Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
Italy, 1975. Cinemaster S.r.l.. Story by Galliano Juso, Screenplay by Fernando Di Leo, Ernesto Gastaldi, Nicola Manzari. Cinematography by Erico Menczer. Produced by Galliano Juso. Music by Luis Bacalov. Production Design by Francesco Cuppini. Costume Design by Maria Luisa Panaro. Film Editing by Sergio Montanari.
Exciting update of High and Low, this time shockingly based on a true story. The son of a wealthy real estate magnate is violently kidnapped right in front of his elementary school, and when his best friend tries to prevent it from happening he is snatched up too. The second boy is actually the child of a poor mechanic (Luc Merenda), who is now in the difficult position of having to share this trauma with the snobby millionaire (James Mason, dubbed in Italian) who wants to get his child back without having to pay a cent. Things get out of hand well before they are taken care of by the authorities, who are overwhelmed by the vast number of abductions happening in Italy during this time (it’s apparently a very lucrative business), leaving Merenda to play judge, jury and executioner himself. What he finds is that those who do the snatching are actually henchmen for more powerful and sinister villains on increasingly higher rungs of power, but that does not deter him from remaining steadfast to the end. While it plays like typical genre exploitation and is rich with violence and mayhem, this film treats its characters with complexity and irony: Valentina Cortese as Mason’s wife cares genuinely about both the boys who are taken, she isn’t a stereotype of an icy rich matron, while even Mason’s heartless tycoon is given his fair due. Merenda does a great job as hero and is a satisfying protagonist to the bitter end.