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Contraband

AKA: The Smuggler, The Naples Connections
 
 
Shot in the picturesque city of Naples, south western Italy, the film beings as day breaks over the harbour. For Fulci-philes the scene is reminiscent of 'Don't Torture A Duckling' (1972) as Sergio Salvati's camera sweeps across the sleepy port, the only audible sound; the distant tolling of a bell and faint religious wailing.

The ambiance is broken as a gang of smugglers set off in high-powered speedboats for a rendezvous at sea to pick up a consignment of contraband cigarettes.

Just as they finish loading, a police vessel arrives and gives chase. The gang are prepared for such unwelcome attention and in the ensuing chase across the sea, they self-destruct one of their own 'patsy' boats, complete with rubber smuggler dummies! By time the police have realised the ploy the gang have got away, much to the chagrin of the pursuing officers.

The smuggling gang is headed up by brothers Luca & Mickey Di Angelo. Later, as they discuss the arrival of the police that day, the brothers' suspect that Scherino, an old adversary of Mickey's from back-in-the-day, is trying to set them up or move in on their territory.

The brothers attend a meeting with another Neapolitan mafia boss, the young psychotic playboy Perlante, to discuss their suspicions. Later as the brothers are driving, Mickey gets a call on his car phone; he is informed that his most prized racehorse has been burned alive in the paddock. Enraged, he heads towards the stables but is forced to stop at a police roadblock. Getting out of his car to talk to the officers, he is machine gunned down, by the evidently fake police.

Following his brother's sea burial in the Bay of Naples, Luca is summoned to the surreal location of the local sulphur pits to meet an old associate who has some information for him regarding the 'whacking' of his older brother. After receiving the info the messenger has his throat cut by one of Scherino's henchmen. Luca chases the guy and after a violent struggle he manages to knock the henchmen into the acidic sulphur pit. The smoke emanating from the pits is almost a stylistic preview to the final scene of Fulci's surreal dream-like, horror masterpiece "The Beyond" (1981).

Later Luca breaks into Scherino's place, in a bid to avenge his brother's death but is overpowered by one of his guards. It soon becomes clear that Scherino wasn't responsible; he admits that there was a 'beef' between them, but he never had him whacked. Scherino reasons "If I killed him, then I'm going to have to kill you now" But he doesn't... He says that the henchman at the sulphur pits must have been moonlighting for another firm... who is moving in on Luca then?

His enemy shortly reveals his face though. Not before a triplet of hits are carried out on the rest of Luca's associates. Boss one comes home to find his wheelchair bound wife murdered, as he surveys the scene he is shot in the back.

Boss two is celebrating a win at the race track, as he spins round cheering, a pistol is shoved into his mouth and his brains are blown out. Playboy Perlante comes back to his flat, his sidekick and chick head to bed to consummate their passion in Perlante's bedroom... the bed has been booby-trapped with a bomb and they are blown to pieces, Perlante narrowly escapes.

The gang behind the mayhem has been the French outfit the Marsigiliese. A ruthless drug dealing gang, led by a sadist, who takes a Bunsen burner to a hapless woman drug smuggler who tries to sell the gang fake heroin. He informs that he wants to utilise Luca and Perlante's bootlegging routes to bring in huge amounts of heroin into Naples.

Luca wants to resist but finds himself double-crossed and the Marsigiliese kidnap his wife to put the pressure on. The conclusion leads to a showdown in a Neapolitan Square at dawn where some old faces are roused...

The movie is also known as "The Naples Connection" and "The Smuggler"

Verdict?

Contraband features some quite astonishing violence. Heads are blown apart by machine guns, a knife is plunged into an armpit, a woman's face burnt by a Bunsen burner, another woman is brutally raped. Yet the gravity of this sadism is off set by the somewhat 'sedate', humourous script and funky pop soundtrack.

The film is definitely not as well known or celebrated as Fulci's supernatural and cadaver classic's of the late 70's and early 80's. But it is probably his most violent film after the nightmarish nihilism of The New York Ripper (1982).

Sergio Salvati's camerawork is perhaps not as inspired and luscious as some, but there are some impressive flourishes, which capture the scenic Naples location.

Notice any mistakes? Review

Strengths: Excellent crime thriller filmed in picturesque Naples, Italy

Weaknesses? The violence may apall the more squeamish.

Our rating: 9 out of 10


Review Written by Stuart Fitzgerald:  Contact  |  More Reviews by Stuart Fitzgerald
Contraband