Sunday, January 30, 2011

Because car chases are supposed to be sloppy

I have to go to an obscure Italian-produced film from 1976 for my favorite movie chase scene - Alberto De Martino's insanely fascist "Una Magnum Special per Tony Siatta" (aka "Blazing Magnum," "Strange Shadows in an Empty Room"), which was Italy's answer to "Dirty Harry.”

The chase in question takes place midway in the film and careens for an amazing nine-plus minutes. It’s a spectacle of vehicular mayhem that starts on car-clogged city streets, with chaser and chasee fishtailing around corners, flying over embankments and burning rubber the wrong way down one way streets.

De Martino must have loved one shot so much - where two cars get full air after bursting over a hill - that he shows it four times but from different angles. This multi-angled shot is accentuated by an explosion of music composed by Armando Trovajoli that only makes the proceeds all the more bizarre.

The cars in the chase take an impossible amount of punishment but bystanders parked along the streets are not safe from being slaughtered (one is heaved off of a jack while some luckless soul changes a tire) and pedestrians are seen running for their lives as out-of-control vehicles throttle down on them – it makes you wonder how much of this insanity was improvised.

Note, too, how wonky the editing is in this sequence - there are multiple shot formations in use here: close-ups of the drivers (one being Stuart Whitman) in their cars, long shots of careening vehicles, POV shots with cameras placed on bumpers, medium shots of spinning tires – no CGI here, just sheer old-school filmmaking bravado.

The cars end up hauling down a 45-degree embankment landing on some out-of-place country road, into a small town where they encounter a moving freight train. But - no worries - both cars leap over the train in a jaw dropping stunt, which Quentin Tarantino obviously drooled over.

1 comment:

  1. The chase was filmed in Montreal with the Remy Julienne team. The section of road where the chase ends was then still in construction (It is today part of the Ville-Marie Expressway - west of the tunnel).