Color, 1978, 101m. / Directed by Stelvio Massi / Starring Maurizio Merli, Massimo Serato, Olga Karlatos, Mimmo Palmara / No Shame (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)


Maurizio Merli, the man with the most charistmatic crime-fighting mustache in cinema history, turned in one of his last poliziotteschi performances in this slight but enjoyable outing from hard-working director Stelvio Massi (Emergency Squad). Not surprisingly, he plays a tough cop, Olmi, whose take-no-prisoners tactics keep landing him in trouble with his superiors. Seemingly able to pick in a fight in any surroundings, he switches over to Rome's emergency squad after laying his mitts on the wrong crime kingpin but continues to land in trouble by picking off anyone who behaves suspiciously. Finally he decides to lay low near the seaside and even finds love in the arms of sexy schoolteacher Anna (Karlatos), putting away his trusty firearm. Unfortunately his steely detecting skills perk up while investigating the local fishermen, who are apparently concealing a nasty smuggling and gun-running ring. Should he turn his evidence over to the higher authorities? Hell, no! It's time to break out the bullets again and go on a crime-fighting rampage, Merli-style.

Fans of other Massi and Merli films might find this one a bit pokey compared to, say, the fast-and-furious Violent Naples, but there's still plenty of fun to be had. Merli fires off enough rounds to qualify as a public menace, Stelvio Cipriani's score funks out in the all the right places, and you get lots of varied Italian scenery to keep things interesting. On the other hand, the action sequences feel a bit reigned-in at times (apart from some nifty helicopter shots), perhaps due to shrinking budgets at the time; a bar fight that should have been a blood-spattered free-for-all instead comes off like a poor, cheap cousin to the lesbian barstool-bashing in Foxy Brown, and a motorcycle attack surprisingly peters out without going to its logical chase-scene conclusion. Obviously this is a must for Italian crime fans, though it probably isn't a good starter title; go with Emergency Squad or Street Law if you're a newbie.

A longtime staple of the video gray market, Convoy Busters finally gets a respectable transfer here and looks about as good as one could hope. It still has that gritty, late '70s visual texture, but colors and clarity can't be faulted. (It's also correctly framed at 1.85:1, not 2.35:1 as the packaging claims.) The film can be viewed either in the original Italian with optional English subtitles or the godawful English dub track, which offers some amusement but little else.

NoShame continues to justify its reputation with a great slate of extras, some more related to the actual movie than others. The late Merli's son, Maurizio Matteo, talks about his memories of his father's profession in "Merli on Merli" (with a trailer for the younger Merli's new crime film, Cop on Fire, thrown in as a bonus), and journalist Eolo Capacci talks more about the actor in another interview, "A Star Was Born." Co-star Enio Girolami offers his own warm memories of the ass-kicking thespian in "My Good Fella Maurizio," while Italian crime gods Enzo G. Castellari and Ruggero Deodato offer their own anecdotes in "ER Prota" and "Bullet in the Closet," respectively. The package is rounded out with the original European trailer, a poster and still gallery, and a fun insert booklet containing a 16-page comic, "Crime Story: The De Falco Solution," which pays homage to the poliziotteschi aesthetic.


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