An old review of mine...
UNA MAGNUM SPECIAL PER TONY SAITTA (1976)
aka A Special Magnum for Tony Saitta. Blazing Magnum. Blazing Magnums. Shadows in a Room. Strange Shadows in a Room
director: Martin Herbert [Alberto de Martino]
starring: Stuart Whitman. John Saxon. Martin Landau. Carole Laure. Gayle Hunnicutt. Tisa Farrow. [+ possible uncredited cameo from Charles Napier as a detective at train station]
Tony Saitta: “Julie, was Louise very upset?”
Julie: “The most upset I’ve ever seen her.”
Detective Saitta (Whitman) asking Julie (Farrow), who is *blind*, if his sister had been acting mysteriously before her death.
This is a very loud and destructive crime film. Shot in Montreal, the Quebec province of Canada, Una magnum special per Tony Saitta/Blazing Magnum stands above the usual run-of-the-mill Cinecitta’ cop productions with its international cast, splendid locations, impressive budget and expensive set-pieces. In essence, a beer n’ popcorn movie, Una magnum special per Tony Saitta is admittedly, for this reviewer, great entertainment value. Narrative may be one dimensional, and so is Whitman’s character, but Alberto de Martino’s direction and Aristide Massaccesi’s visual eye are, if not workman-like, are energetic and keen for thrills. Although Martino’s film provides more in the way of explosive action than the majority of poor boy Italian pretenders, this particular movie exists for set-pieces and exploits them to their full potential. And bloody violence is paramount as Tony Saitta blasts away the scum with his large hand cannon.
The cast, mainly cinema veterans, chew over what is an undemanding script. Whitman, in need of a haircut, shave and a change of clothes, makes a capable Eastwood bogus and Saxon is welcome charismatic support. Farrow, who later appeared in Zombi 2 (1979), Anthropophagous (1980) and L’ultimo cacciatore/The Last Hunter (1980) plays an unconvincing blind teacher but it’s the crash, bang and wallops that are the real meat in Una magnum special per Tony Saitta. In what is perhaps one of the more effective car pursuits in the history of ‘cinema delitto’, Whitman gives chase in his clapped-out banger to a suspect in a road-hugging Mustang. Clichés are welcome as both cars charge in to cardboard boxes and splash through puddles - a scene of two men carrying a large sheet of glass across a road only to be smashed by one of the cars is sadly missing. After ten minutes of motor mayhem, Montreal is left in a state of ruins as burnt rubber and dented metal litter the streets - it was as if Godzilla had come to party (and I recognise Jack Looney's during the chase, a diner that served the best delli sandwiches).
Apart from a handful of blood squibs, the violence portrayed in the film is hardly explicit when compared to Umberto Lenzi’s cop films for example. However, one sequence where the murderer pricks a baby’s throat with a flick-knife before blasting away at Whitman in an infirmary, is startling and scandalous. It’s as if the scene was thrown in at random for shock value and reminds one of the West German drama Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street (1972) where a bullet festival takes place in an incubator ward - subtle it is not. Saying that, Martino’s scene is filmed with considerable gusto and when the prime suspect attempts to cheat justice by fleeing in a helicopter, Whitman foils the escape with a volley of shots from his Magnum. Within seconds, the helicopter has more holes in it than a colander before plummeting to the ground in flames which all goes to emphasise Whitman’s understandable explosions of anger with cathartic effect.
With a funky, but rather inappropriate Euro disco score, Una magnum special per Tony Saitta has to be Martino’s finest 90 minutes. Shot in English, the Canadian location makes a refreshing change from the usual Roman fare. The attraction of Martino’s film may be aesthetic but it shares a common trait with most Italian cop thrillers in that they are so obviously a right-wing fantasy. The philosophy remains the same with Dirty Harry and his many imitations in that they are reactionary. College students are butchered by the murderer as police remain frustrated and unclear of his identity. As members of the class succumb to the assassin’s blade (one is pulped in a rock grinder), Whitman finally unmasks the killer. Greed is what sparks this intelligent member of society to kill and the narrative would suggest that students should know their place within the state while police keep a careful eye on them. With a dash of giallo for good measure, Una magnum special per Tony Saitta is truly wonderful nonsense that makes a great stress reliever as Whitman hands out moody wise-cracks and fat lips. You’ll love it.