Wednesday, June 16, 2010


La Mano Lunga del Padrino is the one and only film directed and co-written by Nardo Bonomi. True to its title, it's a pretty sweeping film, a mean little B picture enhanced by some foreign location shooting and an amoral, ultimately bleak attitude. It opens with the ambush and robbery of a military shipment of rifles by a gang led by Don Carmelo (Adolfo Celi of Thunderball fame). The truckload of guns is almost immediately hijacked from the gangsters by rebellious underling Vincenzo (German actor Peter Lee Lawrence). He wants to make a quick killing by selling the guns so he can start a new life with his fiancee Sabina (Erika Blanc), who's sleeping around on the side. A jealous ex-girlfriend warns him of Sabina's treachery; spurned, she rats him out to Don Carmelo, who calls Vincenzo's room to taunt him. Realizing that the blonde betrayed him, Vincenzo beats the crap out of her before the Don's goons show up and beat the crap out of him. He recovers while they wait for the Don to show up, then overpowers them while using the blonde as a human shield. He shoots the goons and the blonde and goes on his way.

Vincenzo has a hard time getting someone to move his goods because of the heat Don Carmelo's put on, but when Sabina arrives he uses her jewelry to pay off a warehouse owner. The plan is to find a buyer across the Mediterranean. While Vincenzo and a reluctant Sabina go to an unnamed Arab country (Lebanon, I presume) to make the deal, the Don catches up with Vincenzo's business partner. The movie can end right here with the Don getting his guns back, but he decides he wants to keep the game going -- and find Vincenzo -- so he lets the gun shipment sail out.

The Long Arm of the Godfather pits upstart Peter Lee Lawrence (above) against Adolfo Celi (below), who somehow reminded me of Lee J. Cobb in this role.

Vincenzo finds a "prince" willing to buy the guns while Don Carmelo and crew enter the country. They track down Sabina while Vincenzo is making the sale. Torture won't make her tell where her boyfriend is; nor will the Don's claim that he's tricked Vincenzo by filling most of the gun crates with scrap metal, which will mean death when the Arabs find out. But when he tells Sabina that her boyfriend has left her in the hotel as bait, she spills the beans. Leaving a brutish, rape-happy goon behind, the Don races to the scene just as the Arabs are loading the crates on camels. Introducing himself as Vincenzo's business partner, Carmelo claims it's his job to handle his "boss's" money. Whether it's a good idea to associate himself with Vincenzo when there's still a chance for the Arabs to discover the con is open to debate, but our hero makes the point moot by deciding to grab the loot early and shoot his way out. His escape starts a picturesque chase through the exotic streets and into the open water, where a grim ending awaits the survivors....

The Arabs want guns, while Vincenzo just wants to get out of the country alive.

Nardo Bonomi is an energetic director who should have been given another chance -- that is, unless he, like his star Lawrence, met a premature end not long after making this film. He makes good use of his Arab locations and he stages fight scenes and beatings fairly well. The Long Arm has a sleazy, nasty streak that seems appropriate to the milieu it portrays, if also just plain exploitative. Lawrence, better known for spaghetti westerns, is persuasive as a cunning if not bright criminal who doesn't think his plans through as thoroughly as he should but trusts in his ability to make it by the seat of his pants. Blanc has an unflattering role as a fickle chick who hates Vincenzo at one moment for getting her into trouble, then loves him for making a big score. Her cheating raises the possibility that she'll betray Vincenzo, though I suspect that Bonomi himself may have forgotten about that possibility. In any event, Blanc struggles bravely with an arguably thankless part, and looks good in the process. Celi gives an amusing performance as a crime lord with no great sense of urgency about getting his stolen property back, leaving most of the nastiness to his minions. The music by Silvano D'Auria (his only movie score) has that Euro-lounge sound that you'd think would have been outdated when the movie first appeared, but its upbeat romanticism works in the usual Italian way as a yearning counterpoint to the brutality on screen.

Erika Blanc in love and peril

I saw The Long Arm of the Godfather in a cheap widescreen English-language edition, one of five films in the Big Guns Collection from Allegro's Pop Flix line. Given that this set also contains Sergio Martino's Violent Professionals and Duccio Tessari's Tony Arzenta (called Big Guns here), it's worth the $5.99 you'll spend if you see it in the impulse-buy aisle at your local Borders. I'll be watching the other two films soon -- Stelvio Massi's Emergency Squad and Magnum Cop -- and they may make this collection even more of a bargain for anyone seeking an economical introduction to Italian crime cinema.


Professor Brian O'Blivion said...

Another great review! I saw this one on a cheap Mafia films collection and was shocked by the totally bleakness of the whole film, especially after the somewhat groovy opening titles. The scene were he shoots the blonde along with the thugs was a surprise, that look of almost pleasure on his face as he empties the gun into the girl...A gritty little surprise of a film.

Samuel Wilson said...

Prof., I forgot to mention those titles! Along with the music they make you think you might be walking into The Dating Game or Laugh-In or some such romp. I only wonder whether the original Italian titles look the same. This film does seem to be underrated, and your tag, "gritty little suprise," sounds just right.