Thursday, 13 August 2009

The Naples Connection

Lucio Fulci’s one and only contribution to the Italian Crime genre, Contraband made in 1979 follows Luca (played by the always great Fabio Testi), a big time cigarette smuggler working out of Naples. When a routine drop off goes sour, Luca learns that a sadistic drug dealer (Giorgio Mariuzzo of French Connection fame) is cutting in on his territory and wiping out the local bosses. After his brother has been viciously gunned down, and his wife kidnapped Luca becomes hell bent on revenge…

While Contraband is certainly not a high point of Italian Crime cinema, it remains a minor classic of the genre enjoying something of an infamous reputation for its sheer violence. Bodies are riddled red from bullet hits, heads torn asunder from machine gun fire and in one of Fulci’s most notorious death scenes; a woman’s face is scorched with a Bunsen burner. But aside from the violence, Fulci seems very much disconnected from the film, and his usual stylish direction is notably absent here. Even the look of the film is jarring in comparison with the incredible widescreen vistas of the director’s previous film Zombie Flesh Eaters. Other than an eerie sequence early on in the film in a smoky sulfur mine, Contraband may well be cameraman’s Sergio Salvati’s most unremarkable film, shot in that soft, gauzy style that might have lend itself to the fantasy world of Fulci’s 1983 film, Conquest, but here it is something of a miscalculation. Its possible Fulci was already looking ahead to the feverish visions of City of the Living Dead made the following year and Contraband, with its speedboats and double-crossings was a stop gap until then.

Still if its thrills and spills you want, there’s plenty of it here, and Contraband is a fine muscular action film. Incidentally look out for Fulci’s Hitchcockian cameo in the film’s blazing climax, as he dishes out some machine gun etiquette to the rival gang. Blue Underground’s edition of Contraband remains the best presentation of the film, following on from an inferior (and cut) Dutch DVD, known under one if its alternative titles The Smuggler. For Fulci fans and Italian Crime fans it is, despite its shortcomings, required viewing.


  1. I just spotted you covered this Wes, I saw this last week and have done a shortish review that will go up in a few days, we share similar sentiments on it!

  2. Oh cool, good stuff, I look forward to reading your spin on it !

  3. Required indeed! I have to get ahold of this one!

  4. Craig, this is most likely on your radar already, but if not, there's a documentary on Euro-Crime Cinema coming in October. And the word is good