Eurocrime doc sheds light on Italy's lost legacy of crime film
The Italian film industry is known for its knock-offs -- cheap, tawdry, ramshackle productions that would borrow elements from popular films to create second-rate copies for a quick buck. Despite the methods, several of these Italian genres produced some beloved films -- most notably the so-called "spaghetti Westerns" -- while others remained in obscurity. With his documentary Eurocrime: The Italian Cop and Gangster Films That Ruled the '70s, filmmaker Mike Malloy aims to rescue this overlooked Italian genre from obscurity and bring its underappreciated gems to the attention of modern cinephiles.
The doc's two hours of interviews and clips do a pretty good job of highlighting the genre's highlights and shortcomings, from the film's surprising social relevance to the Italy of the day, to the dangerous stunts and hilarious dubbing. In short, the film covers it all -- the good, the bad, and the ugly. Before Eurocrime's special screening at the Oriental Theater on Thursday, August 22, we caught up with Malloy to find out how the film was made, why the Eurocrime genre is so neglected and more.
Westword: As far as Italian cinema goes, this Eurocrime genre seems weirdly unknown, compared to, say, the spaghetti Westerns or their horror work. How did you come to be so involved with it?
Mike Malloy: People come to Eurocrime two ways. One, like I did, you follow Lee Van Cleef and Charles Bronson and Telly Savalas and Jack Palance. You follow American tough guys that you like, and you follow them into the Eurocrime genre, sometimes without even knowing it was a genre, just thinking, "Oh, I'm watching this Italian Telly Savalas movie." Then the other way is you like Umberto Lenzi and all these Italian horror directors, Deodato and guys like that, and you figure, "Oh, what were they doing before their zombie films? Oh, they were doing these cop films."
So you've been a fan of this genre for a long time?
Yeah, I'm 37 now and as a teen I became obsessed with spaghetti Westerns and I kind of grew out of [those] by the time I was in my early twenties. I've devoted my life to tough-guy cinema, that's what I'm known for in my film journalism and the films that I've produced. I'm the co-writer on this new Django film starring the original Django, Franco Nero. I'm flying out to Denver in part to act in Hot Lead, Hard Fury, because this '70s cop stuff is my bread and butter.
How long have you been working on this documentary?
Well, like you I was a film journalist and around 2007 -- I was a print film journalist -- and I saw the handwriting on the wall. I was the film critic for the big paper in Atlanta and they just got months behind in paying me so I just decided to be proactive and do a cinema doc. I started it in 2007, just in time for the economic collapse, so I never really got any real financing. I just struggled along and did it all myself -- taught myself to edit and whatnot. I got a demo to the VP of acquisitions at Showtime at the time and he said, "Hey, Mike, if you can get this made we might be interested." That was the vote of confidence necessary to move forward with the project, it being the first time doing anything like that.
I never made it to Italy. We had a guy in Rome who shot some of the interviews for me. Basically, he does DVD supplements and he would e-mail me and be like, "Hey, I'm going to shoot an interview with so-and-so, do you have a few questions?" That worked out very, very well. A lot of people have complained, "Why is there no Umberto Lenzi?" They throw out some of these names and ask, "Why didn't you get these?" The dirty little secret is some of these guys charge for interviews and we weren't in a position. We paid for some interviews, but we weren't in a position to pay for some of the Italian interviews which come with a pretty high asking price.