Thursday, April 2, 2009

Marcello Andrei's Season for Assassins (1975)

This 70s Italian Eurocrime film stars Joe Dallesandro. Dallesandro, who was part of a very famous cultural and artistic movement and memorialized on album covers and in song, appeared in a number of European films, after the success of Paul Morrisey's Flesh for Frankenstein (1973) and Blood for Dracula (1974). Your favorite internet search engine could produce more information upon Dallesandro than this small blog entry could muster. Needless to say, Joe Dallesandro's films are really like a genre all to themselves.
The only other film by Marcello Andrei which I have seen is his previous A Black Ribbon for Deborah (1974), a mildly-entertaining Rosemary's Baby (1968)-inspired thriller. Andrei's Season for Assassins (1975) stars two Americans, Joe Dallesandro, as Pierro, a charismatic and violent young man, and Martin Balsam, as Commissioner Katroni, who really has no faith that any of these young kids are going to do anything but turn up dead.

The film opens with Pierro joyriding around the city with his friends. They're taking it to the sidewalks and causing lots of havoc to the other motorists and pedestrians, just barely coming within inches from killing a lot of them. Commissioner Katroni feels powerless: the private citizens are packing heat and taking shots at the kids while the kids are stealing cars, robbing houses, and beating and raping the citizens. Pierro has a baby son, and he's going to raise him right, he muses. Pierro is not going to even get a chance to raise his son the wrong way; his days are numbered and deep down, he knows it. One day Pierro meets Sandra (Cinzia Mambretti), a very cute and naive young woman. Maybe a little bit of her goodness and sweet nature can rub off on him.

Nope. Season for Assassins is essentially sensational cinema with socially critical overtones. Certain filmmakers, like Samuel Fuller (Naked Kiss (1964)), Kihachi Okamoto (Sword of Doom (1966)), and Fernando Di Leo (Mr. Scarface (1976)), for example, worked brilliantly in this type of cinema. Unfortunately Andrei is not able to craft a film up to their level. Rossano Brazzi plays Father Eugenio, who says at one point, "My parish is the streets and I'll preach whenever I want to." Eugenio loves Pierro and his cohorts and knows deep down that they are really just misguided and misunderstood. Balsam's Katroni believes the same thing, maybe, but also knows that each is accountable for his own behavior. Katroni's out to stop the carnage, not bring about any societal change. Andrei's attempts at social criticism are quite transparent and his scenes of gleeful violence are over-the-top. Sandra, while naive is not stupid, won't sleep with Pierro. One evening, Pierro gives Sandra a drug and rapes her in a car. Andrei juxtaposes the scene with Pierro and Sandra having consensual sex. Is Sandra that forgiving or is Pierro that "misguided"? I don't know and really Andrei doesn't know either. Dallesandro's Pierro is a repellent character.

While Season for Assassins cannot rest upon its socially-critical leg, it can rest firmly upon it's sensational one. It's truly an exploitation film with some brutal violence that's really laughable in its excessiveness. The film stands shakily upon both and is worth a gander. Dallesandro would make better European films, not least of all better Eurocrime films, like Pasquale Squitieri's The Climber (1975).

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