Grindhouse Releasing is far from prolific — while some genre labels release five titles a month these folks release maybe one or two per year. It makes the wait a bit easier, though, knowing that they put a ton of care into these infrequent releases making for some truly special Blu-rays. They’re latest is Umberto Lenzi‘s 1976 crime thriller The Tough Ones about a Dirty Harry-like cop who’s grown tired of increasingly vile bad guys and a justice system that’s gone too far up its own ass.
Inspector Leonardo Tanzi (Maurizio Merli) is a bad-ass detective intent on one thing: stopping criminals in their tracks. He has his work cut out for him these days too as Rome has become a haven for crooks, rapists, murderers, and more, and the system seems incapable of keeping them in check. Tanzi’s latest case leads him into some high profile clashes, and it’s not long before an attempt is made to mute his particular talents. Good luck with that police commissioner… Tanzi can’t help but wade into trouble, and while lots of villains are lining up for his attention one in particular jumps the queue — a machine gun-toting hunchback (Tomas Milian) with a taste for blood and bullets.
The Tough Ones (aka Rome, Armed to the Teeth) probably falls under the poliziotteschi sub-genre — action/crime movies from the 60s and 70s prone to gritty violence, sleaze, and politically charged atmospheres — but while a commentary on Italy’s socio-political troubles is found here it feels almost like an after thought. That’s not a criticism either as the introduction of those concerns here work to boost what becomes the film’s main focus. Tanzi is a tough cop, and the rising tide of bullshit is only making him angrier.
He starts the film on the trail of a big bad, but as the minutes and days tick by he’s quickly distracted by the brazen foulness of everyday crooks and a youth seemingly indifferent to compassion and consequence. Tanzi shows them none of the former and plenty of the latter, and it’s almost as if Lenzi was letting the story and the cop riff and improvise along the way. He’s not, obviously, but the script’s loose feel is unusual and a great fit for a character like Tanzi. His journeys from point A to B are repeatedly interrupted by new crimes, new criminals, and new beat-downs, and all of it is to the audience’s benefit. Lenzi shoots some crazy great car chases, and the fight scenes are wonderfully chaotic.
Merli offers a casually stiff tough guy performance — he also does most (all?) of his own fight scenes and stunts — but it’s Milian who steals the focus whenever he’s on the screen. His hunchback is an angry, crazy, and frequently violent thug, but he’s also undeniably charismatic as a villain.
- *NEW* Commentary by journalist Mike Malloy
- All Eyes on Lenzi: The Life and Times of the Italian Exploitation Titan [1:24:04]
- Music for Mayhem: Umberto Lenzi and Franco Micalizzi [33:12]
- Citta’ Frontale: Roma on Location [22:01] – This featurette explores the “urban geography” of
- Sybil Danning’s Action Videos Intro [1:32] – Danning’s filmography through the 70s and 80s saw plenty of action flicks, and to that end several of them found re-release on VHS under her own line. This film’s original intro is included here, and it’s written as joyously as you’d hope with lines like “The kingpin is a hunchback with a Notre Dame degree in crime.”
- Umberto [55:31] – Director Umberto Lenzi talks about his career from the influences that brought him to filmmaking and the various highs and lows across his filmography.
- The Rebel Within [1:28:50] – Actor Tomas Milian recalls his career, the time he fell down a well trying to pee, and his time spent making American films.
- The Merli Connection [44:39] – Family and filmmakers offer a tribute to actor Maurizio Merli and praise his talents and person.
- Back Story [5:54] – A brief interview with actor Tomas Milian from 2011 that sees him recalling his role of the hunchback.
- *NEW* Beauty and the Beasts [29:31] – Actor Maria Rosaria Omaggio discusses her career and the film’s production.
- *NEW* Corrado Armed to the Teeth [45:17] – Actor Corrado Solari recalls the film, its director, and its cast.
- *NEW* Brutal City [14:12] – Actor Maria Rosaria Riuzzi talks about her brief but busy career stint.
- *NEW* The Rebel and the Burgeois [19:05] – Actor and Costume Designer Sandra Cardini discusses how she got the gig and the role and shares some interesting memories about Tomas Milian.
- *NEW* Vodka, Cigarettes and Burroughs [39:31] – Screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti recalls the film’s production.
- *NEW* The Godfather of Rhythm [36:14] – Composer Franco Micalizzi shares memories on composing the film’s score.