Birds, the Bees and the Italians, The / Signore & signori (1966)

5.0 out of 5

Pietro Germi, director of Divorce Italian Style, directs and co-authors a satirical triptych that is themed around the hypocrisy of those respected citizens who must be seen to behave with dignity. Through all this there is an underlying point. This is that everyone has a price and no price is to large for those who wish to avoid a scandal. This becomes especially evident in the final act when a doctor, and a number of small businessmen, seek to bribe their way out of a charge of corrupting a minor.

While each story differs in tone and emphasis, the first is possibly a little too busy. Nevertheless, by the second, the film truly hits its stride. Featuring a leading role for Gastone Moschin and a score reminiscent of The Third Man, this sharp, stylish and wonderfully realised Golden Globe nominated, Palme d'Or winning portmanteau is a real class act.

Cinematographer Aiace Parolin would go on to work on such cult favourites as They Have Changed Their Face, Afyon oppio, Baba Yaga and Keoma. Recommended.

And God Said to Cain / E Dio disse a Caino... (1970)

4.0 out of 5

Vengeful spirit Klaus Kinski rides into town upon a brisk gale and a ghostly horse; brandishing a double barrelled shotgun and a chip on his shoulder, Kinski seeks retribution with the man who sent him to the chain gang for a crime he didn't commit. Drenched in shadow, he silently creeps through the town's catacombs, efficiently dispatching the 30 mercenaries employed to protect his quarry - the doting but ultimately corrupt father of an innocent, blue eyed, blonde haired confederate son...

If Vengeance was his dress rehearsal, Antonio Margheriti truly nailed the Gothic EuroWestern second time around with And God Said to Cain. Entrusting long term collaborator Riccardo Pallattini with the moody, chiascuro tinted photography and allowing baroque interpretations of sound design to underline the atmospheric dread, the film is a stylistic feast for the senses.

Less a Western, more a dust-bowl exercise in stalk and slash, And God Said to Cain shrink-wraps the by-now-on-the-wane-spaghetti, repackaging it as a near perfect post-Django, pre- Fulci expression of frontier horror. Near perfect that is, because Carlo Savina's Tom Jones-esque title theme is somewhat out of place in this otherwise simmering, windswept essay in revenge.

Strike Commando 2 / Trappola diabolica (1988)

1.0 out of 5

Bruno Mattei's enjoyably inept Manilla Macaroni, Strike Commando, had shit for brains for sure, but at least it had a bit of fire in the old belly. Its sequel, a lazy "Braddock" clone penned, surprise surprise by Claudio Fragrasso, underlines the reductive tendencies of Flora Films' Filipino productions and the depressingly dystrophic state of Italian genre film come the end of the 80s.

Gone are the steroidal inflections of Reb Brown, replaced by cardboard cutout stand-in, Brent Huff. Here is truly a man incapable of acting, even if his flimsy career depended upon it. Instead, the production's payroll budget appears to have been thrown wholeheartedly at Richard Harris who manages to stay sober for just about long enough to solemnly do, well, nothing in particular actually.

The ubiquitous explosions inherent to Mattei's other and far superior Vietnam actioners are sadly nothing more here than damp squib-farts interrupted only by the awkward exchanges of dialogue better executed in the very worst excesses of a bargain basement Teddy Page effort. A ridiculous belching competition early on in the film says it all - Strike Commando 2 is a fizzy burp of movie.

Salvo (2013)

4.0 out of 5

Squealing tires and bursts of automatic fire introduce Salvo, a Mafia warrior who saves his boss from ambush and hunts down the failed assassin at home. Ear-witness to the revenge killing is the victim’s blind sister, who Salvo roughly steals away and locks up at a secret location. But despite this violent opener, Salvo is a story told in mood, not action. The setting is no postcard Sicily but rather a chiaroscuro of dark interiors and sun-blasted wastelands.

Saleh Bakri’s title character is silent, brutal and fearsome enough to keep his groveling landlord aquiver. Few words pass between Salvo and his sightless captive Rita, played by Sara Serraiocco with a nuanced blend of helplessness and aggression Both lead cloistered lives, making these opposites two of a kind. Like all gangster films, a template of violent acts is enforced, but these are practically relegated to subplot as the relationship of Salvo and Rita evolves in unexpected ways. The larger dilemma is whether either of these impaired loners will ultimately see the light.

Maurizio Merli header graphic courtesy of Paddy O'Neill of Foxyfide Graphics