Thursday, October 2, 2008


"Mister Scarface" director Fernando Di Leo has a high-ranking Italian police official compare Mafia gang wars with the Vietnam War in "The Boss," the final explosive chapter of his "Milieu Trilogy" that began with "Caliber 9" (1972), aka "Milano calibro 9" (1972) with Frank Wolff and followed with "Manhunt" aka "La Mala ordina, " (1972) co-starring Henry Silva and Woody Strode. If you're looking for no-holds-barred violence on a grand scale, "The Boss" antes up more than enough mayhem and murder during its 100 minute running time to satisfy your thirst for blood. Skull-faced heavy Henry Silva delivers another monosyllabic performance as a cold-blooded Mafia executioner. Veteran Hollywood star Richard Conte lends strong support as the top-most Mafia chieftain.

"The Boss" (**** out of ****) covers several weeks of action. It begins inconspicuously enough with a guy carrying a package under his arm who enters an anonymous building. Di Leo shrouds this uneventful activity with composer Luis EnrĂ­quez Bacalov's slightly paranoid jazz soundtrack and create a modicum of tension. An entirely different guy in a red shirt delivers a film reel to the projectionist upstairs so we now know that the building houses a movie theater. Downstairs, a well-dressed, loud-talking mobster leads a group of mobsters in business suits into an auditorium. He proclaims that they are about to watch a Danish porn movie with "the best looking broads in the world." Meanwhile, the man with the package, Nick Lanzetta (Henry Silva of "Ocean's 11"), relieves the projectionist of his duties, clobbers him over the head, and get him out of his way. Nick assembles a rifle with a grenade launcher. He turns the auditorium where the mobsters are sawing the porn movie into a inferno. The implicit message that pornographic films are bad for you is unmistakable.

Commissioner Torri (Gianni Garko of "Bad Man's River") runs the Mafia types out of the police morgue where the charred remains of the burned bodies lay on slabs. Torri explains his theory to his boss, Il Questore (Vittorio Caprioli of "Mister Scarface"), that the government is to blame for the bloodshed. "It's the fault of the government," Torri argues, "The results of a policy that is a failure. Since the government forced the old bosses into exile, their families have been left fighting for position. That results in complete disorder. All your newer families begin to feel impatient—I'm talking about the oldest ones they suddenly get the ideas that they can start grabbing for power because their own coppo was around to keep it under control." Torri argues that everything is liable to explode if they don't bring back the old dons. Tension exists between Torri and Il Questore because the latter knows that the former receives bribes from the Mafia. Il Questore cannot make any charges stick against Torri and he cannot transfer him out of his department.

The massacre in the movie theatre was triggered when an outsider, Cocchi, (Pier Paolo Capponi of "My Name is Pecos"), who is not a Sicilian, wanted to get into the family. Cocchi wants to deal in drugs. Don Corrasco (Richard Conte of "The Violent Professionals") doesn't want drugs in Sicily. Hmn, sounds like "The Godfather." Anyway, Do Corrasco refuses to have anybody in his family that has survived for 40 years who isn't a Sicilian. Fifteen minutes later in the movie, the remaining members of the crime family that Nick wiped out in the porn movie abducts the daughter, Rina Daniello (Antonia Santilli), of Don Giuseppe Daniello (Claudio Nicastro of "A Man Called Magnum), who set Nick on them. The abductors specify their demands: "We don't want money and we don't want the girl. Nothing is going to happen to her, if we can have you, your life for hers. We figure that's a fair exchange." Meanwhile, Cocchi's perverted hoodlums ply poor Rina with liquor and rape her with gleeful abandon.

The Don refuses to let Don Giuseppe exchange himself for his daughter. "They would torture you first, would just kill you, they would torture you first. They'd eventually make you tell them who the family contacts are. I'm not thinking of myself but the family it existed for forty years, Giuseppe. We've built it up and defended it together. Nothing is yours not when it interferes with the family." Nick suggests that they offer Cocchi money to stall for time. He insists also that they tell the kidnappers that Don Giuseppe has suffered a heart attack.

When Don Giuseppe wants to buy his daughter back without Don Corrasco's permission, Nick shoots Giuseppe and has his body cremated. Nick is an orphan who Don Giuseppe Daniello was raised as his own son, but he has no qualms about killing Giuseppe and Giuseppe's right-hand man. Nick arranges a deal with another gangster, the brother of the Mafia chieftain that he exterminated in the movie theatre. The guy reveals the whereabouts of Rina. Single-handedly, Silva rescues her as two thugs are raping her and kills them without a qualm. He drives through a wall and smashes another car into three pieces.

By this time, all the bloodshed has upset Mafia leaders in Rome. They want to see Cocchi and Don Corrasco strike a deal so the killing can stop. Don Corrasco dispatches Nick to finish off Cocchi's gang. The Mafia liaison from Rome urges Don Corrasco to eliminate Nick. According to Don Corrasco, Nick is a man of "infinite resource." Nevertheless, the Don arranges a deal with Torri to arrest Nick and find incriminating evidence that Nick was behind the movie theatre massacre. Torri confronts Nick at his apartment. Nick turns the tables on Torri and forces him at gunpoint to call up Cocchi and invite him to visit him.

"The Boss" chronicles one bloodbath after another with double-crosses galore in a Mafia power struggle over territory. This is one of the very best Mafia melodramas to come out of Italy.

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