Violent City

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Violent City
ViolentCity1970Poster.jpg
Italian theatrical release poster by Tino Avelli[2]
Directed bySergio Sollima
Screenplay by
Story by
Produced by
Starring
CinematographyAldo Tonti[1]
Edited byNino Baragli[1]
Music byEnnio Morricone[1]
Production
companies
Distributed byUniversal Pictures[1]
Release date
  • 17 September 1970 (1970-09-17) (Italy)
  • 16 October 1970 (1970-10-16) (Paris)
Running time
104 minutes[1]
Countries
  • Italy
  • France[1]
LanguageEnglish
Box office950.623 million[1]

Violent City (Italian: Città violenta), also known as The Family, is a 1970 Poliziotteschi film directed by Sergio Sollima and starring Charles Bronson, Jill Ireland and Telly Savalas. Set and shot in the city of New Orleans, the film is an urban crime thriller with a plot of hitman revenge.[3][4]

Plot[edit]

The film opens with professional assassin Jeff Heston and mistress Vanessa pursued mercilessly while holidaying in the Virgin Islands. Jeff is shot and left for dead, while Vanessa runs off with his shooter and former business associate Coogan. After his release from prison on a framed murder charge, Jeff tracks the pair to New Orleans. However, after taking revenge on his betrayer and reuniting with Vanessa, Jeff is blackmailed by the very crime boss who framed him, took Vanessa as his mob wife, and who is now intent on having him join his organisation.[5] When Jeff refuses, he is hunted through an unforgiving city only to discover that his real enemy is closer than he realised.

Cast[edit]

Cast adapted from the book Italian Crime Filmography.[1]

Production[edit]

Director Sergio Sollima was initially unenthusiastic about the treatment he was given for Violent City, stating that "the story was rather bad and rhetorical: a love story, a hitman who falls in love, nothing extraordinary. But we had the chance to shoot in the U.S., and I would do whatever it took to do that."[6] He then rewrote the screenplay with filmmaker Lina Wertmüller, incorporating a flashback structure that was not present in the original draft.[7]

After Jon Voight and Sharon Tate were initially considered for the leading roles of Jeff and Vanessa, Sollima and producer Arrigo Colombo settled on Tony Musante and Florinda Bolkan. Eventually, Charles Bronson was sent the script for the role of Jeff; he accepted on the condition that his wife Jill Ireland be cast as Vanessa.[6] Although he enjoyed working with them, Sollima admitted to finding Bronson and Ireland to be a "curious" couple and noted the differences in their backgrounds and personalities, especially Bronson's uncommunicativeness.[8] He also enjoyed working with Telly Savalas as he believed that previous filmmakers had failed to utilize his penchant for humor, but was surprised that he and Bronson shared little off-screen rapport.[9]

Violent City was shot primarily on location in New Orleans and Saint Thomas in the Virgin Islands, while interiors were shot at Cinecittà in Rome.[10] The film's opening car chase in the streets of Saint Thomas was performed by Rémy Julienne; when Bronson asked the director if he was influenced by Bullitt during the shooting of this sequence, he claimed that he was instead reprising a similar chase he had created for his earlier film Agent 3S3: Massacre in the Sun.[11] Describing New Orleans as a "magical city", Sollima was driven to take its various cultures into account when choosing locations, such as a neighbourhood that had suffered property damage in the wake of a race riot, which the production office was hesitant about filming in.[12]

The film's finale was shot in three different locations: the rooftop from which Jeff fires from was in New Orleans, the exterior of the building he fires at was in San Francisco, and the interior of the elevator ridden by Vanessa and Killain was a set in Cinecittà. Although Ennio Morricone composed a score for this sequence, Sollima ultimately chose to have the scene play without music or sound effects aside from those of Jeff's shots hitting the glass of the elevator.[13]

Themes[edit]

Comparing Violent City to his earlier Spaghetti Westerns, Sollima noted that the film repeats a primary thematic concern of those films: that of "the encounter and struggle between the individual and the society which is all around him, and the way he reacts to it".[14]

Release[edit]

Theatrical[edit]

Violent City was released as Bronson was emerging from his career as a character actor into a period of stardom as a leading man;[15] Sollima noted that while Bronson was a star in Europe at the time of the film's production, he was less popular with American audiences than Savalas, and suggested that this may have affected the film's commercial performance.[16] It was released in Paris on October 16, 1970 as La cite de la violence.[1]

In the United States, Violent City was first released on April 1973 by International Co-Productions, during which it was retitled The Family to capitalize on the success of The Godfather, and later saw a wider release by United Artists.[10][17] The English-dubbed version of the film runs eight minutes shorter than the original Italian prints.[1]

Home media[edit]

Violent City was released on DVD by Anchor Bay Entertainment, and later Blue Underground; both versions restore the scenes excised from the English version.[1]

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

In Italy, the film was distributed by Universal Pictures on September 17, 1970; it grossed a total of 950,652,000 Italian lire during its initial domestic run, and was less successful than Sollima's Spaghetti Westerns.[1][18]

Critical response[edit]

From retrospective reviews, Italian film historian and critic Roberto Curti noted that the film had a "bare-bones story" with a style heavily borrowed from American hard-boiled films, specifically John Boorman's Point Blank. He felt that Sollima devised several "extraordinary scenes", namely the introductory car chases that were completely devoid of dialogue, and Jeff's final revenge.[6] In an otherwise mixed review of the 2008 DVD release, Eric Henderson of Slant Magazine also singled out the opening car chase for praise, claiming that it almost outdoes those of Bullitt and The French Connection "by staging its engine-revving, pedestrian-dodging antics not on the wide streets of American cities but, rather, the narrow, winding pathways (and, in one case, staircases) of a Caribbean island."[5]

Legacy and influence[edit]

In a 2010 interview, Danish film director Nicolas Winding Refn cited Violent City as his favorite Italian genre film.[19]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Curti 2013, p. 45.
  2. ^ "Città violenta". Chisolm Larsson Gallery. Retrieved February 10, 2021.
  3. ^ Frayling 1981, p. 95.
  4. ^ Hughes 2006a, p. xx.
  5. ^ a b Henderson, Eric (March 23, 2008). "Violent City". Slant Magazine.
  6. ^ a b c Curti 2013, p. 46.
  7. ^ Sollima, Sergio. Violent City (DVD). Blue Underground. Event occurs at 1:49.
  8. ^ Sollima, Sergio. Violent City (DVD). Blue Underground. Event occurs at 2:59.
  9. ^ Sollima, Sergio. Violent City (DVD). Blue Underground. Event occurs at 5:15.
  10. ^ a b "The Family". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved February 11, 2021.
  11. ^ Sollima, Sergio. Violent City (DVD). Blue Underground. Event occurs at 7:15.
  12. ^ Sollima, Sergio. Violent City (DVD). Blue Underground. Event occurs at 8:32.
  13. ^ Sollima, Sergio. Violent City (DVD). Blue Underground. Event occurs at 11:20.
  14. ^ Sollima, Sergio. Violent City (DVD). Blue Underground. Event occurs at 12:59.
  15. ^ Hendrix, Grady (March 25, 2008). "Fun With the Human Testosterone Shot". New York Sun. Retrieved 2008-09-30.
  16. ^ Sollima, Sergio. Violent City (DVD). Blue Underground. Event occurs at 5:35.
  17. ^ Hughes 2006a, p. 153.
  18. ^ Hughes 2006b, p. 181.
  19. ^ Vijn, Ard (May 25, 2010). "A Conversation with Nicolas Winding Refn". ScreenAnarchy.

Sources[edit]

External links[edit]