Colpo rovente [Red Hot Shot] (1970) February 21, 2017 09:30
Kicking off the journey into Barbara Bouchet's Italian film career is the highly elusive Poliziotteschi (Italian crime film) Colpo rovente (English title Red Hot Shot, or The Syndicate: A Death In The Family). For fans of the euro-crime genre this is a rare one that ticks all the boxes of a true Italian crime film: drugs, gangs, girls, and guns. Unfortunately the film never gained the recognition it deserved and almost appeared to be intentionally shunned.
Unknown actor Michael Reardon stars as New York City police detective Frank Berin, assigned to the case of recently murdered Pharmaceutical magnet Mac Brown, gunned down amidst a crowd of people on Wall Street. With no known motive and zero suspects Brown's daughter, Monica (Barbara Bouchet), goes on TV and offers a reward for any information leading to the arrest of her father's murderer.
This is not Berin's first involvement with the Brown family, years ago he tried to expose Brown as one of the leaders behind the heroin drug trade in New York City, but when his star witness, a young girl who had lost her eyesight due to the affects of their drug testing, disappeared the case was dropped. With Brown being murdered this opens up an opportunity for Berin to finally crack open the case and flush out the rest of those involved. At the same time Monica is beginning to fear for her own safety and suspects that her fiancé may have had something to do with her father's murder and she may be next.
When it comes to Italian films you can't get much more "cult" than Colpo rovente, a film that appears to have been destined to fail, instantly forgotten, and even may have ended the short careers of both the leading man and director. Aside from a bit part in one episode of a short lived Burt Reynolds TV series titled Hawk, this was the only film for star Michael Reardon. In addition this was Piero Zuffi's one and only directorial role as he also tackled writing the story and screenplay, and was production / costume designer. Following the film's release he vanished completely from the industry and died in 2006.
Another mystery is why Colpo rovente received an X rating, essentially a death nail to any film meant for wide release. Nothing portrayed in the multiple cuts or uncut version come close to the violence and or sex that would later pepper Italian cinema. Was the film's subject matter of the effects of drug abuse simply too hard for audiences to handle? Perhaps Zuffi's film was ahead of its time and had it been released a couple years later would have been more accepted amid the giallo craze.
But for a directorial debut Zuffi bit off a little more than he could chew. Though the production design is killer (not a surprise considering that was his main expertise), it's likely he was stretched a little too thin taking on so many roles, and wasn't able to bring the film together to a cohesive gel. As Colpo rovente biggest flaw is editing which is seen in the at least four different cuts that exist:
1. An English VHS release with Greek subtitles, not worth watching.
2. An edited Italian cut with English subtitles.
3. An uncut Italian release (with no English subtitles).
4. A custom cut 154 minute cut that splices together scenes from the other cuts to make the most comprehensive cut possible, but contains no English subtitles.
Unfortunately none of the cuts on their own do the film any justice, unless you understand Italian and can acquire the rare true uncut version. For everyone else, that leaves the edited version which opens up a vast amount of plot holes in the story, cutting out key scenes for story-lines such as the blind girl Fanny, the biker gang sequence, and Barbara Bouchet's (Monica) kidnapping. But when following up a viewing of the edited cut with the uncut or "mega cut" versions (even though they are in Italian only) a lot of major plot holes are filled in and you can begin to appreciate the film for what it was truly meant to be.
With the current influx of cult Italian films receiving some proper restoration and release for the first time it would be great if Colpo rovente received a similar treatment with a proper Blu-ray release. What's ironic is the film's soundtrack has received three pressings on vinyl over the last forty-five years, with the latest pressing being in 2015, yet the film has never received a proper or official release on any high quality format!
Overall, if you want to invest the time and effort into acquiring and viewing multiple versions you will discover a truly unique Italian crime film that had a lot of potential to be a true cult classic. Supposedly there's also an early appearance by Helen Mirren (though I didn't see her) and cult British actress Margaret Lee. Barbara Bouchet more or less pops up for limited scenes throughout the film but an opportunity to see her as a brunette in a gypsy outfit (don't ask me why) was worth hunting this down. Also her performance near the end of the film when she's captured and shot up with heroin (mostly cut from the edited version) is her best acting work yet. And of course what seems to have been remembered and preserved the most, the funky 70's soundtrack by veteran Italian composer Piero Piccioni is great as well.