Color, 1978, 100 mins. 41 secs.
Directed by Stelvio Massi
Starring Maurizio Merli, Massimo Serato, Olga Karlatos, Mimmo Palmara
Cauldron Films (Blu-ray) (US RA HD), Koch Media (Blu-ray) (Germany RB HD), NoShame (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
Maurizio Merli, the man with the most charismatic crime-fighting mustache in cinema history, turned in one of his last poliziotteschi performances in this slight but enjoyable outing from hard-working director Stelvio Massi (Emergency Squad). Not surprisingly, he plays a tough cop, Olmi, whose take-no-prisoners tactics keep landing him in trouble with his superiors. Seemingly able to pick in a fight in any surroundings, he switches over to Rome's emergency squad after laying his mitts on the wrong crime kingpin but continues to land in trouble by picking off anyone who behaves suspiciously. Finally he decides to lay low near the seaside and even finds love in the arms of sexy schoolteacher Anna (Karlatos), putting away his trusty firearm. Unfortunately his steely detecting skills perk up while investigating the local fishermen, who are apparently concealing a nasty smuggling and gun-running ring. Should he turn his evidence over to the higher authorities? Hell, no! It's time to break out the bullets again and go on a crime-fighting rampage, Merli-style.
Fans of other Massi and Merli films might find this one a bit more measured compared to, say, the fast-and-furious Violent Naples, but there's still plenty of fun to be had. Merli fires off enough rounds to qualify as a public menace, Stelvio Cipriani's score funks out in the all the right places, and you get lots of varied Italian scenery to keep things interesting. The action sequences can feel a bit reigned-in at times (apart from some nifty helicopter shots), perhaps due to shrinking budgets at the time; a bar fight that should have been a blood-spattered free-for-all feels more like an afterthought, and a motorcycle attack surprisingly peters out without going to its logical chase-scene conclusion. Obviously this is a must for Italian crime fans though, featuring a star and director at their peak delivering what they did best.
A longtime staple of the video gray market, Convoy Busters finally got a respectable transfer from NoShame on DVD in 2006 and looked quite nice at the time, retaining that gritty, late '70s visual texture. (It's also correctly framed at 1.85:1, not 2.35:1 as the packaging claims.) The film can be viewed either in the original Italian with optional English subtitles or the English dub track, which offers some amusement but is vastly inferior to the native Italian performances.
NoShame provided a great slate of extras, some more related to the actual movie than others. The late Merli's son, Maurizio Matteo, talks about his memories of his father's profession in "Merli on Merli" (20m26s) (with a trailer for the younger Merli's new crime film, Cop on Fire, thrown in as a bonus), and journalist Eolo Capacci talks more about the actor in another interview, "A Star Was Born" (16m2s). Co-star Enio Girolami offers his own warm memories of the ass-kicking thespian in "My Good Fella Maurizio" (15m54s), while Italian crime gods Enzo G. Castellari and Ruggero Deodato offer their own anecdotes in "ER Prota" (22m20s) and "Bullet in the Closet" (6m27s) respectively. The package is rounded out with the original English European trailer, a poster and still gallery, and a fun insert booklet containing a 16-page comic, "Crime Story: The De Falco Solution," which pays homage to the poliziotteschi aesthetic.
In 2018, Convoy Busters made its Blu-ray debut from Koch Media in German as part of a limited four-disc set along with Giuseppe Rosati's Fear in the City a.k.a. Hot Stuff, Carlo Ausino's Double Game, and Mike Malloy's documentary, Eurocrime! The Italian Cop and Gangster Films That Ruled the '70s. All of the featurettes from the NoShame DVD were ported over here, with audio options consisting of German, Italian, and English DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono tracks (with optional German subtitles). Also featured are a different gallery and both the English and Italian trailers, plus the truncated 88-minute German theatrical cut if you're so inclined.
In 2022, Cauldron Films brought Convoy Busters to U.S. Blu-ray for the first time featuring a 2K scan from the camera negative. Given the framing and overall presentation it appears to be from the same film source as the German disc, but the color timing has been slightly improved and, most significantly, it features far better compression than the German disc which tended to make all the very grainy outdoor scenes turn into a swarming nightmare of digital noise at times. Comparison caps can be seen below, though the difference is far more evident in motion. It's also worth noting that a handful of close-up shots in the first reel have a moderate horizontal squeeze to them, but that's always been part of the film and isn't a defect of the transfer. The Italian and English tracks are here sounding solid with DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono options, with either English-translated or English SDH subtitles. All of the featurettes from the NoShame DVD are ported over here, but you get a heap of new goodies as well starting with a new audio commentary by Malloy and Mike Martinez. They have a great time cruising through the film including its English title's bizarre attempt to ride the coattails of Convoy, the gradual decline of box office returns throughout 1978 for genre films, the positive critical response to this particular project, the possible influences on later crime films in Italy and abroad, and the many facets of Merli's appeal including the voice talents who dubbed him. "My Father, the Cop" (20m22s) is a new interview with Maurizio Matteo Merli covering the skills his dad brought to his roles, the missed opportunities Italian cinema experienced in the 1980s, the desire to revive the country's cinematic brand, and his growing appreciation for his father's performances since his premature death. In "The Massi Touch" (24m19s), Danilo Massi talks about his father's directorial style and the unique qualities he brought to crime films, as well as his earliest memories on film sets and the work he did as an assistant director. Danilo Massi also provides an 8m24s video tribute to his father, with piano music accompanying a series of production and family photos. Malloy returns for "Maurizio Merli: A Lethal Hunter of Subtle Variation" (29m) starts off contesting the claim that Merli stuck to only one kind of role throughout his career and covering the evolution of his performances from his breakthrough role in Violent Rome onward through other urban crime titles. Also included are a 5m41s gallery of Massi on his many film sets, the English-language opening credits (versus the Italian ones on the main film), the English and Italian trailers, and the DVDs' 2m42s gallery of stills from this film and Merli's life in general. The limited 1,500-unit edition also comes with a slipcase featuring art by Haunt Love and a folded insert poster.
Cauldron Films Blu-ray
Koch Media Blu-ray
Reviewed on December 15, 2022.