Sunday, May 29, 2011
Lucio Fulci's Contraband aka The Smuggler, The Naples Connection
Lucio Fulci's Contraband a.k.a The Smuggler (and The Naples connection) was made in 1980 in between his more famous gory zombie movies Zombie 2 (or the much cooler sounding Zombie flesh eaters to UK readers) and City of the living dead, house by the cemetery and The Beyond. Contraband was a departure for Fulci, although he directed films in many genres, this was his first and only entry into the Euro crime genre. He made a pretty good stab at it, continuing the fan pleasing combination of sleaze and incredibly violent and gory mayhem he had become famous for. Much like The Big heat, the Hong Kong movie I covered here the level of bloodshed is more befitting a splatter horror movie than a crime film.
Luca Di Angelo (Fabio Testi) is a cigarette smuggler in Naples, he along with a bunch of other gangsters run the smuggling operation into Italy. A gang of ruthless drug dealers want to use their route and when they are refused access, the gangsters and their families starting with Luca's brother are targeted by the head of the drug dealers Marsiguese (Marcel Bozzuffi).
Contraband could have been one of the best Euro crime films of the period, but has two major problems preventing this from being the case, firstly the scripting and dubbing into English are truly terrible and secondly the pacing of the first act is painfully slow. However once the film does get going it's one hell of a nasty ride with a seemingly never ending stream of gory shootings, stabbings and much worse. In fact a face being burned via a Bunsen burner makes for very uncomfortable viewing, worse still though is an incredibly vicious rape scene.
Many people are of the opinion that Fulci was a hack director, and to a certain extent I can see why but in amongst the zooms into faces Fulci and his crew capture some excellent moments, the funeral at sea utilising the boats is an example of a really well put together scene. The ever reliable Fabio Testi puts in a decent performance, at least physically as the dubbing makes it impossible to judge anything else and Marcel Bozzuffi is impressive as the evil leader of the drug dealers.
With a more careful dub and a better paced opening Contraband could have been a classic Euro crime film. As it is, it's a solid genre entry that once you get past the opening half hour and into the meat of the film really delivers for Fulci fans, with all the sleaze and gory violence you could hope to see. Be warned it's strong stuff!