Friday, June 13, 2014

MEET HIM AND DIE (Pronto ad uccidere, 1976)

There were two men named Franco Prosperi directing movies in Italy during the 1960s and 1970s. The better known of the two is Franco E. Prosperi, the collaborator with Gualtiero Jacopetti on the Mondo Cane movies, Goodbye Uncle Tom, etc. The other Franco Prosperi was not distinguished with a middle initial, and since the Mondo co-director often isn't in references, he's sometimes credited, or blamed, for the other guy's work. The other guy directed and co-wrote Pronto ad uccidere (literally, "Ready to Kill") a somewhat old fashioned movie in Italy's polizziotteschi genre. The same story might have been filmed in the U.S. twenty or forty years earlier. In short, it's about a cop (Ray Lovelock) who pretends to be a criminal to the point of getting caught attempting a robbery and going a prison, the better to infiltrate a drug gang led by Giulanelli (Martin Balsam). For our hero, the mission is also an opportunity for revenge; members of this gang shot and paralyzed his mother during an earlier robbery. As usual in such stories, our undercover man must earn the boss's trust without blowing his cover. Along the way he falls for a moll (Elke Sommer) who has an agenda of her own. This recent Raro DVD release is noteworthy only for its action scenes. The highlight is an extended sequence in which Lovelock, driving truck full of drugs hidden inside eggs, is hijacked after stopping for what looks like an injured female motorcyclist. Against four-to-one odds, Lovelock, after taking a beating, first commandeers the fully functioning motocycle, then chases down the truck, and then chases it down again after the hijackers drive him off the road. There's terrific stuntwork here highlighted by Lovelock's double doing a Yakima Canutt style trick, anticipating Indiana Jones by doing it with a truck rather than a stagecoach. There's also a nice ending that isn't really an ending as the story stops at a moment of truth for our hero, his vengeance denied and another enemy revealed. It's more of a Seventies moment than the rest of the picture as some of his assumptions are knocked out from under him, but otherwise it has less of the crusading zeitgiest of other Italian police pictures. There's little personality either in front of or behind the camera, though Balsam is always fun to watch and Sommer's still easy on the eye at this point. None of this is necessarily enough to recommend Meet Him and Die to posterity, but this film isn't really the bottom of the poliziotteschi barrel, either. Not a keeper, but maybe worth a look.

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