Comfortable and Furious

Beast With A Gun – 70s Italian Crime Film


Out of prison… out of control… and totally out of his mind!

Did you find subtitles for this one?


Subtitled or no, could you explain the plot?

No biggie. Helmut Berger plays Nanni Vitali, a dangerous criminal escaped from prison. Vitali is hell bent on a vendetta against those who put him behind bars, and only a Maurizio Merli-lookalike inspector can stop him.

Typical examples of Italian scuzziness

Almost none. Vitali wears the requisite leather jacket and aviator glasses, but his blond hair and blue eyes give away his Northern trash origins. Vitali’s criminal companions look scruffy enough, but aren’t left to do much. One of them spat in anger after being apprehended.

ma dog killer beast with a gun

Random acts of sadistic violence

Vitali and his pals kidnap the guy that snitched on him, along with his girlfriend Giuliana (Diabolik‘s Marissa Mell). The rat, who after three vodkas reminded me of Joseph Goebbels, for some reason, is forced to watch Vitali’s rape of Giuliana, receives a through working over, and is left face-down in a puddle of mud. I thought he was dead, but then Vitali and the others buried him alive. With lime. A father and his son are robbed and viciously beaten in their gas station, and an old woman needlessly shot down during a robbery, yet the nastiest comes at the end: before confronting the pursuing inspector, Vitali takes the inspector’s young sister as a human shield and randomly slashes her upper torso with a straight razor. It made for an arresting image.

Superfluous displays of Mediterranean misogyny

Not much besides the required pre-rape slapping (with a folded newspaper!) and the rapes themselves, which of course are more than enough. Rapes, that is, for Vitali takes Giuliana along and professes that he has great ideas for their future together, even though he continues to push her around and never minds her pained grimaces in the bed. To dispel any doubts about whether these instances of sexual violence are portrayed as appalling or titillating, I should mention that the accompanying synth score wouldn’t have been out of place in a contemporary porno. The same score was used while Herr Doktor was buried, so make of it what you want. I half expected Giuliana to fall in love with Vitali and develop a twisted submission to him, but fortunately this movie is Italian, not Japanese. After her following “betrayal”, Vitali goes to great lengths to try to kill her, possibly more to avenge his hurt masculinity than to uphold the criminal code.

Instances of South-European police incompetence

This time the stupidity of the cops was evenly matched by the stupidity of the criminals, with both amply surpassed by that of the screenwriters. Vitali plans to rob the payroll of this factory where Giuliana’s old father works as a security guard, apparently the only guard. Rather than being kept under lock and key, Giuliana is free to wander around town, so she immediately goes to the police precinct and tells the inspector about the robbery. The inspector decides that the best course of action is to set up a trap in the factory, and Giuliana agrees to pretend to go along with Vitali’s plan. None of them takes into account that sending a brutalized woman back to her victimizer will likely entail a few more bouts of rape before the robbery, but the movie skips this part.

Instead of waiting until the robbers are cornered inside the getaway car, the cops spring as they come out of the building, so Vitali and his crew just step back and take hostages. Unforeseeable! They put them in a van and absurdly let Giuliana drive it; she magically produces a gun, shoots the captor in the van and frees the hostages, leaving Vitali and two of his thugs in the getaway car to confront a roadblock. The thugs surrender, but Vitali bursts ahead and rams the police cars, escaping. No amount of slow motion is enough to overlook the fact that not a single cop takes a shoot at him.

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Body count

I’d say nine but I could easily be mistaken, as there was a confusing nocturnal shootout, a couple of guys were left badly wounded and then forgotten, and another was shot full of holes in a daydreaming sequence. A film is in trouble when such a low tally begets so many uncertainties.

B-list American actors / have-beens earning a fast paycheck

The inspector is played by Richard Harrison, whose biggest claim to fame was declining to star in A Fistful of Dollars, recommending Clint for the part. His credits include the intriguingly titled Ninja Terminator and Ninja The Protector; as the late Andrew Sarris would have had it, “a subject for further research.”

Is it any good?

You know, Beast With A Gun is one of the films featured on a TV screen in Jackie Brown, so before watching it I wondered why it wasn’t included among the classics of the genre. The answer is simple: because it is pretty fucking bad. Berger is awesome, as he glares, snarls and chews all the afforded scenery (and is very obviously and ardently humping Mell’s leg during one of their nude romps), yet half the running time is devoted to the boring machinations of the boring inspector and his aides. The film follows to the letter Homer Simpson’s advice regarding what the other characters must do whenever Berger/Poochie is not on screen, and the plot, bare as it is, is chock full of idiotic detours and inconsistencies. For example, we are told that Vitali is a master of disguise, so he makes a brief appearance decked with a grayish wig and a put-on beard; for the rest of the movie, though, he wanders around public places “disguised” by only sunglasses and a hat, or nothing at all. Chalk another one to the substandard abilities of the carabinieri.

This is also one of those 70s movies in which cars unironically explode after receiving a couple of bullets, everybody knows karate, and slow motion is sparingly used to punctuate some unremarkable move, as if the director had seen ten minutes of some Peckinpah film and said “OK, OK, I get it, not Getting it at all. Apart from the roadblock bit, the most hilarious instance comes as Vitali stops his car before a couple of highway policemen: while the music blares hinting at a dramatic and momentous scene, the decreased film speed makes the cops take a full minute to approach the car. When they are near enough, Vitali just shoots them and drives away.

Prog-rock or proto-Morricone?

More like Giorgio Moroder, as the 80s were rearing their permed head.