Contraband / Luca il contrabbandiere (1980)

3.5 out of 5

In between Zombi 2 and City of the Living Dead, Lucio Fulci turned out probably the most brutal gangster film ever made outside of South Korea or Hong Kong. Also known as The Smuggler and The Naples Connection, the director’s only entry into the Eurocrime stakes has the distinction of being every bit as gore-soaked as his more famous zombie-led escapades.

Fabio Testi plays Luca, a cigarette smuggler doing pretty well for himself judging by his threads. When the police inconveniently turn up to one of his harbour deliveries, he and his brother Mickey, Enrico Maisto, smell a rat, a feeling that’s fully confirmed when Mickey is blown away in a particularly devious roadside ambush.

As a mad-as-hell Luca goes out on the revenge trail, he finds that the despicable ‘Marsigliese’, Marcel Bozzuffi, is not only responsible but is also systematically wiping out anybody involved in Luca’s trade to take control over the local smuggling routes. What results is a veritable orgy of mob execution scenes, with holes blown through the backs of heads, exploding throats and a graphic demonstration of what happens when Bunsen burner meets human facial tissue.

While the direction is quite slack at times, with rather lifeless performances from most involved and some frankly unfathomable decisions made in the camera angle department, the film is compelling in its brutality and benefits from a driving score from Fabio Frizzi and some sharp editing from Vincenzo Tomassi.

Keep an eye out for cameos from bad boy Luciano Rossi and Fulci himself.

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