Archive for Seven Times Seven

Big Ben

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 2, 2020 by dcairns

Michele Lupo’s films are woven together with quips and names and odd little details — much as you might expect with a more important artist. Seven was obviously his lucky number — he made SEVEN SLAVES AGAINST ROME, SEVEN REBEL GLADIATORS and SEVEN TIMES SEVEN. Big Ben is the name of a character in the last-named, and it’s the name of a computerized security system in his next caper movie, THE MASTER TOUCH. The title of that film echoes the earlier MASTER STROKE. As in SEVEN TIMES SEVEN it features a character using prison as an alibi, and a heist conducted during a football match.

Lupo is extremely ill-served by home video, and THE MASTER TOUCH has only been released on DVD in Australia, where the job was done poorly — so we only have a soft, muddy and colourless version to look at, a particular shame for a film shot by the great Tonino Delli Colli. Still, it’s set in Hamburg and all the exterior locations look drizzly, overcast and horrid. I might as well go outside.

Indoors, there are sleek, futuristic security systems, which Lupo seems to love — a long sequence of Kirk Douglas pulling off a hi-tech heist amid a 2001-esque insurance company seems to particularly excite the director, going by the huge rack focuses (focii?) and Dutch tilts.

Kirk’s partner in crime is Giuliano Gemma, seemingly Lupo’s favourite actor (though he also worked a lot with Bud Spencer and Lionel Stander, pretty much opposites to the handsome GG). There’s something perverse about the way Douglas’s character welcomes this “thieving gypsy” stereotype into the marital home, and there’s a proud, fatherly look in Kirk’s eye whenever he beholds GG and his wife, Florinda Balkan in one another’s company. We can either read her as a beard for the unstated homosexual relationship, or as some kind of hotwife Kirk is urging to cuckold him. (Or kirkold?). Most strange.

The crafty plot involves simultaneous robberies, one of which is designed to go wrong and provide an alibi. It all goes very badly tits-up, but whose tits will be up when the chips are down?

Even though the plotting is loose and somewhat silly, with improbable solutions to burglary problems and a tendency to throw in irrelevant (but well-staged)punch-ups and car chases to pad out the story, things build nicely and then there’s a spectacular gut-punch of a plot twist that sends the story spiraling towards tragedy. It’d be unfair to spoil, spoiler or spoilerize this, but I can tell you in private.

An aspect of Lipo’s cinema I haven’t yet celebrated is his delight in peculiar physiognomy, more Fellini than Leone, and the primary mush here is that of centenarian Kirk Douglas, his extraordinary Belarussian rock-face, craggy, lipless and scowling, tipping into middle age without losing any of its intimidating majesty. Nice to see that he’s kept the classical record collection from A LETTER TO THREE WIVES all this time.

Really quite grim, with a great, unexpectedly bluesy score from Morricone, built around a kind of funereal wail from a solo fluegelhorn, that never develops, merely mourns. Still, despite the tone being totally different from the previous two Lupos I’ve enjoyed, the sense of hubristic failure, the tricksy visuals (think Leone plus Lester plus Sid Furie) and the total commitment to the ludic possibilities of straight genre filmmaking make it fit in quite neatly.

Michele Lupo is a major minor filmmaker!

THE MASTER TOUCH stars Spartacus; Lola Montes; and Dr. Mabuse. With Scott Mary and Baron Konstantin Von Essenbeck.

Seven Aside

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 31, 2019 by dcairns

More from WEEKEND MURDERS director Michele Lupo. SETTE VOLTE SETTE (SEVEN TIMES SEVEN) steals the premise of TWO WAY STRETCH but elaborates it in fun ways. Again, we’re in England, this time 1968 London. A team of seven prisoners (plus tagalong Lionel Stander) with names beginning with B (for some reason) try to break out of prison and back in again, unnoticed, committed a heist while at liberty to give themselves the perfect alibi. And all while the prison staff are distracted by the world cup (Everton versus Sheffield Wednesday, whatever that means).

Entirely gratuitous b&w set

Gastone Moschin from WEEKEND MURDERS is back as the ringleader, Benjamin Burton Brain, and there are cameos from Adolfo Celli and, almost inevitably, Terry-Thomas. Lupo directs with typical frenzy — extreme low angles, Dutch tilts, crash zooms, restless tracking shots, frequent resource to handheld, frenetic cutting…

Because the goal is to make this as touristically British as possible, the heist is carried out with a London double-decker bus as getaway car (Brain keeps it in his suburban garage, impossibly) and the music is very ITALIAN JOB. This is like the Italian cinema’s answer to that national insult. It’s a very affectionate response.

There are no subtitles for this so I cheerfully watched the English dub. The setting and some of the casting (cameo from David Lodge — who is in TWO WAY STRETCH) helps make that acceptable. I’m not sure if Moschin is playing gay or just very posh, but whoever’s dubbing him has decided on the former.

The movie may be derivative but it anticipates the OCEAN’S 11 reboot with a parkour/acrobat guy and a movie screen showing an image filmed in a duplicate set, used to flummox security camera (the prison is a magnificent Victorian panopticon but behind there scenes there’s lots of Bondian tech, appropriate enough since Celli is in charge. He probably had it in his contract.

As with the original OCEAN’S there’s a bitter ending as the plan goes ironically awry, but as with TOPKAPI there’s always the dream of a successful future job — the days of actually lucrative capers are still some way off. Funny, that — nowadays all heists must be successful and you couldn’t get away with the unresolved cliffhanger of THE ITALIAN JOB, the total ruination of RIFIFI or even Sinatra and gang’s long, disillusioned promenade…

SETTE VOLTE SETTE stars Fanucci; Archie Goodwin; Jekyll; Lord Alex Burman AKA Flashman; D’Artagnan, Maciste; Emmanuelle; Major Hitchcock; Emilio Largo; Calibos; Squire Trelawney; Ernest Hemingway (old); and Jelly Knight.