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Peter’s Retro Reviews: La Mala Ordina aka Manhunt (1972)

La Mala Ordina posterby Peter Nielsen

This week I’m returning to a genre I’ve always had a soft spot for… namely Italian produced action flicks! Well, actually it’s a sub-genre of that called “poliziotteschi” or Italian crime films. These films all had common denominators such as the mafia, car chases, gunfights and most often brutal and graphic violence. La Mala Ordina, the movie I’ve chosen this week, was apparently shortened by 8 minutes by the Swedish censors when it was first released here in ’73. I can’t really verify that as I was only 5 years old and not even living in Sweden at the time.

Luca Canali being a bad-ass!

Luca Canali being a bad-ass!

A little over a decade later, Michael and I rented it in the radio & TV store I’ve mentioned before. In my review of The Soldier (1982) I told you about how the owner re-did the back of the store and put in lots of shelves with movies. Before that he only had a handful of titles in boxes that we flipped through and La Mala Ordina was one of those! As far as I remember this was the first and only time I ever watched it, but for some reason it kept popping into my head from time to time over the years. Granted the only things I remembered was the final shoot-out at the junkyard and a cute kitten getting shot, but still…

A year or so ago, a friend of mine, Dale (@VivaVHS on Twitter), posted a photo of one of his recent VHS purchases. Well, actually it was several photos and on one of them was a movie called Manhunt. It looked familiar, so I asked him if it was the one with the junkyard and the kitten. He said that indeed it was and a few weeks later it landed in my mailbox, but I never actually got around to watching it until now.

Doing it Donkey Kong-style!

Doing it Donkey Kong-style!

La Mala Ordina was written and directed by Fernando De Leo and is actually the second installment in his “Italo crime” trilogy, or Milieu trilogy. The first one is Milano Calibro 9 (Caliber 9) and the third is simply called Il Boss (The Boss). I’ve never seen either of them, but I’m sure as hell going to seek them out, that’s for sure. You know what? I’m going to let the cat out of the bag already and tell you what I thought about this movie right now. I love it! It’s an awesome action flick and I understand why it never left my subconscious completely.

It starts in New York where a big mafia-boss is furious because his latest shipment of drugs has failed to show up from Italy. This is blamed on a local small-time pimp by the name of Luca Canali and he sends two hit-men to take care of the problem. He doesn’t just want the man killed, he wants him killed in an exaggerated and spectacular way… You know? To set an example!

The two hit-men are played by a couple of very recognizable actors… well they are to me anyway, namely Henry Silva and Woody Strode. Mr. Silva has been in Sharky’s Machine, Alligator and Code of Silence to name a handful, and you might recognize Mr. Strode from Once Upon A Time In The West or Kingdom of the Spiders.

Stereotypical goons!

Stereotypical goons!

Henry Silva’s character, Dave, is the more outgoing and loudmouthed of the two, so a spectacular kill suits him just fine. Woody Strode’s character, Frank, is more of a silent brooding type, but they work well together. Upon arriving in Milan they’re greeted by a woman, Eva Lalli, who’s basically going to be their liaison in Italy. She’s played by the lovely Luciana Paluzzi from Thunderball and The Green Slime. Dave immediately starts hitting on her and throughout the movie he basically hits on anything with a pair of breasts. I like Henry Silva, always have and he has a couple of funny scenes in La Mala Ordina.

The local mafia also wants to get rid of Luca Canali and the boss promptly sends his own goons after him. And by the way, if you think you recognize the actor playing the boss, Don Vito Tressoldi, you probably do… His name is Adolfi Celi and he played SPECTRE agent Emilio Largo in the James Bond movie Thunderball.

Driving home the point!

Driving home the point!

The poor pimp now finds himself on the crappy end of a large manhunt. I like how he, through the course of the movie, kind of changes from a small-time crook to a bad-ass, revenge-taking anti-hero that you actually root for. When the mafia goes after his wife and daughter he snaps and you do NOT want to stand in his way. There is an awesome chase-scene where he relentlessly goes after a goon both by car and on foot, and you know there’s no way in hell that he can or will let the goon get away.

The actor portraying him is Mario Adorf (Tin Drum, Lola) and I absolutely love his performance in this movie. He’s actually not a nice man, but you can’t help liking him or the way he smashes windshields and telephones with his forehead. It’s just so ridiculous and I love it!

The story itself is simple enough… a man is innocently blamed for something and has to defend himself, but the director and cast makes it interesting and highly enjoyable. The action is great, there’s plenty of nudity and as I stated earlier… brutal and graphic violence and it doesn’t shy away from it either. I mean, if a cute little kitten can get shot, there’s no safe-zone for anyone.

What I also like about this type of movie is that it’s all very stereotypical… the goons look like goons, there’s no mistaking them for anything else! The movie also boasts an awesome musical score done by Armando Trovaioli who has more than 200 credits to his name!

I’ll leave you with a little tidbit about the movie’s title… the original title is La Mala Ordina and I watched it as Manhunt in my teens, but it’s also known as The Italian Connection, Hired to Kill and Black Kingpin?? I’m not sure I understand the reason behind the latter choice, but there you have it.

Until next time, my friends…


About Peter Nielsen

Peter was born in Denmark in 1968, but moved to Sweden at the age of six, (not by himself of course), and has lived there ever since. He’s married and has five children, so spare time is somewhat of a luxury. His main interests in life, apart from his family, are long walks, books and movies. Any movie! He has preferences, but he’s not particular as long as it's good or... so bad it's good... he just LOVES MOVIES!

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