Color, 1974, 95 mins. 44 secs.
Directed by Andrea Bianchi
Starring Henry Silva, Barbara Bouchet, Fausto Tozzi, Vittorio Sanipoli, Mario Landi
Code Red (Blu-ray) (US RA HD), Flamingo (DVD) (Italy R2 PAL) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)
Before he hauled Italian horror and thriller filmmaking to untold levels of absurdity and depravity with Burial Ground and Strip Nude for Your Killer, director Andrea Bianchi took a stab at the popular Euro crime film craze with this incredibly sleazy wallow in violence featuring one of the nastiest performances ever given by the great Henry Silva. Needless to say, it's essential viewing.
While crossing the Italian border, a nervous man and woman are horribly killed when they plow into a giant bulldozer, leaving a severed head, considerable bloodshed, and the body of their presumed sick child in the wake of the collision. However, it turns out that the young boy had been long dead, with his sewn-up body hiding a large stash of heroin. The incident sends shock waves through the organized crime circuit, with two already tense rivaling Mafia factions ready to pull out the big guns. That means the arrival of professional Brooklyn hit man Tony Aniante (Silva), whose love of loud sweaty fashion and whistling stands out in the local community where he originally grew up. When he isn't busy savoring wine or driving a horse and buggy, he busts chops all over the neighborhood and strikes up a queasy relationship with don wife Margie (Bouchet), a former hooker who overdresses for the neighborhood and is first seen sexily rubbing fresh cow milk all over her body in the middle of a barn. Her husband, Don Cantimo (Tozzi), isn't the greatest in the sack but loves hearing about her whoring around, so Margie decides to hit on Tony during a visit to their home -- including some sexy banana sucking and a threat to cry rape if he doesn't satisfy her. That leads to an outrageous, extremely un-PC sequence best left as a total surprise to new viewers, which segues immediately into an all-out gang war throughout town that has Tony pitting the three violent families against each other to even greater extremes.
Shot in vibrant Italian Riviera locales and sporting a terrific score by the underrated Sante Maria Romitelli (Hatchet for the Honeymoon, Top Sensation), which has yet to be released in any format, this is an incredible chunk of exploitation with so many crazed, tasteless twists and turns you'd expect it to run out of gas by the one-hour mark. But no, it keeps going all the way to the end, with a splashy dose of gore every few minutes to keep things lively while Silva does his best tough guy act. The second-billed Bouchet isn't actually in the film all that much (she doesn't show up until after the one-third mark), but she certainly makes the most of what she has with her carnal presence and wild wardrobe choices. The film actually manages to echo multiple Sergio Leone films at once, with its plot offering another riff on Dashiell Hammett's hardboiled classic Red Harvest (the inspiration for A Fistful of Dollars, Yojimbo, and Last Man Standing) and Silva's mysterious flashbacks to an idyllic romance and past trauma recalling Duck, You Sucker and Once Upon a Time in the West. Even with his extensive rogue's gallery of bad guys, it's unsettling to see how nasty Silva gets here are the main character ("hero" doesn't even remotely apply here) who brutalizes Bouchet in two scenes not easily forgotten and causes massive pain and spraying gunshot wounds to half the cast. He doesn't get all the nasty moments, though, with a village woman resorting to buzz-saw mutilation in another moment that will make your jaw drop.
In typical fashion for Italian films of this vintage, Cry of a Prostitute was given its wildly misleading title for its 1976 U.S. release by Joseph Brenner Associates, who also handled duties for films like Torso, Eyeball, and Autopsy. Apart from an '80s VHS release from Prism (heavily edited and clumsily cropped to 1.33:1 from the original scope framing), it's been tricky to see in English since then for most of the digital age with only a legit Italian release on DVD in 2007 (sans any English-friendly options). The less said about the rotten bootleg U.S. DVD from Substance / Televista (yanked poorly from the old VHS), the better.
The 2017 Code Red Blu-ray distributed through Diabolik sports a new HD scan of the longer Italian film element (bearing the original title card, Quelli che contano) with plenty of natural grain texture, very bold saturated colors, and accurate framing. It's a major improvement over the Italian DVD, which was littered with debris and damage, boosted brightness, and extremely coarse enhanced grain. The DTS-HD MA English mono track reflects the intended language of the film, with almost of the actors speaking English (most looped later by other voice actors, as usual) and Silva supplying his own vocal performance. This also marks the first time the long version of the film has ever been available on video in English (a fan-created version based on the Italian disc tried to work in as much English as possible, but lengthy passages were still in Italian); in particular, an early essential scene between Don Cascemi (Sanipoli), Silva's boss, and Don Scannapieco (Landi) was chopped out of the original Brenner release, which resulted in complete narrative nonsense. Extras include the brief alternate U.S. opening (39s) and a lo-res theatrical trailer, plus bonus trailers for Almost Human, The Violent Professionals, The Sicilian Connection, and Family Honor.
Reviewed on July 20, 2017.