A Man Possessed – Rediscovering ‘Beast with a Gun’ / ‘La Belva Col Mitra’ – (Italy 1977 – 91 mins)

Posted in Rediscover by - November 25, 2017
A Man Possessed – Rediscovering ‘Beast with a Gun’ / ‘La Belva Col Mitra’ – (Italy 1977 – 91 mins)

Giving one of the meanest performances in exploitation cinema, euro favourite Helmut Berger let loose in the savage crime picture ‘Beast With a Gun’. An entertaining ‘prisoner-on-the-run’ flick, it manages to cover just about every trick in the exploitation handbook, making it a favourite for many cult movie buffs.

The plot could not be simpler: After blasting his way out of prison, sadistic killer Nanni “Mad Dog” Vitali (Helmut Berger) embarks on a spree that takes in murder, rape and robbery, while dogged police inspector Giulio Santini (Richard Harrison) will stop at nothing to recapture the fiend.

Also known as ‘Mad Dog Killer’, this is one mean picture and a relentless exercise in gritty storytelling. Adept at playing unhinged characters; Austrian born Helmut Berger had earlier won awards for playing the title role in Luchino Visconti’s ‘Ludwig’ (’73) and was also memorable in Visconti’s criminally neglected drama ‘Conversation Piece’ (’74). Berger made this movie shortly after trying to commit suicide, which may explain his no-holds-barred portrayal of the sadistic killer. Fellow Austrian Marisa Mell also gave a believable performance as the abused captive Giulianna, and is best known as the beautiful Eva Kant in Sixties favourite ‘Danger: Diabolik’ (’68). Charismatic Richard Harrison is very good as the tough cop Santini, and I love the brawl scene where him and Berger throw each other about in a seemingly abandoned factory. Also of note is Marina Giordana who played Santini’s kidnapped and equally abused sister.

Coming rather late in the Italian crime genre, this was the last movie by writer/director Sergio Grieco, who co-wrote Enzo G. Castellari’s cult war picture ‘The Inglorious Bastards’ (’78) the following year. The pretty good score (and his first) was by actor/composer Umberto Smaila. Also, as many will know, this is one of the movies that Bridget Fonda is watching on television in Tarantino’s ‘Jackie Brown’ (’97).

A sleazy slice of Euro savagery ‘Beast with a Gun’ is a fast-paced ride that showers the screen with blood and bullets. Showcasing an excellent psychotic turn by Helmut Berger, this is an exploitation fans dream, and remains one of the best of the many Italian crime pictures of the 1970’s.

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