The Grab Bag: Violent Rome (1975)

Hello folks. It’s the last week of February all ready, but don’t fret. I still have lots of great stuff left this week, and tons more planned for March. Today I’m covering another movie that I bought from the great folks over at Cinema de Bizarre, and if you haven’t gone over there to check their stock out, you really owe it to yourself to do so. 

While you’re there sign up for their bi-monthly newsletter, and not only will you get the scoop on all their newest finds, you’ll also get exclusive content from the Bugg. That’s right! Starting with the March newsletter you’ll be able to find out what I think of some of the new titles from Cinema de Bizarre in my section “De Bizarre World of T.L. Bugg”. Sign up now to get in on the March newsletter, and when you order from those fine folks, make sure you let them know the Bugg sent you. 

Now on with the show, and I tackle my first Poliziotteschi title when we take a trip to….
Violent Rome (197 5) starring Maurizio Marli, Ray Lovelock, Richard Conte, and John Steiner. Directed by Marino Girolami.

Comissionario Betti (Marli) is the very definition of a loose cannon. He’s a cop with his own methods and his own morals, and they don’t parallel with the wishes of his superiors. After his brother was killed during the commission of a crime, Betti started to take every crime he gets involved in personally, and he will stop at nothing to catch the thugs involved. During a particularly bloody attempt to stop a bank robbery, Betti’s Special Branch friend Biondi (Lovelock) is shot and paralyzed. Consumed with anger, Betti chases down the perpetrator and shoots him down in cold blood. 

The shooting was deemed unjustified. Betti is let go from the force but, he soon finds another way to dispatch criminals and deal out his brand of justice. He is approached by Attorney Sartori (Conte) and many other members of the community who have banded together to form an extremely militant neighborhood watch. Once Betti joins their ranks, he brings the war against crime to the streets of violent Rome, and criminals have nowhere to run. 

Film Facts

--Maurizio Marli rose to fame in the movies because of similar appearance to Franco Nero. 

--Marli and Comissionario Betti returned in two sequels to this film, 1976’s Violent Naples (directed by Umberto Lenzi) and A Special Cop in Action again with Girolami.

--This was the last film for actor Richard Conte. He was probably best known as Don Barzini in The Godfather

The Bug Speaks

This being my very first Poliziotteschi, I want to say right off that I’m already tired of spelling that word. So from henceforth, I’ll go with Italo-crime since I won’t have to look up how to spell it each time. For an introduction to the genre this was a pretty good film, but I definitely had some issues with it as well. It was packed with action, car chases, and fistfights, but it was lacking in the kind of cohesive narrative I felt it needed.

I‘m going to start with my problem first since I like most of this film very much. The way the film was laid out, and the pacing of the flick made it feel positively episodic. In fact, so much so, I wondered if I was watching some kind of prehistoric crossbreed of The Shield and Dragnet. There were very defined segments to the film which basically break down to 1) Betti‘s a Badass, 2) Betti‘s In Trouble Now!, 3) Betti Meets Some New Friends, and 4) Betti‘s Final Showdown. With such clean breaks between each one, each has the flavor of a continuing story, but it feels like it has problems coming together as a film. This may be due to each segment being about 15 minutes of plot development and 15 minutes of chasing/ fighting/shooting/etc. 

With that gripe out of the way, I get to spend the rest of this review talking about what I really liked about this film, and there's a lot to say.  There’s no better place to start that than with the film’s star, Maurizio Marli. I really liked the character of Betti, and found the man very fascinating, although obviously cut from a similar cloth as “Dirty“Harry Callahan. Betti is multilayered and his justification for violating civil rights “in order to protect freedom”  conjures just the right set up for Betti's dogged, righteous insanity. I have this feeling that Betti and the Batman might have some common ground, but decidedly different tailors. 

Marli's wasn’t the only great performance in the film (although his mustache deserved its own mention in the credits). Ray Lovelock (recently seen on The Lair in Murder Rock) does a really fine job in a fairly small role. Lovelock only shows up a few times in the film as Betti's undercover pal. His scenes with Marli easily define the men’s relationship, and in the end, it does seem the men are extremely close. Richard Conte also brings it strong as the lawyer turned crime fighter. The scene where he is held captive and made to watch his daughter being raped is every bit as brutal as the similar scene in Clockwork Orange

Violent Rome also features a kick ass soundtrack by veteran composers The De Angelis Brothers. They have scored many films (including a Bugg favorite At the Mountain of the Cannibal God) and this time they made full use of funk and disco vibes in the composition. In fact there are so many seventies flourishes, the theme song manages to out flute even the mighty Jethro Tull. Cinematographer Fauto Zuccoli would lens the whole of the Betti trilogy, and he gave this film a very gritty look while maintaining a very real feeling. He doesn’t get much help from the foley sound men here though. The fight scenes are packed with irrationally loud smacks as fists fly. It’s really kind of too bad; while it adds to the cheese factor, it kind of detracts from the appearance of the dangerous city to be filled with cartoonish sounding violence. 

So with only a couple of detractions, I found this movie to be a great introduction into the Italio-crime genre. Yet I feel I haven't properly conveyed the flavor of this film. It also delivers a gang brawl in a rug warehouse that ranks as one of my favorite mass fight scenes, and then the the tale of an undercover cop dressed like a grandma to take down a gang of purse snatchers. However while these distractions are entertaining, they add to the episodic feeling. I will definitely be checking out the further adventures of Betti, and I really encourage you folks to do the same.After all, anywhere you go around the world there is crime, but only in Italy do their cops say ”Chow”, and dress so well, and act so suave. 

Bug Rating

No Trailer, but heres a clip that is appropriately titled, Slapping out Justice. 


  1. This one is on my to-buy list for Cinema de Bizarre--again I want to thank you for introducing me to that site!

    Are you familiar with They are a similar site, but they feature a lot of differnt titles than Cinema de Bizarre (they have some of the same ones too). Both are my favorite movie sites at the moment.

  2. Great write-up on this film. I'm a big fan of Maurizio Merli. I really like the Poliziotteschi genre in Italian cinema. I liked this film. Sure it has some flaws, but overall it's a really cool film. I liked Ray Lovelock in it. He's not in it that much, but I like his scenes. He and Merli have great chemistry together.

  3. Welcome to the world of EuroCrime TLB...and you're 'spot on' - this film is choppy and episodic...but oh, so much fun. I am sure you've already got a list of films to check out, but some of my favourites are The Big Racket, Rome: Armed To The Teeth and Manhunt.

    And as a companion piece (not really) to Cemetary Man, check out Soavi's 2 part mini-series Uno Blanca.


  4. Thanks for the comments guys. I've delved a little further into the EuroCrime films since writing this post. I had a chance to check out Calling All Police Cars and Blazing Flowers, both great films in their own way.

    The films you mentioned David are all on my must see list especially Rome:Armed to the Teeth.

    Thanks for the great response on this one, y'all!


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