I SAw A Film!

The great Henry Silva, one of the most recognizable American stars who built a career in Italian cinema, plays the hitman sent by a mobster hiding out in Italy to take out his enemies. Silva looks great delivering the karate chops and hanging out with Liz Montgomery (really cute before her Bewitched launch). Even as Telly Savalas, Mort Sahl, Joey Bishop, and Sammy Davis Jr fill out the script, oh I almost forgot Jim Backus with his trademark laugh. And Oscar Goldman from the Six Million Dollar Man! This has much of the cast from the previous Ocean’s Eleven a few years before, and frankly (get it?) is kind of a Rat Pack product.

There’s a lot of fun, as Silva manages to squeeze some great winning rolls out of Sammie Davis as a whiz dice thrower. These would be the James Bond before James Bond aspects of this kind of film.

Looking at some of the promotional images they made it’s clear the idea was to launch Silva as an anti-heroic star. World War Two took his mother right in front of him, and his first act was picking up a machine gun to do in the Nazi baddies who were responsible. The machine gun is his family. Some of the hits are a bit convoluted, Silva rides a windown-washing fly up the side of a high-rise to machinegun Telly. One wonders how he hired that help.

Only Mort Sahl manages to tell him he’s getting used, and he will never be well treated for his devotion to the boss. It doesn’t make much of a difference, and Johnny maintains his singular intent. Later, Johnny has to take out one of the targets around his kids, he modifies his plan to set up a bomb that might kill the children, but later when his moll Liz finds out he murdered their dad right in front of them in a swimming pool explosion, she loses heart and turns him in. Liz ends up paying for her devotion to Johnny, and incurs some disturbing violence, but these sorts of films can’t seem to develop any kind of real mayhem without us feeling like certain victims of the violence actually well deserved it. It’s a kind of conceit our lives are filled with. Even so, it’s hard to accept these sorts of disturbances as justified, soon enough we’re sort of imagining a Son of Sam film with a sympathetic look at the killer. I suppose we get a bit inured to the killing, especially when it’s so cleanly portrayed.

Again the aspect of this sort of story that never really gets well explained is how the boss manages to be the boss when he’s unleashed such a violent enterprise. Just being the guy who signs the checks leaves one open to someone signing a better check. The phrase “It’s Just Business” is a violent film standby by now.

This is running free on Prime (usa) and It’s a fun film, with a lot of swagger, if you enjoy these sorts of gangland violence creations.

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