Apr 2, 2014

Beast with a Gun




Around the time his filmmaking career began to totally peeter out, American cult auteur Curtis Harrington (Night Tide, Queen of Blood) began directing episodes for classic trashy American TV shows like Charlie’s Angels (1976-1981) and Dynasty (1981-1989), where on the latter television series he had the distinguished opportunity to work with Austrian proto-twink actor Helmut Berger (The Damned, Salon Kitty). In his posthumously released autobiography Nice Guys Don't Work in Hollywood: The Adventures of an Aesthete in the Movie Business (2013), Harrington wrote regarding Berger and his experience working with the actor, “I felt sorry for Helmut Berger in another way. He was easily the most feminine actor I have ever worked with. Most gay actors of that time, like Rock Hudson, had a very strong masculine persona, even if it didn’t mirror their real-life behavior. Berger seemed to have none. I couldn’t tap into a masculine core. He was soft and willowy and feminine in his voice and gestures.” For those that do not know, Harrington was no alpha-male either as a man who dressed in drag as a teenager during the early 1940s for his first film Fall of the House of Usher (1942), who quite literally came in touch with his inner femininity in the avant-garde horror short Fragment of Seeking (1946), was a pioneer of the campy and mostly homosexual ‘Grande Dame Guignol’ subgenre, and was openly gay at a time when it was not cool to be gay. That being said, for Harrington to describe another male as “easily the most feminine actor I ever worked with” is the height of emasculation and it seems quite unimaginable that such an effortlessly effete Euro-twink would have the opportunity to play a leading man, let alone a low-class psychopathic thug, in any type of film yet Herr Berger did just that for the somewhat bizarre Italian poliziottesco flick La belva col mitra (1977) aka Beast with a Gun aka The Mad Dog Killer aka The Human Beast aka Wild Beasts with Machine Guns aka Street Killers aka Ferocious aka Ferocious Beast with a Gun directed by Guido writer/director Sergio Grieco (who is probably best known today for directing the Secret Agent 077 series of super schlocky James Bond parody films such as Agent 077 From the Orient with Fury and Agent 077 - Mission Bloody Mary under the Anglo pseudonym ‘Terence Hathaway’) in what would ultimately be the filmmaker’s celluloid swansong. 





 A man with a uniquely unhealthy addiction to dago exploitation trash, alpha-fan-boy auteur Quentin Tarantino would pay tribute to Beast with a Gun by including stock footage, as well as a snippet of the striking score created by Umberto Smaila, in his pretentious and plodding postmodern neo-Blaxploitation flick Jackie Brown (1997), including in a scene where Samuel L. Jackson absurdly asks to a blond pothead surfer girl, “Is that Rutger Hauer?,” in regard to Helmut Berger (apparently to blacks, all blonds must look the same). Indeed, Beast with a Gun has about four major things going for it: its ridiculous casting of Austrian queer Helmut Berger as a psychopathic guido prole rapist/killer, numerous catchy, if not ridiculous, alternative titles (with Beast with a Gun undoubtedly being the best), amateurish anti-realism and over-the-top rape/violence, and unequivocally an amazing and addictive primitive electronic musical score by maestro Smaila. While Beast with a Gun is not quite up to par with the best works of Fernando Di Leo in terms of the ostensibly ‘fascistic’ Italo-crime films go, the film manages to somewhat unintentionally transcend the Guido sub-genre due to its hysterical blond beast star and seemingly unintentionally idiosyncratic direction and nonsensical dialogue, which borders on the surreal. Loosely based on the crimes of celebrated Milanese mobster Renato Vallanzasca, who was once a pretty boy but nowhere as pretty as Berger, Beast with a Gun ultimately proves that, long before Sicilian-American filmmaker Martin Scorsese had the novel idea to cast lapsed twink Leonardo DiCaprio in The Departed (2006) as a ballsy bad ass of sorts, wops from the old world had the gall to cast a hysterical Aryan Adonis as a goombah gangster thug. A sort of quasi-campy (where there is Helmut Berger there is always camp, no matter what the genre!) take on the nasty nihilistic violence of Mario Bava’s punishing piece of unhinged Guido grit Rabid Dogs (1974) aka Cani Arrabbiati with a marvelously melodic soundtrack that rivals Riz Ortolani’s score from Cannibal Holocaust (1980), Beast with a Gun is a rare piece of celluloid trash that will probably be more of interest to fans of 1970s European arthouse films than bloodlusting poliziottesco addicts. 




