Umberto Lenzi and I have an understanding. He makes amazing movies in the 1970’s and early 1980’s and I travel into my own personal time machine, approve the final cut and then come back to 2014 where I am a huge fan of each and every one of his works that I have had the pleasure of enjoying. That’s the fantasy anyway. How else could you explain my pure and devoted love to each of his films? Now I may predominantly be a cannibal Lenzi fan which really doesn’t say much given his short endeavors into that gory subgenre, but I can appreciate everything from his gialli to his crime films. I even went so far as to say that Lenzi was my favorite Italian director outside of Lucio Fulci which is a bold statement to proven at a later date. Today we enter into a compact with Gang War in Milan, a movie that is as violent as any horror movie, as stylized as any gia llo picture and filled with idle references to product placement keeping line with the great Italian films of the 1970’s. First hand experience will tell you not only is Gang War in Milan aka Milano Rovente (Red Hot Milan) (as Mike Malloy tells us in the booklet that accompanies the RaroVideo release) a work of pure crime thriller, but it also contains hints of brutal and cold reality that was overtaking Italy during this period. This was a pretty deep read over waffles and coffee one morning, but the movie that followed was as entertaining as it is fascinating.
Synopsis from RaroVideo:
From start to finish you fall in love with the prostitutes in the film. They are gorgeous Italian beauties with bit parts and the brunt of much of the punishment in the film. Before you feel pity for our protagonists, the evil pimp crime boss who gets his toes stepped upon, feel sorry for some of the lovely ladies of Milan who work the night, with knife wounds and cigarette butts shoved in their breasts. So let’s not forget them even though they may not be the focus of the rivalry between to mob bosses a la Chicago (they even mention Chicago in the film as a nod to the hotbed of organized crime in America).
Antonio Sabato, Salvator ‘Toto” Cangemi in the picture, is the man you root for in the picture. He runs a prozzi ring in the Milan, discovers one of his best girls dead with seaweed in her mouth and then the proceeds to meet up with a crime boss who is attempting to push heroin through Cangemi’s (Sabato) pimp ring. Cangemi rejects it. He wants to be the big dog. You also want him to be the big dog. From there on out you enter into a spy vs. spy, cat and mouse battle for supremacy between two equally sadistic folks. Each one tries to prove just how clever he is. From genital torture to group kidnappings this one has all the makings of Lenzi picture.
Form a technical perspective this is one pretty disc with full rich color and contrast. Minimal corrections and really left to the beauty that is the raw HD transfer from the 35mm negative. The digital corrections do not take away from the natural beauty of the film itself or the aesthetic that has been crafted so handsomely. Extras include an intro by Mike Malloy who also provides the commentary in the insert booklet provide in the package. Not only will this serve as a nice background with which to fulfill your experience with Gang War in Milan, but Malloy serves as a beginner’s guide to Lenzi’s life and work as a whole. It’s full color with plenty of stills from the picture.
Note: 1920x1080 @23.976, AR: 1.85:1. PCM stereo 2.0 audio in Italian with English subs (new and improved)
Gang War in Milan is an intelligent thriller with plenty of action to keep the pace moving while still holding dialogue and performance to a high standard. This isn’t a bloodbath in the same arena as Lenzi’s cannibal films, but a well groomed war film. Now it may not be two nations fighting it out, but the turf battle that ensues involves enough Sicilian anger to make you think Mario Puzo more than once.
I strongly recommend this disc to fans of the poliziotteschi films of this period or fans of Lenzi’s other genre work whether it be his spaghetti westerns, gialli or horror pictures.