Buried deep in between some comedies (and yet more comedies) in Marino Girolami’s extensive filmography is this downbeat crime-thriller, thinly masquerading as a morality tale not too dissimilar to the American juvenile delinquency movies which were enjoying a modest success at around the same time on the other side of the Atlantic. The bleak tone of the film, with murder and blackmail the central themes of the plot, places it within a very small run of Italian thrillers, all shot on very low-budgets, which were released between 1946 and the mid-1960s. Films like, Giorgio Bianchi’s ‘The Crime Pages’ which follows the road to redemption of a modern-day gangster who comes across more like Cary Grant than Scarface, or Rate Furlan’s ‘Gangland’, shot almost entirely from the point-of-view of a gang of organised criminals who all appear to hate each other yet are somehow bound together by an oath of loyalty. These wildly differing depictions of criminality probably reached their peak with Roberto Mauri’s ‘I Mafiosi’ from 1959 in which the Sicilian Mafia look more like Robin Hood and his merry men than the Gambino crime syndicate.
The concept of loyalty explained in Rate Furlan’s ‘Gangland’
These films were anomalies in the post-war years which were largely dominated by melodramas and comedies, with a ratio of about 100-1. And, while they clearly didn’t make much of a dent at the box-office, often only playing in select regions of Italy, these stories of urban decay and corruption not only echoed the American film-noirs which inspired them, but they also often reveal a far more accepting social attitude towards organised crime than the similarly themed films which followed after.
Marino Girolami directed a number of films in the thriller genre, including ‘Ransom’ in 1953 and ‘When Angels Cry’ in 1958. The pre-credits sequence wastes no time setting the scene as a group of angry youths smash a street lamp, accost some passers by, and beat a cat to death. It was filmed simultaneously in Milan alongside the comedy, ‘Walter and His Cousins’, with both films sharing the same crew, locations and most of the same cast. According to Enzo G. Castellari, in his autobiography ‘Il Bianco Spara’, Marino only accepted to direct it because Walter Chiari, the lead actor in the comedy, was out partying in the evenings and wouldn’t rise before midday enabling Marino to shoot ‘Un Figlio D’Oggi’ in the mornings.