 Statuesque psychopathic conman Nanni Vitali (Helmut Berger) who sports a lethal leather-jacket and aviator glasses, along with three of his burly goons with stereotypical names like ‘Bruno’ and ‘Mario,’ have just made a successful jailbreak and they have rape, murder, torture, and bank robbery in mind, but first the ‘Beast with a Gun’ wants to settle an old score with a bitch ass snitch. Nanni was sentenced to prison for 23 years for killing a lowly security guard after a groveling stool pigeon named Barbareschi squealed to the cops, so naturally he wants to torture and kill the little rat. When Nanni and his merry meathead men catch bitch boy Barbareschi, he is found with his girlfriend Giuliana Caroli (played by Austrian actress Marisa Mell, who is best known for her role as Eva Kant in Mario Bava’s Danger: Diabolik (1968)). Needless to say, Nanni savagely sexually ravages Giuliana while Barbareschi is forced to watch. Of course, Nanni wastes the snitch and takes his bitch, making Giuliana his involuntary old lady. While she would not admit it in a million years, quasi-cougar Giuliana seems to be hot for Nanni and the two have sex more than just once, but she is also somewhat afraid of him as he makes incessant threats to kill her. Not exactly the brightest of blonds, Nanni convinces Giuliana to help him rob a bank where her estranged father works as a security guard, but she tells a police commander named Giulio Santini (played by Richard Harrison, who is probably best known for his work with Antonio Margheriti) about the robbery beforehand, thus botching the psychopath’s grand plans as the cops set a trap. Indeed, while Nanni and his crew manage to take a van full of teen beauties hostage, Giuliana helps the girls escape and everyone in the Beast’s gang is caught and arrested except the beast. After a temporary reunion with his seemingly hysterical sister Rosa (who he talks into telling the cops lies about his whereabouts) and hooking up with a young and dimwitted protégé named Bimbo Pacesi (Alberto Squillante), Nanni kidnaps Commander Santini's father (Claudio Gora), who also happened to be the judge that sentenced him to prison, and sister Carla (played by Marina Giordana, the daughter of Claudio Gora), thus making it personal for the police officer in what is ultimately one fucked family affair. On top of that, the Beast with the Gun attempts to assassinate Giuliana with a sniper rifle, but she merely receives a fleshwound in the thigh and she absurdly brushes the energy off as if she were a super soldier. Needless to say, Santini hunts down Nanni like he is a rabid dog, but before that happens, the Judge is shot by Bimbo and the Beast mutilates sister Carla’s nubile young breasts. When Santini catches up with Nanni, he threatens to cut off Carla’s tits and even displays the bloody topless girl for her cop brother to see in what is a quintessential scene of Guido celluloid sleaze. Of course, the big brother gives the big bad beast an impassioned beating before he is arrested and the Judge and Carla survive the ordeal, though the damage that has been done to the young lady's olive color bosoms is clearly permanent. 





 In his autobiography Nice Guys Don't Work in Hollywood, Curtis Harrington also remarked about Helmut Berger regarding his problematic experience working with him on Dynasty, “It did not help that he seemed totally at sea being in America, almost as if he had come from another planet. Unfortunately, all of this was evident on the screen. It was not long before most of his lines, if they had to be retained as plot points, were taken away from him and given to other actors. I wondered at the genius of Luchino Visconti, the Italian director of The Leopard and Death in Venice, who was Berger’s real-life lover. Luchino had made him seem very strong and masculine when he directed him wearing a Nazi uniform in certain scenes of The Damned.” While I would not exactly describe Berger’s performances in Visconti’s films as seeming “very strong and masculine,” I do think Harrington was right when he insinuated that Herr Berger was not someone who could easily be imported for American television. Indeed, it is no coincidence that Berger portrayed the eponymous characters in Massimo Dallamano’s Dorian Gray (1970) aka The Secret of Dorian Gray and Visconti’s Ludwig (1972), as he had the aura of a decidedly debauched and exceedingly narcissistic old school European aristocrat, which is certainly something the mongrelized, perennially proletarian place that is the United States cannot appreciate. While Berger undoubtedly makes for a poor choice for a mad Mediterranean mobster, the actor’s role in Beast with a Dog ultimately gave him the perfect platform to go wild and wickedly wayward with his fierce flamboyance and nancy boy narcissism. While Berger does not do go all out with a mean Marlene Dietrich impression like he did in Visconti’s The Damned, he certainly brought some nasty Nordic swag to the played-out Italian poliziottesco films with Beast with a Gun that was never seen before nor was ever seen again in the sub-genre. Even though I rather like the title of Beast with a Gun, I think a more apt named would have been ‘Blond Beast with a Gun’ as Berger manages to channel a sort of visceral Nietzschean nihilism as an actor who, to quote Zarathustra, demonstrates, “one must still have chaos within oneself, to give birth to a dancing star.” 



