Poliziotteschi (Italian pronunciation: [polittsjotˈteski]) films constitute a sub-genre of crime and action film that emerged in Italy in the late 1960s and reached the height of their popularity in the 1970s. Poliziotteschi films are also known as poliziottesco, Italo-crime, Euro-crime, poliziesco or simply Italian crime films.
Etymology of the noun
In Italian, poliziesco is the grammatically correct Italian adjective (resulting from the fusion of the noun polizia "police" and the desinence -esco "related to", akin to the English "-esque") for police-related dramas, ranging from Ed McBain's police procedural novels to Forensic science investigations. Poliziesco is used generally to indicate every detective fiction production where police forces (Italian or foreign) are the main protagonists.
Instead the term poliziottesco, a fusion of the words poliziotto ("policeman") and the same -esco desinence, has prevailed (over the more syntactically-correct Poliziesco all'Italiana) to indicate 1970s-era Italian-produced "tough cop" and crime movies. Recurring elements in poliziotteschi films include graphic and brutal violence, organized crime, car chases, vigilantism, heists, gunfights, and corruption up to the highest levels. The prevalence of Poliziottesco over Poliziesco all'Italiana closely follows the success of the term Spaghetti Western over Western all'Italiana, being shorter and more vivid.
Although the sub-genre has its roots in the films of the late 1960s, such as Bandits in Milan (Banditi a Milano, 1968) by Carlo Lizzani, it was influenced by such rough-edged American police thrillers of the early 1970s as Dirty Harry, The French Connection, and Serpico. With directors such as Fernando Di Leo and Umberto Lenzi and actors such as Maurizio Merli and Tomas Milian, poliziotteschi films became popular in the mid-1970s after the decline of spaghetti Westerns. This sub-genre lost its mainstream popularity in the late 1970s as erotic comedy and horror films started topping the Italian box office. Although based around crime and detective work, poliziotteschi should not be confused with the other popular Italian crime genre of the 1970s, the giallo, which refers to violent murder-mystery crime films. Directors and stars often moved between both forms, and some films could be considered under either banner, such as Massimo Dallamano's What Have They Done to Your Daughters? (1974).
The poliziottesco sub-genre gradually declined in popularity during the late 1970s. Screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti, who was unhappy with what he deemed the genre's "fascistic" undertones, credits himself for "destroying it from the inside", by making it evolve into self-parody. By the end of the decade, the most successful films associated with the genre were crime-comedy pictures, which gradually evolved towards pure comedy.
- Christian Uva, Michele Picchi, Destra e sinistra nel cinema italiano. film e immaginario politico dagli anni '60 al nuovo millennio, Edizioni interculturali, 2006, p. 90
- Roberto Curti, Italia odia: il cinema poliziesco italiano. Lindau, 2006, ISBN 978-8871805863.
- Daniele Magni, Silvio Giobbio, Ancora più... Cinici infami e violenti – Guida ai film polizieschi italiani degli anni '70, Bloodbuster Edizioni, 2010, ISBN 978-8890208744.