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Author Topic: Fear Over The City / Peur sur la ville (Henri Verneuil, 1975)  (Read 38784 times)

Paul

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Peur Sur La Ville (1975)

a.k.a. Fear Over the City (UK)
a.k.a The Night Caller (US)

Directed by Henri Verneuil

Skip through the special features on the DVD of Peter Yates BULLITT (1968) and you’ll find an interesting feaurette entitled Steve McQueen’s Commitment to Reality; a promo made at the time of the film’s production. As this quaint little curio unspools, we’re told that McQueen had driven the iconic Ford Mustang for real during the seminal car chases, and the viewer is given the impression that the film's star is really something special for doing so. FACT: next to the stunt work that French superstar Jean-Paul Belmondo undertook in PEUR SUR LA VILLE, McQueen was merely dipping his little toe into a very deep pool! Reality schmality.

The action sequences in PEUR SUR LA VILLE are nothing short of jaw dropping; even by the standards of movies today. One chase sequence in particular has Belmondo pursuing a suspect up an interior stairwell, out through a window, across a series of rooftops; whilst hanging onto various fascias and bits of guttering and smashing through a skylight into a department store. Once on street level again, a car-chase ensues, climaxing with Belmondo running atop a moving train! Verneuil lets his audience know that it's his leading man putting his neck on the line as Belmondo ban be clearly seen, every step of the way. This is undoubtedly one of the best examples of its kind ever committed to celluloid.

PEUR SUR LA VILLE would probably never have been conceived had it not been for the aforementioned BULLITT or for that matter, William Friedkin’s THE FRENCH CONNECTION (1971). For years, European critics sneered at American remakes/reworkings of classic foreign language films, holding theirs heads high with the view that continental cinema was not only innovative, but actually set the trends for the Yanks to replicate. However, BULLITT, THE FRENCH CONNECTION and Don Siegel’s DIRTY HARRY (1971) set the record straight once and for all; the anti-hero cop was as American as the hamburger. These groundbreaking films introduced audiences to unorthodox cops that had a case to break - by any means necessary; sometimes acting as ruthless as the criminals they were fighting to keep off the streets. All three films upped the ante in terms of action and break-neck editing.

By the mid seventies, Italian directors such as Enzo G. Castellari (HIGH CRIME, 1973), Franco Martinelli (ROMA VIOLENTA, 1975) Fernando De Leo (MILANO CALIBRO 9, 1972) and Umberto Lenzi (ROME ARMED TO THE TEETH, 1976) had all begun to dabble within this new found genre, with the likes of Franco Nero, Tomas Milian, Maurizio Merli, Luc Merenda and Fabio Testi as the names on the marquees. Although immensely enjoyable almost all of these Italian poliziers never rose above formulaic. However, Verneuil, a Turkish film-maker working in France, pulls off a real coup in PEUR SUR LA VILLE by making his film a hybrid of both crime flick and giallo and it works on every level.

A diabolical killer calling himself Minos, is on the loose in Paris. Having lived through the "free love" of the sixties, and having got none, he decides that he will “act as an arm of justice that will condemn without pity, and execute all those who wallow in the sexual mud that is drowning us”, and sets about murdering promiscuous females. Hot on his heels is police Inspector Latelier (Belmondo), who Minos has been sending a piece of his picture after each murder, in the view that the photograph will be complete when his work is done. As Paris' most unconventional detective, Latelier gets sadistic pleasure from seeing his suspects squirm. During a sub-plot, Latelier refuses to call an ambulance for a critically wounded drug until he gets the information he is after, which echoes similar scenes in DIRTY HARRY.

As much as Verneuil was influenced by the likes of Siegel and Freidkin, PEUR SUR LA VILLE owes a huge debt to the films of Mario Bava. The opening scene when Minos taunts a victim on the phone is reminiscent of The Telephone episode of Bava’s anthology BLACK SABBATH (1963). Later during the aforementioned chase sequence, after crashing through the skylight, Latelier and Minos face off among the mannequins of a poorly lit storeroom; a nod to the Italian maestro’s A HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON.

PEUR SUR LA VILLE features a wonderful music score by Ennio Morricone. The score is integral to some of the set pieces as one would expect, but during the tension-filled opening, Morricone orchestrates only a single drumbeat that is extremely unnerving as it precedes the killer’s knock at the door, prolonging the suspense. Morricone would later rework certain themes from PEUR SUR LA VILLE in his score for THE UNTOUCHABLES (1987).