-Ty E

13 comments:

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Marisa Mell was 38 in this, 20 years past the prime of her life already ! ! !.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Once a woofter always a woofter, its so murderously embarrassing and unbearable to watch a prancing dancing nancy fairy like Berger trying to do an Arnold Schwarzenegger or Mike Ty-daughter imper-daughter-ation, just like that other disgusting faggot Jeff Stryker in Zombie Flesh Eaters 4.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

That quote in the last two lines of this reveiw really does sum up so beautifully and succinctly the pretentious and ludicrously idiotic mindset of literally every moron and tosser who has ever had the nerve and unmittigated gaul to set foot in front of a camera to appear in a film ! ! !.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Interestingly a lot of people said that Curtis Harringtons name was very apt for a director of episodes of Dynasty, it was like the class of his name gave added class to the show itself. Such a shame the geezer was a fairy, if he`d been straight i think i`d have had a lot of respect for him and his films, damn that queer gene it ruins so much in this world.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Charlies Angels would`ve been wasted on him though, because he was a fairy he wouldn`t have been able to appreciate the stunning beauty of Farrah-Fawcett, Jaclyn Smith, Kate Jack-daughter, or Cheryl Girl. If only he`d been straight he could`ve been in bed with all 4 of those birds every night during filming, buggering, fucking, and sodomizing them senseless ! ! !. Pansy queer bastards are denied so much pleasure simply because they were cursed with the wrong sexual orientation by that chomo-daughter-al imbalance at the mo-girl-t of their conception, that queer gene has got a lot to answer for, when it is finally eradicated what an incredible blessing it will be for the entire hu-girl race ! ! !.

teddy crescendo said...

These kinds of movies seem so ludicrously out-moded now (almost unwatchable actually) just like Westerns and Musicals. Although its all relative of course, so, for instance, an Italian made movie of this type from 1977 would still be infinitely better than anything that the British film industry could produce NOW IN 2014 ! ! !, just to put things into the proper perspective again.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Jackie Brown was unwatchable. But not quite as unwatchable as Harry Brown, that British made horse-shit stunk to high Heaven.

jimmie t. murakami said...

The geezer with his face showing through the pile of rocks looks like an image out of a Jodorofsky movie.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

In the picture of the two cops who have just been shot and are in the process of falling over they look like they`re pansy queer bastards because of the absurd fairy poofy poses that they have adopted whilst falling down.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I still like the Italian horror movies from the late 70`s and early 80`s (Fulci, Deodato, Scavolini, etc) but these crime drama's (or Giallo's as they were known) from the same period are an absolute joke now, they are so embarrassingly out-moded and obsolete.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I like to see birds with their tits covered with spunk not blood ! ! !.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Unfortunately i suppose one of these days you`re gonna` get around to reveiwing that dirty pansy queer bastard Visconti's 1970 film "Death in Venice" starring that loathsome British woofter Dirk Bogarde, when you do my homo-phobia's gonna' go into such a murderous overdrive like nothing you`ve ever seen before, OH HOW I HATE AND DESPISE FAIRYS.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I just about endured most of this films 93 minute running time on YouTube (even though the picture quality was decidedly dodgy), if it had been a British made film (completely irrespective of the picture quality) i wouldn`t have been able to watch it for more that 5 seconds without vomiting ! ! !, British made films are such dog-shit, they are an affront to world cinema and an insult to the medium of the moving image.