Seagulls Fly Low/I Gabbiani Volano Basso (1978)

A U.S. army deserter is blackmailed into assassinating a businessman but runs afoul of his employers and ends up on the run.

With the Italian film industry on its last legs, Maurizio Merli plays against type and shrugs off his hard-boiled police inspector persona to play a softly spoken killer-for-hire. Unfortunately for Merli audiences were probably too accustomed to seeing him in the role of Inspector Tanzi and the film didn’t reach anywhere near the success of his previous poliziesci. The narrative takes a notable turn towards melodrama in the second half as Merli forms a romantic relationship with a shopkeeper who watches powerlessly as his violent past catches up with him. It’s clear that Merli was trying to prove to audiences he could play other roles (he even dubs his own voice) but it doesn’t work – not because he can’t act but because the production values are simply too low, the pacing is slow and the performances by much of the supporting cast are generally poor.



Director Giorgio Cristallini (source)

Director and production manager, he entered the film industry at a very young age as an apprentice and editing assistant for Scalera (distributor and production company) where he was promoted to assistant director at just 21 years of age. He worked on some of the most important films of the 1940’s including ‘Noi Vivi’, ‘Addio Kira!’ and ‘Giarabub’. In 1947 he made his directorial debut with the documentary ‘Il Vittoriale degli Italian’ and then went on to pen numerous scripts in popular genres destined for peripheral markets. In 1961 he acted as production manager on ‘Arrivano i Titani’, directed by Duccio Tessari; a curious mythological film, rich in comedy and irony, starring a very young Giuliano Gemma. Cristallini was also a scriptwriter and served as assistant director on a number of historical-mythological films shot in the early 1960’s, from  Vittorio Cottafavi (Le legioni di Cleopatra (1960), La vendetta di Ercole (1960), Le vergini di Roma (1961), Ercole alla conquista di Atlantide (1961), distinguishing himself as a particularly good director of scenes involving lots of extras. Cristallini returned to work in the 1970’s, initially dedicating himself to westerns which did well at the box-office but could hardly be called original. (1971, I quattro pistoleri di Santa Trinità e Sei jellato, amico, hai incontrato Sacramento); following up by producing ‘Seagulls Fly Low’, a respectable film that sits neatly in the giallo cycle of films being made at the time.

Date of birth: 26/6/1921, Perugia – Death 2/12/1999, Tavernelle di Panicale

“Purtroppo questo film ha una brutta storia dal punto di vista della produzione. I promotori coinvolsero nel finanziamento del film alcuni piccoli imprenditori romani abbagliandoli con il miraggio del cinema e questi alla fine dovettero cedere le attività per poter ripagare i debiti. La cosa triste è che io ne conoscevo uno ed ho assistito alla sua sofferenza.” [King Ghidorah, Gentedirispetto]








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