Canal + Video's DVD is presented in anamorphic 1:66:1 and is as good a transfer as one could expect from a film of this age. Print damage is minimal but the colours seem a little washed-out. The sound is presented in two-channel mono, but is well balanced and serves Morricone's score well. The viewer has the choice of watching the film either in it's original French or in a dubbed English version. There are no subtitles available. Extra features are limited to the original theatrical trailer (in French), an interview with Verneuil (again in French) and a poster gallery.

PEUR SUR LA VILLE is a lost landmark in action cinema. If you have a thing for crime flicks or gialli, this ones for you.
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IL COMMISSARIO

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How much is this DVD? I take it it's a costly purchase being a french disc? They seem to have, along with the Japanese the most expensive discs.
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Stephen Grimes

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I've seen the one with the terrible new cover for sale here in my local hypermarket at €9.99.
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Paul

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How much is this DVD? I take it it's a costly purchase being a french disc? They seem to have, along with the Japanese the most expensive discs.

You'll probably pick one up on eBay fairly cheaply. I bought mine from an import specialist shop back in 2001 for the princely sum of £25 (roughly $50US) but as you know, DVDs have come down in price rather drastically since then. Definitely endeavour to pick a copy up, Il Commissario. You wont be disappointed.
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Stephen Grimes

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Just bought the Studio Canal  dvd this morning for €9.99,good transfer and English/French options plus the trailer.
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Paul

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Just bought the Studio Canal  dvd this morning for €9.99 in my local supermarket,good transfer and English/French options plus the trailer.

Have you seen this before, mate/ If not, you're in for a treat.
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Stephen Grimes

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Have you seen this before, mate/ If not, you're in for a treat.
No first time,had a quick flick through it and it looks impressive and that score by Morricone is great.I was tempted to buy this before after reading about it but never got around to it but this morning i was looking for a dvd for Jonny and came across it,what clinched it was the picture on the cover of Italian actor/stuntman Giovanni Cianfriglia holding a manchine gun.They've got a few other Belmondo crime films there,some with English,so i may get these next time.
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Paul

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This is definitely my favourite of the Belmondo crime films I have seen and will be very interested in hearing what you think of it, mate.
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The action sequences in PEUR SUR LA VILLE are nothing short of jaw dropping; even by the standards of movies today. One chase sequence in particular has Belmondo pursuing a suspect up an interior stairwell, out through a window, across a series of rooftops; whilst hanging onto various fascias and bits of guttering and smashing through a skylight into a department store. Once on street level again, a car-chase ensues, climaxing with Belmondo running atop a moving train! Verneuil lets his audience know that it's his leading man putting his neck on the line as Belmondo ban be clearly seen, every step of the way. This is undoubtedly one of the best examples of its kind ever committed to celluloid.

Sounda a lot like Violent Naples, that bit. Yknow?

anyway, this sounds really impressive I want to see it.
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Paul

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The action sequeneces in this film are far better constructed than those scene in Lenzi's flicks. You really should seek this out, as it's awesome.
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Stephen Grimes

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The action sequeneces in this film are far better constructed than those scene in Lenzi's flicks.
You're not wrong mate,that rooftop chase with the guy from CIA STORY is real heart-in-mouth stuff as is that amazing chase on the metro train where he's running along the roof :).The fact that this is really him and not a body double/stuntman makes it even more exciting,amazing stuff and highly recommended.
Btw did you notice how similar Morricone's score is to ALMOST HUMAN which he made aroud the same time?
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Paul

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The action sequeneces in this film are far better constructed than those scene in Lenzi's flicks.
You're not wrong mate,that rooftop chase with the guy from CIA STORY is real heart-in-mouth stuff as is that amazing chase on the metro train where he's running along the roof :).The fact that this is really him and not a body double/stuntman makes it even more exciting,amazing stuff and highly recommended.
Btw did you notice how similar Morricone's score is to ALMOST HUMAN which he made aroud the same time?

There's definitey echoes of similar scores - the whistling is also used to great effect in De Palma's UNTOUCHABLES.

Really glad you liked this flick, Stephen - I've always felt like a one-man publicity machine for this film, I know Jonny's not a fan but I think there's so much to love about it.
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Stephen Grimes

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Really glad you liked this flick, Stephen - I've always felt like a one-man publicity machine for this film
LOL  I noticed your review in Is It Uncut magazine from 2002 which is where i first read about it,it's taken me 5 years to see it but better late than never eh? :P
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Paul

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Definitely, mate. Here's hoping Optimum put out a French language disc with English subs.
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CardPlayer4

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Damn,they're still showing almost each year this film on the french tv!!!

Not bad at all,the action scenes are impressive,the music is creepy and i like the giallo vibe of this film!

The killer in this film is also one of the most creepy and memorable in the french thriller cinema...i remember suffering nightmares because of "Minos" in my childhood,lol! ;D ;D

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