On a fairly regular basis, the Psychotronic Film Society of Savannah is able to resurrect a noteworthy motion picture that's been essentially "forgotten" and breathe new life into it with a rare public screening. However, from time to time, that longstanding institution of Savannah's fringe culture scene goes one further by managing to unearth a landmark foreign film that is essentially unknown here in the states.
Such is the case with director Rugerro Deodato's action-packed crime thriller "Uomini Si Nasce Poliziotti Si Muore," or, in English, "Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man," which will be shown Jan. 8 at the Sentient Bean.
Made and released in 1976, this brutal, over-the-top and preposterously entertaining blast of nihilistic chauvinism has rightfully earned a name for itself among aficionados of "polizieschi" (Italian police films) as one of the most controversial and shocking examples of that genre. Which, if you're even marginally familiar with '70s-era Eurocrime cinema, is saying quite a bit.
For better or for worse (and mostly for worse), Deodato, who cut his teeth doing second unit direction on such films as the original, landmark spaghetti western "Django" (recently the inspiration for Quentin Tarantino's own "Django Unchained") and the sci-fi clunker "War of the Planets" (both from 1966), has gone down in worldwide celluloid infamy as the auteur behind 1980s high-concept/low-brow faux found-footage jungle horror flick "Cannibal Holocaust" - a strong contender for "Most Awesome Movie Title, um, Ever" - which was a massive worldwide box-office smash, despite (or perhaps because of) being banned in numerous countries on charges of obscenity due to its shocking nature.
To this day, the mere mention of that film evokes either nods of solemn recognition, gasps of lingering upset or confused, blank stares, depending on whom you're speaking to.
However, by the time he shot "Cannibal Holocaust," he'd already made a name for himself by specializing in high-intensity action features like 1979's airplane disaster movie "Concorde Affaire 1979" and "Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man." Virtually every film made in the '70s or '80s that was stamped with the Deodato name (or branded, as it were) is a guaranteed gem of graphic violence, societal commentary and blatant, seemingly unrepentant misogyny - all filtered through a delightfully snide sensibility. And the fact that Deodato is Italian means most of the storylines and dialogue in his films are a few notches off from what we're used to in the American films his material is so often patterned after. His movies can be taken (and enjoyed) at face value, or seen as masterpieces of self-indulgent camp - which rarely wink at the viewer.
Such is the case here, and trust me, if you've never seen a 1970s Italian police thriller, then this unbridled explosion of politically incorrect behavior and convoluted morality is a great introduction to the genre.
One of dozens of low-budget Italian crime flicks produced in the wake of the worldwide success of Clint Eastwood's trendsetting rogue-cop-as-anti-hero smash "Dirty Harry," this knockoff (penned by legendary Italian screenwriter and filmmaker Fernando Di Leo) plays like a cross between "Dirty Harry" and the dark, underrated buddy cop dramedy "Freebie and the Bean," but with a mouthful of amphetamines.
It concerns two hunky Italian police detectives in Rome who look like fashion models and live together in a swinging bachelor pad. Cocky and out of control, they're both members of an elite "Special Squad" that's licensed to kill (if necessary) in the line of duty. However, they seem to have an incredibly low threshold for determining when such deadly force is necessary.
Along the way, they treat women with shocking disrespect, when not strutting around their apartment in skimpy underwear.
Is this one of the most heartless cop films ever made, or a brilliant satire of the genre that constantly teeters on the edge of complete implausibility?
Who cares, especially when it's a nonstop rollercoaster ride of inappropriate behavior, laughably unbelievable dialogue, mediocre English dubbing and grab-the-edge-of-your-seat car and motorcycle chase sequences (seemingly shot without permits or safety precautions through the actual streets of Italy).
"Whether laughing out loud or gasping in shock, I was never bored," opines one online critic.
"This one really pushes the envelope," says another, adding, "The two protagonists are nihilists and sexists who like blowing things up for fun and shoot criminals before they can commit crimes. It's consistently entertaining."
To my knowledge, this film was never released theatrically in the U.S., so this is a rare chance to see it as Deodato intended: uncut on the big screen. If it sounds like your kind of film, then it probably is! Showtime is 8 p.m. for mature viewers only, with $6 admission.
Speaking of classic crime films, the SCAD Cinema Circle continues its ongoing series of Dynamic Screen Duos with a rare public showing of director Arthur Penn's groundbreaking box office smash "Bonnie and Clyde." It stars Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty as the titular, real-life outlaw couple of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, who terrorized (and captivated the imaginations of) U.S. citizens during the Great Depression by leading a ragtag gang of criminals in a series of violent robberies.
Eventually dying in a bullet-riddled ambush at the hands of Texas police officers, the duo and their handful of underlings are legendary figures of their time. Despite drastically oversimplifying the details of their story (and adding in elements of romance and comedy many found inaccurate and inappropriate), this Oscar-winning adaptation of their tragic, doomed arc of infamy is considered one of the most influential films to date, as it broke many motion picture taboos and helped usher in a new wave of cinematic cynicism featuring graphic depictions of sex and violence.
It screens at 7 p.m. Jan. 11 in Trustees Theater, and is meant for mature viewers only. Admission is $8.
See you at the movies, and don't forget to turn off that cellphone.
Jim Reed directs the award-winning Psychotronic Film Society of Savannah. Read more at www.filmsavannah.com.