Book Reviews

A VIOLENT PROFESSIONAL: THE FILMS OF LUCIANO ROSSI by Kier-La Jannise

By • Mar 15th, 2008 •

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What a year 2007 has been for lovers of exploitation films! Following the theatrical release of GRINDHOUSE, multiple DVD labels started issuing sleazy double-features from the 60’s and 70’s, and while they don’t get the royal treatment companies like Blue-Underground or Synapse would give them, they are still great for those of us who don’t own a VHS player. In theaters we had the Tarantino / Rodriguez affair, Craig Brewer’s superb, BLACK SNAKE MOAN and Eli Roth’s HOSTEL: PART 2, that featured notable genre actors Edwige Fenech and Luc Meranda, and a moving cameo by legendary director, Ruggero Deodato (CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST). From a Spaghetti Western retrospective at the Venice Film Festival to various screenings hosted by Tarantino, Roth and Edgar Wright in LA, everybody wants a piece of the Exploitation pie – longing for the days when independent cinema was truly independent.

This surge of exploitation appreciation didn’t skip your bookshelf. Tim Lucas released his massive biography of Mario Bava (reviewed by Roy Frumkes in the Christmas Editorial), the Italian company, Cinedelic, published beautifully-made reference guides for Italian genre cinema, and the British FAB Press has been consistently putting out some of the best genre writings out there.

And here comes a treat to the Italian Exploitation enthusiast from FAB’s “Cinema Classics Collection”: Kier-La Janisse’s “A Violent Professional: The Films of Luciano Rossi”.

“While countless books and magazines have been devoted to the female stars of the Italian exploitation films, commonly assessing their faces and figures more than their acting,” writes Kier-La Janisse in her introduction, “I have yet to encounter a book where a female fan of the genre appraises an actor in a similar fashion.” It is true that most studies of Italian Genre Cinema and the Exploitation industry are conducted by male writers, an unfortunate fact that Kier-La successfully counters. One could only wish her intro ran longer then 2-pages, as her personal point-of-view is one of the strong points of this book.

Luciano Rossi is an interesting subject as he is an obscurity within an obscurity. Although he is one of the most frequent faces in Spaghetti Westerns and Italian Crime cinema, Rossi never managed to reach stardom and usually portrayed a psychopath who meets a violent death at the hands of heroes like Django (Franco Nero) or Commissioner Betti (Maurizio Merli). It would be easy to dismiss Rossi at first, but once the viewer becomes aware of him, he is undeniable, always delivering an intense, powerful performance, even in the smallest of parts. Without a doubt, he is one of the most prolific actors of the Italian Exploitation cinema.

“A Violent Professional” is a survey of Rossi’s roles and films, offering a summery of each and a description of his character. His actual biography runs a short 4-pages and leaves a reader hungry for an in-depth look at his life and career, but that is not the goal of the publication. Not a “straight” read, “A Violent Professional” is a viewing companion, a reference guide. Kier-La has two rating systems for each film: A star-rating for how big Rossi’s role is and a heart-rating for how cute he is in it. Those personal touches give the book its edge.

Rossi’s career creates a collage, a remarkable landscape of Italian Exploitation cinema. He worked alongside the best Italy had to offer and also some of the worst. In the close-to-70 films covered in this book, a reader would find Western classics such as Sergio Corbucci’s DJANGO and obscure gems like Mario Lanfranchi’s DEATH SENTENCE. Seminal Crime-genre works by Sergio Martino, Umberto Lenzi and Stelvio Massi. A few great Giallos and a handful of other genres. With the exception of maybe Tomas Milian, very few Italian actors have a body of work that follows these genres from birth to disappearance. While the book may focus on Rossi, the nature of his career makes it a reflection of the Italian Exploitation industry as a whole.

“A Violent Professional: The Films of Luciano Rossi” is not a primer or a beginner’s guide, and would be hard to recommend to those who are new to Italian genre cinema. But if you are a fan who wishes to explore these genres further, you’d want it mounted on your bookshelf.

A Violent Professional at FAB Press

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