Tuesday 12 August 2014

Super Bitch (Massimo Dallamano, 1973) DVD Review

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“We've got a job that needs a specialist.” The 1970s were a dangerous time in Italy. Sometimes dubbed 'the Years of Lead', and rocked by the likes of the Red Brigade, tough criminal actions begot tough police responses. It was from this raging inferno that the 'poliziotteschi' genre was born, featuring hard-boiled coppers akin to Dirty Harry and his ilk, but with a uniquely Italian swagger to them and their violent actions. These Euro cop flicks thrived alongside the scintillating violence of the more enduring gialli movement, with thrills and excesses to match. Massimo Dallamano finely crafted a superb giallo in the form of What Have You Done To Solange? and mixed the trappings of those gory murder mysteries with the poliziotteschi in What Have They Done To Your Daughters?, but with Super Bitch – aka Blue Movie Blackmail – it was all about crooked cops and drug smuggling.

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“There are public morality laws in this country you know.” Ivan Rassimov (The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh) plays Cliff, a confident and suave undercover narcotics cop with a hint of Clint Eastwood's narrow-eyed danger. After a brief engagement in Lebanon, involving a deftly handled assassination and a botched car chase, he winds up in London to ingratiate himself into the world of the International Escort Service.

“Whatever it is we'll give him the deluxe service.” Stephanie Beacham (Dynasty) is Joanne, Cliff's lover and one of the girls working the escort racket that's a front for a blackmail and drugs smuggling business. It's her job to bed their rich and well-connected clients and make sure they end up on hidden camera, indulging their kinks (such as dressing up as rabbits and eating carrots) in the process.

“With this he's signed, sealed, and delivered.” Morell (Ettore Manni, aka Red Carter) may be her boss, but he's also like a father figure and a chaste lover to her. He likes to act tough, but compared to Cliff's cocksure swagger he's no match, and pliable to the will of any competing gang of drug runners, such as Mamma Turk's band of singing criminals.

“It's been a long time since your gun scared anybody.” It would be an understatement to say that the plot of Super Bitch is complex; filled with twists, double-crosses, and play-offs, it presents a murky world populated by murkier characters. Cliff is a cop, but he's keen to play all sides against one another and get paid handsomely in return, and even the apparent moral heart of the film – Joanne – is more than happy to stitch-up horny rich guys.

“Sorry spitfire, I left my screwdriver in my other pants.” Written by Dallamano, with Ross Mackenzie, and George P. Breakston (story), the film gleefully wallows in moral ambiguity and complicating itself into tighter and tighter knots, although at times its sense of propulsion can wane. However, Dallamano certainly knows how to fill the screen with style – from crooks gunned down in blood-splattering slow motion, to tourist sight-seeing in Lebanon, London, and New York. This visual vitality extends to his actors: Rassimov's sharp features work best in glorious, soul-baring close ups, while Beacham's beauty is drooled over as often as her sparky temperament.

“The rats are in the trap huh? Play cat.” More concerned with Cliff's dirty undercover cop than it's mucky movie blackmailing draw, Super Bitch is a suitably brash but beautiful injection of poliziotteschi thrills. Lurking in the shadows and grey areas, with a fondness for toast & marmalade and a dislike for bras, it's weaker moments are made up for with scorching explosions of violence, steamy exposures of flesh, and more than enough twisted morality. Fun fact: Camille Keaton, of Solange and I Spit On Your Grave fame, makes a brief cameo as an escort.

“Cool it, sex and business don't mix.” Arrow's 2012 DVD release boasts a pleasingly clean print and soundtrack (available in English or Italian with subtitles), as well as a brief but informative booklet and reversible sleeve. Additionally, there's a brief clip of Cannibal Holocaust director Ruggero Deodato fondly remembering Rassimov, and an eighteen-minute featurette called 'Bullets, Babes, and Blood: The High Octane Action of the Italian Police Film' – providing historical context and an informed overview of the genre, it proves to be an ideal introduction to the scene with several recommendations noted that are worth looking out for.

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