Saturday 3 August 2013

Colpo Rovente / Red Hot Shot

When businessman Mac Brown is assassinated on a busy New York street, there is only one man to head the investigation: Frank Berin. For the previous year Berin had conducted extensive inquiries into Berin’s business dealings, but had been unable to find incontrovertible evidence of any criminal activity or conspiracy. Unfortunately for Berin, Brown’s daughter Monica has put up a $250,000 reward for information on her father’s killer(s). Worse still, the killers always seem to be one step ahead of him...

Colpo Rovente is stylishly directed by co-writer Piero Zuffi, with some particularly good use of mirror shots and of (then) high-technology to heighten the sense of modernist paranoia.

The film also benefits from smart deployment of New York and other US locations, along with clever opportunism in some found moments of spectacle, with Berin’s visiting Acapulco to follow up a lead inevitably occurring during the Day of the Dead celebrations.

The production design, in what Tim Lucas has characterised as the Continental Op style, nicely captures the contrasting milieus of their inhabitants – the psychedelic hippie happenings; the criminal boardroom; the laboratory replete with vials of brightly coloured liquids; the Greenwich Village gay bar. Pierro Piccioni’s bold, brash crime-jazz score propels the action along, as does the sharp editing by the incomparable Franco Arcalli.

In sum, even though the source of the fan-subbed AVI is cropped, with some familiar names in the credits being somewhat chopped-off, the film still looks good enough to convince that a digital restoration of the original materials would be justified. The main downside is that the narrative can be difficult to follow at times, perhaps most notably when Berin goes undercover and infiltrates a Hells Angels-type biker gang; aficionados of filone cinema will recognise Ugo Fangareggi among their number. There is a justification for this confusion, however, with the denouement also encouraging the viewer to retrospectively re-evaluate a couple of scenes and some key exchanges within them. It is the first of these, incidentally, that seems to provide further explanation for the Red Hot Shot title.

[NB: Spoilers follow after the pictures]

A blade in the dark... 

Black gloves and a gun... 

There's a very good reason for the framing of this shot.

The press reports...

The media reacts... 

The photofit #1 

The photofit #2 

Barbara Bouchet in her fancy penthouse

More a crime drama than a giallo perhaps, the film might be viewed as an alternate configuration of Elio Petri’s Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion. There we know that the titular investigator, the right-wing police chief, is also the his mistress’s killer. By being so obvious about it his culpability, however, he effectively conceals it. Here we don’t know that Berin set events in motion by assassinating Brown. When we learn this we might reconsider the identity parade and photo-fit session, where Berin uses himself as one of the reference points for the portrait of the murderer. Likewise, his brutality against a Bud Spencer lookalike festooned with bad tattoos, comes to make more sense.

Against this, though, we can also see that Berin has been responsible for the deaths of some innocents – if, that is, the world depicted is one where any innocents still exist, as certainly suggested the film’s conflation of business and crime, along with the closing scene of hippies over which are projected images from the film itself and culled from the news. This would also tie in with the importance of drugs to the narrative, even if the effects of LSD and heroin sometimes seem conflated.

All-told, gripping, stylish and provocative. And the always-welcome Barbara Bouchet. And, for those with less mainstream tastes, an appearance by experimental film-maker and all-round renaissance man Carmelo Bene as her reviled husband.

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