In the early ’70s, cop flicks were all the rage. Witness, for example, the oh-so-spectacular Dirty Harry franchise from the United States; a series that was making money all over the globe. Meanwhile, in that Europe place, Italy was showing the world why their country was shaped like a policeman’s boot: it was kicking some serious ass of its own with its highly-revered poliziotteschi genre. And, although Italy’s contribution to the world of cop flicks started several years before Clint Eastwood’s cinematic saga ever hit the screen, the effects of said legacy were felt abroad as well as in America.
Several years prior to achieving everlasting controversy with his disturbing class-ick, Cannibal Holocaust, filmmaker Ruggero Deodato borrowed many of the thematic elements present in the Dirty Harry films in order to create something called Uomini Si Nasce Poliziotti Si Muore — or, as most English-speaking communities know it as, Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man.
As it was produced at the height of both the poliziotteschi and Dirty Harry films, it’s not very surprising to note that nearly all of the policemen depicted in Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man are very macho and sexist. “Über-macho and sexist” would be more appropriate, I think, since, true to Italian fashion, the boys depicted onscreen here have to up the masculinity factor by a good 350 percent — giving the film’s writers, Fernando Di Leo, Alberto Marras, and Vincenzo Salviani a chance to run every stereotype right up the wall and through the roof.
Seeing how Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man was made at a time when another American cop franchise — a television show called Starsky And Hutch — was growing in popularity, Deodato’s feature brings us the adventures of two chauvinistic, overly-manly leads. Interestingly enough, however, neither character is entirely dissimilar from the other: essentially, they’re the split persona of a crazed, near-psychotic Italian version of Harry Callahan. And “near-psychotic” is putting it mildly. These lads buck all authority, turn expensive automobiles into bonfires and even tag-team the ladies. They’re even on the “Special Squad” — a division of Rome’s law enforcement community that is as uniquely peculiar as its name sounds.
Now, if that in itself doesn’t have you ordering a copy of Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man at this very moment, then what if I revealed a bit of the movie’s exceedingly brutal nature? At the start of the film, our two raving lunatics with badges — Fred (Marc Porel) and Tony (Ray Lovelock) witness a robbery at the hands of a pair of motorcycle-mounted hoods, to wit a woman winds up with a good portion of her face bashed in. Climbing aboard a two-wheeled vehicle of their own, the defective detectives give chase, resulting in a hair-raising pursuit throughout an extremely congested Rome (resulting in some minor property damage and a very dead seeing-eye dog). Upon finally catching up with them, they ensure that the crooks don’t live to see their arraignment. On one side, yes, the hooligans deserve it; on the other hand, even the Los Angeles Police Department might seriously question the validity of hiring these two.
Should that not be enough to warrant putting Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man into your shopping cart right now — this very instant — then take this under consideration: Fred and Tony’s boss is none other than Adolfo Celi, the villain from Thunderball. And the film even concludes with one of the greatest model shots ever; a moment of moving picture history that is right up there with the montage sequence in Rocky IV in terms of extreme awesomeness.
Mind you, I’ve only clued you in on the very beginning and end of the film: there’s a whole middle bit that’s just as wacky!
For its American home video release (officially, that is: there were probably a few grey market VHS releases back in the day), Raro Video brings us this copper cult classic in a splendid-looking HD transfer from the original 35mm negative. The film is presented in an anamorphic 1.85:1 ratio with mono Dolby Digital soundtracks available in both Italian and English. Those of you who are longtime fans of Italian cinema will no doubt recognize many of the familiar voices in the English-language version (Michael Forrest, Edward Mannix, Robert Spafford, Nick Alexander, et al) and embrace that sublime sense of surrealism that the English-dub provides. A few minor variances between the two tracks exist (extra dialogue and music), and, thankfully, Raro has included English subtitles for the Italian-language version.
In terms of special features, there’s a delightful documentary included on this disc entitled “Poliziotti Violenti” (“Violent Cops”) that gives select (surviving) cast and crew a chance to reminisce about the film. Also included is a TV spot directed by Ruggero Deodato (with commentary), a bio on Deodato (with filmography) and liner notes by Robert Firsching.
In short: Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man is a truly mind-blowing experience, and Raro Video’s DVD release of the film comes highly recommended.