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Colt 38 Special Squad

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Colt 38 Special Squad (1976)

Director Massimo Dallamano's poliziotteschi, Colt 38 Special Squad, begins with a bullet-blazing gun battle between the police and a band of bad guys armed with high-powered artillery and big, bristly mustaches. Shortly after the shootout, police captain Vanni (Marcel Bozzuffi) receives an ominous phone call threatening his family. Rushing home, Vanni discovers that his wife has been brutally gunned down, right in front of their son, by a baddie operating under the mellifluous monicker, Marseillaise (Ivan Rassimov).

After his wife's funeral Vanni is ready to turn in his bullet-beaten badge, but when he receives the okay to form a covert squad of cops armed with Colt 38s, not to mention a couple of non-regulation mustaches of their own, Vanni's short bereavement comes to a sudden end when he responds with, "Now we're getting somewhere." (Oh poor Vanni, if only your wife had been murdered by that mean old Marseillaise sooner.) Now bearing 38s, some kickass motorcycles, and a license to shoot bad guys in the kneecaps, Vanni and his rogue police force are all set to rid the city of its recent crime wave, and give that old Marseillaise (now mustache-less) what for!

Director Massimo Dallamano, who directed the classic gialli What Have They Done To Solange?, and What Have They Done to Your Daughters? was a very fine director and an excellent cinematographer, working in this capacity on Leone's classic Westerns A Fistul of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More - both of which are Dallamano's most well-known contributions to cinema. Unfortunately, Dallamano's directorial output was fairly small as he died in an auto accident shortly after making Colt 38 Special Squad. I wish I could say that his final film was a great end to a notable career, but unfortunately it's pulp cinema at its most run-of-the-mill.

Colt 38 Special Squad looks quite nice - interiors oozing with '70s chic, good cinematography etc. - features a fun and funky score by Italian maestro Stelvio Cipriani, has some great chase sequences, stunning stunts, nifty action setpieces, more flavor savers than you can shake a Bic with an aloe moisturizing strip at, and even a Grace Jones cameo! But alas, Colt 38 Special Squad is sorely lacking in the area of story and character. Both are beyond simplistic, lacking any depth or color, and neither of these key elements hold up over the film's hour and forty-three minute running time. Dallamano's final feature is also surprisingly bereft of any real conflict beyond its initial setup, and the film is just largely uninvolving, with a few highlights here and there to keep one from completely falling off the couch and into a drool-induced state of slumber. At its best, the movie is moderately entertaining, looks great, and has a truly astounding car chase during its finale, but apart from this, to put it frankly, Colt 38 Special Squad just ain't that special.

You wouldn't know it by looking at NoShame's DVD cover, which only features the title Colt 38 Special Squad, but there is a second disc featuring a long-lost film by director Luciano Ercoli called, La Bidonata. The release of this DVD marks the first time La Bidonata has been released anywhere. Actually, the film never received a theatrical run either because the producer of La Bidonata was kidnapped (somewhat ironically, as the film deals in large part with a kidnapping).

Apart from the fact that both titles represent the final films from their respective directors, it's interesting that NoShame chose to include Ercoli's film with Colt 38 Special Squad, as La Bidonata is a caper comedy rather than your standard crime film. The story centers around a guy named "Shiny Shoes" Renalto and a couple of his buffoon-like buddies trying to pull the "heist of a lifetime." It has some funny bits, and the characters are more memorable than those in Colt 38 Special Squad, but it's a mediocre film that will surely disappoint viewers hoping for a second helping of Italian crime cinema. With his super-fun gialli Death Walks On High Heels and Death Walks at Midnight, Ercoli proved to be a talented director who infused his films with a lot of energy and style, but unfortunately, La Bidonata lacks Ercoli's usual visual flair.

Despite the fact that neither film impressed me very much, NoShame continues to amaze with their dedication to releasing Italian genre films in really spectacular fashion. Their DVDs are always top-notch, and the double-disc release of Colt 38 Special Squad and La Bidonata is no different. The uncut and restored print for Colt 38 Special Squad looks fantastic, and the film is presented in both Italian and English mono with optional English subtitles. The print for La Bidonata, which was derived from the original camera negative, lacks the vibrancy of Colt 38 Special Squad, and though not faring quite as well, is still without any major flaws.

Extras on disc one include the interview "Always the Same 'Ol Seven Notes" in which composer Stelvio Cipriani discusses his career, working with Massimo Dallamano and Grace Jones, and meeting Ray Charles. A second interview, titled "A Tough Guy" has editor Antonio Siciliano recalling the projects he worked with Dallamano on, and what a great director, cinematographer and human being Dallamano was. In addition to these two interviews the first disc also includes the original theatrical trailer for Colt 38 Special Squad. The only major extra on disc two is a short interview with Sergio D'Offizi, the cinematographer who worked on La Bidonata, who discusses his dismay at the film being shelved, and his much happier relationship working with his friend Luciano Ercoli.

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