by the great Fabio Frizzi. These men and others help make Contraband a very well-made and entertaining movie. But it’s not for everyone. Anyone who reads this site will surely love it, but the level of violence is definitely over the top - in an awesome way, of course.

You have to transport yourself back to 1980 - while characters are playing Pong and going to the discotheque (while wearing some amazing clothing), they also are being subjected to what had to have been new heights (or depths, depending on your outlook) of blood, guts, and gore. Even today with our jaded and experienced eyes, it’s powerful - imagine what they thought back then? There’s other things that presage the oncoming 80’s as well, such as the sax on the soundtrack, a couple of blow-ups and fights, and a kid with the time-honored bowl haircut.

Fabio Testi is charismatic and likable, and he has a truly amazing fur coat at one point. Thankfully, Contraband was made long before political correctness. But besides all that, it’s just a good, solid movie, well-made on all fronts. Fulci was truly a maestro and this is one of the feathers in his cap. He was undoubtedly a man ahead of his time, yet firmly rooted in the traditions of the past. The way he marries the two is an example of his no-rules genius. Look for him in a tiny cameo at the very end of the movie as one of the shooters. The Blue Underground DVD is excellent, although it would have been nice to have an Italian track with subtitles, instead of a no-options dubbed version. But that’s a minor quibble, as this fine film is well worth owning.

Contraband is just great. If you haven’t already, we definitely recommend purchasing the DVD.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out a write-up from our buddy, A Hero Never Dies!


The Final Alliance (1990)

The Final Alliance (1990)- * * *

Directed by: Mario DiLeo

Starring: David Hasselhoff, Jeanie Moore, Bo Hopkins, and John Saxon

“I’ve been shot before. I survived. You won’t.”- Will Colton

Will Colton (The Hoff) is a man who swears by his awesome hat, beard stubble, mullet, tight jeans, cowboy boots and jacket. He also has a pet puma named Felix. He returns to his old hometown of Goldcrest, and begins fixing up his old homestead. However, that does not sit well with the local biker gang, called The Vipers. Through their forceful intimidation tactics and a frightened populace (of only 3000 people), The Vipers run Goldcrest. It’s also because the leader of the gang, an albino named Ghost (Saxon) has a corrupt relationship with the Sheriff, Whistler (Hopkins). So it’s up to Will Colton to clean up this town, with the help of new love Carrie (Moore). As if that wasn’t enough, an event in Colton’s past drives him to get revenge on The Vipers. Will he succeed?

Hasselhoff should have been in more movies like this. It plays to all of his strengths.  He even runs in slow motion at one point. The Final Alliance is a lot of fun, though it’s nothing, plotwise, you haven’t seen before. The “stranger comes to town and cleans up said town” has been around since time immemorial and if you’ve seen Walking Tall: The Payback, Nowhere To Run, Street Corner Justice, Radical Jack, and Fire Down Below, among many other possible examples, you’ll know what we’re talking about. It’s all very David Heavener-esque (let’s not forget to add Outlaw Force to the list), but somehow, someway, The Hoff makes it work. Just as he unfailingly has done for his entire career.

Casting John Saxon, a man of Italian descent, as an albino was certainly an interesting choice. The role seemed tailor-made for Richard Lynch, but perhaps he wasn’t available. Saxon’s ghoulish appearance adds something to the overall feeling. Bo Hopkins also puts in an inspired performance (read: insane) and he yells most of his lines. It’s truly a pleasure to watch Saxon, Hopkins and Hasselhoff in this outing. It doesn’t get much better than The Hoff as a former mercenary with a proficiency in booby traps.

There are the time-honored stand-bys such as the abandoned warehouse fight and barfight, and the fact that this movie is from 1990 and shot in a foreign country is evident pretty much all the time. Prime examples include plenty of stonewashed denim, Hoff’s first nemesis is a dude in a Manowar half-shirt, the town has a combination general store/video store (complete with posters for The Untouchables, among others), graffiti on the walls says “Dead People Are Cool” (???) and the word “Tobacco” is spelled incorrectly on another sign in the small town, which feels very much like a Western set. And of course, the sax on the soundtrack.

Director DiLeo has fashioned an entertaining, if incredibly undemanding romp that’s not to be taken too seriously. While we’re not exactly sure what “the final alliance” refers to in the saga of Will Colton, you’ll be pretty much guaranteed a night of silly fun if you can find this VHS.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett