Peter’s Retro Movie Review: Violent City (1970)

June 18, 2012

Violent City (1970) Movie Posterby Peter Nielsen

Charles Bronson is one of my favorite action-stars of the late 60’s, through the 70’s and 80’s and I have quite an extensive collection of his work in my movie-library. I’ll go out on a limb here and say that I know you’ve seen at least ONE of his many movies.

Let me give you some examples: The Mechanic, 10 to Midnight, The Dirty Dozen, The Evil That Men Do, Breakout, The Magnificent Seven, the Death Wish series and also one of my ALL-TIME favorite movies… Once Upon A Time In The West, which also starred Henry Fonda, Jason Robards and the stunningly beautiful Claudia Cardinale. So I can tell you with a 100% certainty that I’ll be returning to Mr. Bronson from time to time, in future reviews.

I also have a penchant for Italian-produced action-movies from the 70’s, so this week’s choice fits the bill perfectly. I’ll say up front that this isn’t one of Mr. Bronson’s best outings, but even despite that, it’s still a pretty decent action-flick. Violent City (Città Violenta) was released twice in the U.S. The first time under its original name and the second time it was renamed The Family with the title-logo resembling the one used for The Godfather which was released in 1972. I suppose this was done to “cash in” on the success of The Godfather.

Mr. Weber showing off his bartending skills.

Mr. Weber showing off his bartending skills.

In Violent City Charles Bronson plays Jeff Heston, a professional hit-man enjoying a vacation in the Virgin Islands with his girlfriend Vanessa. As they drive around, Jeff suddenly notices that they’re being followed and a nerve-wrecking car-chase ensues. It’s done on some narrow country-roads and the small village streets are even narrower.

It’s a typical 70’s car-chase where it’s speeded up at times and tires screeching on nearly every surface. A cool car-chase is what I’m getting at… The chase ends with Jeff being cut off by a second car. He gets out since he recognizes the other driver as his old friend Coogan, but before you can say “double-cross”, he’s shot by that very same “friend”. The first car arrives and Jeff is caught in the cross-fire, where he’s shot some more and left for dead.

On top of that, after he’s recovered, he has to spend a couple of years in prison, so he’s a bit pissed when he’s finally let out. Not surprisingly he wants revenge and sets out to find both Coogan AND Vanessa. Why Vanessa you ask? Well, it turns out that she was in on the whole deal, and before passing out, Jeff saw her drive off with Coogan. He’s easily found and disposed off, but when Jeff finds Vanessa things are further complicated, because when he sees her again, he discovers that he still has some feelings left for her. Granted he’s a bit rough with her, but hey, Jeff Heston is a rough man and dammit… she DID try to have him killed, remember?

When it comes to vehicle safety, Jeff means business!

When it comes to vehicle safety, Jeff means business!

The actress portraying this femme fatale is Jill Ireland (Someone Behind The Door, The Valachi Papers) who’s done a bunch of movies with Charles Bronson. They were married at the time and stayed married for 22 years up to her death in 1990. She  battled breast cancer for many years, but unfortunately lost the fight and passed away at only 54 years old!

Ever since Jeff got out of prison, a powerful New Orleans crime boss, by the name of Weber, has been trying to hire him and his “special services”, but Jeff refuses since he’s officially out of the business. Mr. Weber, being the persistent man that he is, of course won’t settle for a NO and “invites” Jeff to his house for a little talk. Weber is played by Telly Savalas (Kojak, Capricorn One, Kelly’s Heroes) who’s a delight to watch in Violent City.

In bed with Vanessa... is no time for sleeping!

In bed with Vanessa... is no time for sleeping!

Jeff is offered anything he wants in terms of money, the freedom to go where-ever he wants or the choice to do whatever he wants. In return he’ll have to be at Mr. Weber’s disposal at any time. Jeff still refuses! At this meeting he also finds out that Vanessa is married to Weber. Something she neglected to tell him even after they started seeing each other again. Another double-cross! But wait… there’s more! Confusing? Nah, not really, just watch the movie!

As I stated earlier, Violent City is not one of Charles Bronson’s best movies and certainly not one of his most remembered ones, but I still liked it. Sure it’s a bit slow in some scenes but the action is good and the cinematography is great and catches the 70’s style and atmosphere perfectly. The opening car-chase alone is worth the price of admission.

'If they'd just stand... still!'

'If they'd just stand... still!'

And the fact that Ennio Morricone did the musical score for the movie raised it a couple of notches above average, because it is BRILLIANT!

The version I have on DVD is (of course) the uncut and restored version which makes it kind of interesting to watch. Let me explain… As I understand, there were about 8 minutes of footage removed when it was released theatrically, but this was re-inserted when it was finally released on DVD.

What makes it interesting is that this footage was NEVER looped in English, so all of a sudden you have characters speaking Italian..? And sometimes the dialogue shifts from English to Italian and back again… all in the SAME scene!! Yup, I kid you NOT! And you know what? I friggin’ love it! And yes… I’m also aware that THAT statement makes me sound weird.

So, my friends… If you have ANY thoughts on this flick, please share them with us and until next time… Bye for now. Or maybe I should say… Arrivederci! 

Peter Nielsen Bio

Retro Movie Geek © 2015