Emergency Squad/Review

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Director Stelvio Massi started out in film as a camera operator and set designer in the 1950s. He first worked with Director Sergio Corbucci on "Duel Of The Titans" (1961) a "pepla" or "sword and sandal" genre film. In 1964, he was an assistant to Cinematographer Massimo Dallamano on Sergio Leone's classic Spaghetti Western Fistful Of Dollars (1964). From there, Massi became a full fledged Cinematographer himself and worked for several more years in two of Italy's premiere pop genres: Spaghetti Westerns and Spy films. In 1974 he made one of his few gialli Five Women for the Killer and a then the offbeat psychadelic film "Marco". Massi's next film was his debut in the Italian crime genre. The film was called "Squadra Volante" aka Emergency Squad.


Massi's taut and exciting style of direction makes Squadra Volante one of the best films from the Poliziotteschi genre. One really interesting aspect is the modern Spaghetti Western touches. This film in particular is a direct representation of the time in Italy where the Spaghetti Western genre was fading out and the Poliziotteschi genre was becoming the new rage for directors to move into. You can definitely hear it in the wonderfully catchy score by Stelvio Cipriani. It's very Morricone-esque (Star Tomas Milian explains more about these themes in his interview included on this DVD). The screenplay for Squadra Volante was written by Franco Barberi, Adriano Bolzoni and Stelvio Massi based on an original story by Dardano Sacchetti, a veteran screenwriter who had previously worked with Mario Bava (Twitch Of The Death Nerve) and Dario Argento (The Cat O' Nine Tails).


Ravelli (Companero's Tomas Milian) is an Interpol agent who has been trailing the killer of his wife for several years. When he arrives back in Milan after an absence he is quickly pulled into a new crime investigation after a group of robbers, who pose as an Italian filmmaking crew, hold up a payroll courier and steal $200,000,000 lire. Ravelli arrives on the scene fast and finds a very important clue which could solve the mystery of who killed his wife years earlier: A bullet shell that matches up with a bullet found in his wife's body. Knowing hes a bit of an eccentric loner Ravelli's superiors in Interpol put a local cop named Lavagni (Mario Carotenuto) on him to make sure he doesnt get into trouble. The cool guy he is, Ravelli doesn't mind, in fact he welcomes Lavagni to help him solve the crime.


The group of robbers are lead by "Marsiellaise" (Milano Calibro 9 and The Godfather II's Gaston Moschin) a calm, ruthless criminal who seems to know just how to execute a crime to perfection. Marseillaise has one minor problem, a harsh cough that troubles him every once in awhile. After the gang make the steal, they transfer the money into gym bags to not arouse suspicion. They split up and they meet at a hide out. While discussing their plans on what theyll do with the money, one of the young gang members Rino (Live Like A Cop, Die Like A Man's Ray Lovelock) tells the men he is splitting and he wants his cut of the money. The men beat him up and Rino accidentally falls backwards and cracks his head open.


Marseillaise finds out that there is a piece of evidence (a note) that Rino had at his mothers home so he dresses up as a priest and pays a visit to Rino's mother. He successfully finds the note and leaves. The gang decide now is the time to leave the city and they all dress as priests and take off. Marseillaise's girlfriend Martha Hayworth (the gorgeous Stefania Casini) takes the money with her to a small chalet and is told to wait. Meanwhile, Ravelli is moving closer every day as he investigates the underworld he knows well from his years of working in the city. He and Lavagni interrogate a local thief who he knew years earlier and gets as much info from him as he can. This puts him on the trail of Marseillaise.


The plot takes us from Milan to the countryside where Ravelli quickly gets on Marseillaise's trail. One of the films highlights is a spectacular helicopter/car chase where Ravelli kills one of Marseillaise's men from the sky. It also has some comedic aspects when one of the men begins to cry because Marseillaise is shooting at the cops behind them. Marseillaise and his men barely get away so they decide to get off the road fast. They take a local man hostage and hide out in his home until things cool down a bit. One of his men tries to take off, but Marseillaise shoots him, then just hops in the car and takes off to meet his girlfriend at the chalet. The exciting climax of the film brings Ravelli and Marseillaise face to face.


Peter Roberts is the co-founder/editor-in-chief of the Grindhouse Cinema Database (GCDb) and contributor to the GCDb's sister site Furious Cinema. A Massachusetts native, he is an avid film fan that has been immersed in the world of entertainment and pop culture his entire life. He holds an AS with Highest Honors in Communications and Interactive Media Design.

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