Scarface Killer
(a.k.a. Mr. Scarface &
Rules of the City)
Director: Fernando Di Leo                                   
Jack Palance, Al Cliver, Harry Baer

For a long time, I've been looking for the Italian-made movie The Cop In Blue Jeans, starring Tomas Milian and Jack Palance, but it's apparently difficult to find. The other day, I was browsing the shelves in my video store, and I saw Scarface Killer in the action section. The extremely cheap box art featured Jack Palance on the cover, and the box description indicated that Palance was a mobster, like he was in The Cop In Blue Jeans. I started to wonder if possibly this movie could be The Cop In Blue Jeans, though with a new title - after all, retitling Italian movies on video isn't that unusual. So curious, I rented and watched it. No, it wasn't the movie that I was hoping it would be, though the freeze-frame part of the credits that bore the title Scarface Killer, plus my research afterwards showed that this movie had been retitled (see the alternate titles at the top of the page). Still, I wasn't as disappointed as I could have been, for Scarface Killer did deliver a little entertainment.

Palance plays a ruthless Italian mobster named Manzari, though a scar on his left cheek has given him the imaginative nickname "Scarface", despite the fact that you can only see the scar if you look closely. A flashback to many years ago shows how he got the scar, when a man he shot threw a bottle at him as he fell dying. The son of the dead man watched all of this in horror, and - oh, you guessed the ending of this movie already?

From this scene, and beyond, there's something weird about Palance's presence that I can't put a finger on. It's not just the fact that the makeup guys unsuccessfully look twenty years younger than he does later in the film. Nor the very long cigarette holder he has stuck in his mouth in later scenes, or the fact that he dubbed his own voice in footage where he was already speaking English. One strong possibility is that his being here is similar to one regard to William Shatner's presence in Impulse - the hair being the element that sticks out most about the lead's performance. Here, Palance's hair doesn't change style throughout the movie, but the one hairstyle Palance sticks with seems artificial. It appears to be dyed jet black, then slicked back with some kind of hair goop that in some shots almost makes it look like a smooth helmet. And placed on a 58 year-old man just makes it look even more weird. He also wears a loose fitting suit, which with the hair made me think of the scene in Boogie Nights when a sloppy looking Dirk Diggler was preparing for his first day of filming. Imagine Palance in a porno film! (Shudder) Anyway, we don't get to ponder Palance's hair that much, because Palance doesn't appear that much in the movie at all - his role is barely bigger than an extended cameo. Obviously, he was hired just for the marquee value of his name, and for the fact the producers probably didn't have to pay for a full performance from what they saw as a "major American star". I'm amused by how foreign countries practice this; apparently, Japan and Korea still consider George Kennedy a major box-office draw.

Back to that opening scene; even though you've probably guessed the ending already, there's a lot of stuff in-between the beginning and the end, and I have to type enough to make a full-length review. After the flashback, we are introduced to Tony, a dune buggy driving loan collector for petty mobster Luigi in the city of Rome. Tony dreams of making a fortune, but is frustrated by his efforts by being forced by Luigi on a regular to go beat up borrowers for petty amounts of cash they owe. This greatly assists the movie in having three long fight scenes in the first 20 minutes, as well as a few minor beatings in the same amount of time. Tony soon hooks up with Napoli, a former thug working for Manzari who was beat up and fired by Manzari and his chief associates visiting the parlor. Both dreaming of riches, they execute a plan to con Manzari out of a fortune. The plan succeeds, but I'm sure you've also guessed what happens next as well, right?

Okay, we're not expecting high art for a 70s Italian crime movie, right? We just want to know if it delivers the intentional (and unintentional) goods we're craving. Let's take a look at how this movie grades in the key areas:

Dialogue: Some very choice lines, including "You guys will either end up with a big fortune or a marvellous pain in your asses!" , "Let me just catch my breath - and change my pants..." , "What about those two whores? They'll hide us and we can bang 'em." , "F**k 'em all, and f**k you too." However, there's only a few other lines like that. Grade: C+

Action: Mostly "simple" shootings and hand-to-hand fights, though there are a few chase sequences. The hand-to-hand fight scenes are dubbed with sounds familiar to fans of Terence Hill/Bud Spencer movies (slaps that sound more like a whip cracking, etc.) Tony's martial arts sequences are obviously done with a double, for they are shot at a distance or with Tony's back to the camera. However, this adds to the goofy nature of these scenes. And the violence may either be "simple" or ridiculous, but it at least comes on a regular basis. Grade: C+

Direction: Scarface Killer is fairly swift paced, and is never boring. However, director Di Leo forgets to raise tension - with two guys running from the mob, you think the situation would be tense, and the two men would feel a reasonable amount of tension. But Tony and Napoli don't seem the least bit disturbed about the situation they've gotten themselves in; it just seems to be a minor inconvenience. They never miss when they shoot, and they always know what to do. The sequences of action are usually directed in a manner where Di Leo seems to have planted the camera and telling the performers to make it look spectacular. Let's just say the performers weren't up to his challenge. His hand-held camerawork actually gives this a strange cinema verite-look that makes things better than they could have been. Grade: C

Unintentional Humor: There's one great sequence where an assassin's target is taking bows on a stage, to the applause of the audience. The assassin takes aim, fires, and the target does a belly flop on the stage floor - and the audience keeps applauding! And there's another scene where one bad guy gets shot about six times, each time twisting his body into a bizarre pose and refusing to die. But that's all. Grade: D+

Teacher's Comments: Mr. and Mrs. Di Leo, I'm somewhat disappointed with Fern's performance this 90 minutes. He had the tools he needed to make a great sleazy crime epic that we could all be proud of. He had Italian locations, Jack Palance, some hookers to exploit, and plenty of ammo. Unfortunately, while he keeps the movie above the boredom threshold, he just doesn't go for that last mile by properly using what he had available to his disposal. Even though he's your son, I suggest that you see his movie when it just happens to be there when you're not in a particular demanding mood, and there's nothing else available. You don't have to lie to him - just tell him that you are saving it for a "special" occasion. Those little buggers eat up comments like that.

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See also: One Man Jury, If You Meet Sartana..., Stoner