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struggling to out-guess one an- other, this is a film in which noth- ing is as it appears to be. Welt is definitely the fall guy for the swindle which landed him behind bars, but exactly how guilty was he of the crime in the first place, and how justified is his attempt at handing out some justice of his own? Is the judge really the honorable man that his nephew believes him to be, and do the nervous glances that Peter and Anna continually cast suggest that they are caught up in a plot of their own?


cum-seduction which, like the main story, isn’t quite what it seems—sets the tone nicely, and Castellari’s direction of Ernesto Gastaldi’s script is tight and ef- ficient. He shows a real flair for creating tense situations in tight spaces (the primary locations are the judge’s home and office), with a handful of hallucinatory digres- sions (an Antonioni-style slow- motion explosion, for example) thrown in for good measure. Of note are Ennio Morricone’s eccen- tric, jazz-inflected score and the cinematography of Antonio L. Ballesteros (THE COLOSSUS OF RHODES), rich in color and intelligent in its use of position within the frame, if prey to an over-reliance on zooms. Kino Lorber/Redemption’s 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation, transferred from the original 35mm negative, is excel- lent, with any speckles, scratches and other visual blemishes limited mostly to the opening title se- quence (which, incidentally, suc- ceeds in making central London look like the grimmest, greyest place on Earth). However, the audio track is the English dub rather than the preferred Italian language version, which means that Julián Mateos’ character has been given an almost comical “cor


The opening sequence—a superb giallo-inspired assault-


58


blimey, guv” Cockney accent. The extras are restricted to a faded US trailer for the film’s release under the title DESPERATE MOMENTS and a selection of trailers for other Kino Euro-horror titles (HATCHET FOR THE HONEY- MOON, BLACK MAGIC RITES, THE ASPHYX, THE COMEBACK, THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTED).


HOODLUM EMPIRE


1952, Olive Films, 98m, $24.95 DVD-1, $29.95 BD-A By Eric Somer


In the tradition of THE EN-


FORCER (1951), THE CAPTIVE CITY, THE PHENIX CITY STORY and NEW YORK CONFIDENTIAL, this Republic Pictures effort was a byproduct of the organized crime investigation chaired by Tennes- see senator Estes Kefauver in the early 1950s. Through a combina-


tion of the gangster and noir form, these social problem dra- mas explicate the omnipresent danger associated with a sophis- ticated criminal structure that threatens an ever vulnerable general public.


Co-written by Bruce Manning and Bob Considine (THIRTY SEC- ONDS OVER TOKYO), the story oscillates between past and present to expound on the Ameri- can underworld’s evolution from the prohibition era to post-WWII. A former racketeer, Joe Gray (John Russell, TV’s LAWMAN) fought courageously in German-occupied


France along with padre Simon Andrews (Grant Withers) and com- pany commander Bill Stephens (Brian Donlevy). In the process, Gray fell for Marte Dufour (Vera Ralston), the French woman who prevented his probable death, and he also grew to like the camara- derie he shared with small-town soldiers. “They have something that Big City people just don’t seem to have,” he observes.


Soon after Gray’s return to the US, his uncle Nick Mancani (charismatically played by Luther Adler) chronicles the expansion of his NYC-based outfit’s illegal slot machine and horse racing busi- nesses onto the national scene. Mancani refers to an elaborate wall map, the type that is revealed in the movies whenever geo- graphic outreach needs to be vali- dated in front of a group. Despite the impressive presentation, Gray no longer wants anything to do with Mancani’s operation. Instead, he wants a straight life with Dufour and severs his connection with mouthy dame Connie Williams (Claire Trevor). As Fate would have it, Stephens has emerged as a Kefauveresque senator intent on ridding the world of the likes of Mancani, and naturally Gray finds it difficult to break free from his well-documented criminal back- ground. The narrative frequently dissolves into flashbacks (five!) that illustrate why the returning veteran Gray has found adjust- ment to a simple life to be so chal- lenging. One factor is the most explosively dangerous of Mancani’s associates, Charley Pignatalli (Forrest Tucker), who has little patience for loose ends. The vola- tile Pignatalli is responsible for two of the film’s murders—one of which cruelly involves an elevator shaft. HOODLUM EMPIRE was di- rected and co-produced by a Western specialist, Republic jour- neyman Joseph Kane (FLAME OF BARBARY COAST, DAKOTA). To his credit, this film travels in many different directions without getting confusing. There are re- peated reminders that no form of business—legal or illegal—can exist without a demand for a prod- uct or service (blame the addict, not just the pusher). People of in- fluence need to be bought to en- able small-time hoods to move up. Perhaps most distressing is that organized crime prepares the stage


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