Fernando Di Leo was, in the estimation of genre-hound Quentin Tarantino, “the master” of the Italian gangster movie. Fernando di Leo Crime Collection (Raro) spotlights four of his signature films from the early seventies: Caliber 9 (aka “Milano Caibro 9”), The Italian Connection (aka “La Mala Ordina”), The Boss (aka “Il Boss” and “Wipeout!”) and Rulers of the City (aka “Il padrone della citta” and “Mr. Scarface”), all making their Blu-ray debut in this box set.
Fernando Di Leo was a veteran screenwriter of spaghetti westerns and director of a handful of giallo and sexploitation pictures when he made his first mob movie Caliber 9 (1972), which immediately establishes the sensibility of his gangster films to come: a hard, unfeeling brutality, a pitiless expediency and an understanding of who is expendable, who is untouchable, and what happens when those rules are broken, as they invariably, inevitably are. In this film, it’s a mob payout stolen by one of their own, and the suspects are tortured and killed willy nilly, and that’s all in the first act.
There’s no honor among thieves in these films, which is made abundantly clear in The Italian Connection (1972), where a Milan crime boss frames a local hood and brings two American hitmen (played by Henry Silva and Woody Strode) to make an example (Tarantino has said they were in the inspiration for Jules and Vincent in Pulp Fiction). By The Boss (1973), which opens on the wholesale execution of the heads of a rival family (it’s a doozy of a scene, involving a private porno screening and a grenade launcher), it’s clear that the criminal code of “The Family” and the family is all a hoax dreamed up by the bosses to keep the soldiers in line.