02 August 2010

Revenge of the Godfather

Original Title: L’amico del padrino (The Godfather’s Friend)
Italy – 1972
Director – Frank Agrama
Saturn Productions Incorporated Video, 1988, VHS
Run Time – 1 hour, 27 minutes

I am always amazed at the proliferance of the Vietnam Veteran stereotype. Popular mythology about Vietnam pointed to its uniquely extreme juxtaposition of decadence and violence that left its U.S. victims socially scrambled. Hence, they return to the world but are unable to fit in, and use their military skills to perform extralegal jobs, as Richard, the former chemical warfare specialist does when he uses “heart attack gas” to whack the Godfather’s enemies. In the case of Revenge of the Godfather however, it is merely a passing point of interest in a story that really revolves around two war buddies who went separate ways after the ‘Nam. Like many Italian movies, the difference between their moral poles is somewhat ambiguous in Revenge of the Godfather. See, Antonio and Richard (Richard Harrison) may have gone different directions on the path of good and evil, but they’re both womanizing hitmen working for the mafia.

Richard is haunted by the memory of a childhood birthday party in which several hitmen burst into his home in the middle of the birthday song, and murdered his sister and mother. He still dislikes his job, but uses it merely as an opportunity to track down his family’s killers, thus making his murders righteous. His old buddy Antonio is just the opposite, using his ‘Nam skills for self enrichment. He relishes his job and dresses, speaks and acts in an uncouth manner, is unshaven and constantly patronizes Richard. Let’s be perfectly honest here, there was no question that Richard Harrison was the good guy the moment he walked on screen, but this film is directed by auteur of incoherence Frank Agrama, the guy who brought us such classics as Dawn of the Mummy. Agrama’s aversion to coherence makes it difficult to verify any plot thread for certain. It was only with the addition of two women that differences besides fashion sense became apparent between Richard and Antonio.

Layla is younger and more attractive but also needy and Richard gives her the boot for being too demanding and clingy. Jenny (Erika Blanc) however is more calculating and  more loyal, and with some trepidation she accepts his cold reserved attitude. Antonio immediately uses Layla, but rejects her demands for reciprocation. By the end of the movie she returns to Richard, where though marginalized, she at least feels safe. Eventually in the final scenes she is killed outright helping Richard during a firefight with his former employer’s men. Richard’s emotional distance and secretiveness are crucial to his identity, and Jenny's acceptance of this mark her as the proper woman, subordinate to the male need for freedom of action and from explanation.

Richard never tells anyone what his motivations really are (we only know because of some confusing flashback scenes) and whether or not this is intentional, or due to another careless transfer from Saturn Video, it works hand-in-glove with Agrama’s narrative minimalism. Inserting the Vietnam reference is an easy way to “explain” a lot of shit without having to explore it, and it gets Agrama off the hook in a sense. Not Richard. The Italian sensibility is rather less wedded to the notion of righteousness and moral redemption than your usual Hollywood fare, and though the signs may point to our hero having the moral high-ground, that doesn’t guarantee him a sunset to ride off into.


Alex B. said...

Keep them Richard Harrison reviews coming!
I want to give you the "Happy 101" award, cause your blog is pretty damn well researched:))
I've tagged you in this post:


The Goodkind said...

Thanks for the accolades. I am a big fan of Richard Harrison and pick up his stuff whenever I can. You will be pleased to see a Harrison based project I've been working on recently to be posted here soon. Keep your eyes open for that and keep up the good work over at Trash Film Addict.