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Case Number 08114

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A Man Called Magnum

NoShame Films // 1977 // 92 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Paul Corupe (Retired) // December 2nd, 2005

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All Rise...

Judge Paul Corupe is the Man Called Cap-Gun.

The Charge

Napoli si rebella (original Italian title)

Opening Statement

Ever since the auspicious birth of the DVD format, we've seen the market literally flooded with Euro-cult titles in a way that would have been unthinkable even ten short years ago. Although stylish gialli, sadistic gothic horror shockers and bleak spaghetti westerns are all easily found at your local DVD retailer these days, poliziotteschi, those violent crime thrillers that proliferated in Italian cinemas in the 1970s, have been slow making the digital jump. A rather late entry in this esteemed cycle, A Man Called Magnum makes its debut from Italian cinema devotees NoShame, but it's just a typical Euro-crime title—a gun-blazing tale of drugs and double-crosses, Italian-style.

Facts of the Case

Tough Milan cop Dario Mauri (Luc Merenda, Violent Professionals) arrives to help out the Naples police combat illegal narcotic trafficking, just as a local drug war heats up. When a shipment of heroin is hijacked from the city's reigning crime boss, Domenico Laurenzi (Claudio Gora, The Hellbenders) by competing thugs, Laurenzi sends hired killer "Dogheart" (Adolfo Lastretti, Deaf Smith & Johnny Ears) out to settle the score. Spurned by the arrival of anonymous drawings that detail Laurenzi's planned crimes at the police station, Mauri is put on the case with his new partner Sergeant Nicola Capece (Enzo Cannavale, Cinema Paradiso) and quickly grabs Laurenzi's coded criminal diary with some deft undercover police work. Now, the only question is whether they can find someone to translate the diary in time before Dogheart completes his job!

The Evidence

With A Man Called Magnum, veteran Italian genre director Michele Massimo Tarantini delivers up a passable, but by no means remarkable, Euro-crime thriller. Eschewing the bloody effects and hard-boiled revenge often synonymous with the genre, Tarantini opts for a more straightforward and lighthearted approach for this by-the-numbers potboiler.

Of course, it didn't have to be this way, but A Man Called Magnum's sole concession to originality is exhausted pretty early on. With crayon doodles tacked up all around her room in the gangster's palatial estate, Laurenzi's adopted young daughter (whose mother he had killed) is a clear culprit for the tattletale drawings mailed to Mauri. Sure, it's not a very believable set-up to begin with, and the cryptic messages aren't exactly enigmatic—at one point she simply draws a dog followed by a heart—but it's one of the few plot devices that sets this film apart from its peers, and remains one of the only memorable things about this otherwise tiresome cop thriller.

Although it's a poor substitute for the expected bone-crushing violence, the film's "buddy comedy" elements are at least carried off with some aplomb, matching the debonair, heroic Merenda with the balding, overweight Cannavale. There are several amusing moments, especially as they dress as telephone repairmen to sneak into Laurenzi's home, but the subtleties of their relationship, based on their regional differences, are understandably lost on Western audiences. Mauri is repeatedly (and inexplicably) called a "polenta-eater" by his Naples counterparts, while Mauri responds with jests questioning Sergeant Capece's sexuality. Clearly there's a healthy dose of provincial humor going on in the film, but it doesn't translate well to North American viewers, no thanks to the lackluster, oft confusing subtitles.

Chase scenes are a staple of the poliziotteschi genre, and it's here that A Man Called Magnum does excel. One scene has an informer about to squeal to police when a subway car pulls up outside the window and a bomb is tossed in the room, prompting Mauri to race out to catch the train, French Connection-style. Rather than let these scenes just be a tired rehash of better films, cinematographer Sergio Rubini gives these sequences a gritty "you are there" quality with some interesting handheld work, especially notable when compared to the harshly framed and unappealing close-ups he employs for the film's dialogue sequences. There's an interesting score at work on this film as well. Poliziotteschi films are well known for highly syncopated funk tracks, but composer Franco Campanino gives A Man Called Magnum an epic, beat-heavy synthesizer sound, like Goblin gone disco. Campanino's music is good on its own, yet it rarely collaborates with the onscreen action, greatly diminishing its effectiveness.

The quality of the transfer on this release is just fine. There's some minor print damage that crops up occasionally, but otherwise the disc delivers a nice, robust picture with good clarity and on-spot color. For audio, there's a needlessly remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 Italian track, and mono tracks in both English and Italian. Stick with the mono Italian, it seems to be the best choice, but all the audio selections sound nice and clear to these ears. NoShame has also included several worthwhile extras. Luc Merenda appears for a clip-laden 15-minute interview about his career, and there's a feature length commentary by director Michele Massimo Tarantini—in Italian. That's right, when you select the commentary, you will have to read it via subtitles! I'm hoping this was a track ported over from an R2 disc or something, because a featurette certainly would have sufficed due to Tarantini's lack of English. Even more annoying, NoShame doesn't allow "on-the-fly" switching between audio tracks and subtitles, making it impossible to say, watch an English dub of the film and read the commentary in subtitles. Along with the expected still gallery (but no trailer), the included booklet contains a bio of Merenda and a nice article on the poliziotteschi phenomenon from Video Watchdog's Richard Harland Smith.

Closing Statement

A routine Italian cop thriller that should appeal to fans of the slowly re-emerging genre, A Man Called Magnum is just too typical to recommend to newcomers or more casual fans. There are a few well-staged car chases and the humor is handled nicely, but with the trademark exploitation aspects omitted, it lacks the fundamental grittiness that makes Euro-crime films so interesting.

The Verdict

Guilty of banality. Like a plate of spaghetti without the Parmesan cheese, A Man Called Magnum is definitely missing that special something that could make it a superior pasta policer.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 84
Audio: 77
Extras: 65
Acting: 74
Story: 71
Judgment: 73

Perp Profile

Studio: NoShame Films
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Italian)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Italian)
• English
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 1977
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Action
• Crime

Distinguishing Marks

• Interview with Luc Mereda
• Audio Commentary with Director Michele Massimo Tarantini
• Poster and Still Galleries


• IMDb

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