Cani arrabbiati (1974)

a.k.a. - Semaforo rosso, Rabid Dogs, Kidnapped

Maurice Poli and George Eastman star in Mario Bava's unreleased real-time crime thriller. Anchor Bay US R0 DVD.

The Film

A brutal robbery in an Italian city - four criminals attack a car carrying wages and stab the courier as well as shooting a guard. They escape but their driver is shot and killed and the remaining trio, Doc (Maurice Poli), Thirty-Two (George Eastman) and Bisturi, are forced to hide in the city when their car leaks petrol from a bullet hole. Surrounded by police they take a hostage and escape in a car, but realising they are being followed switch into the car of Riccardo who is taking his sick child to the hospital - the gang make him drive them out of the city and take the hostage Maria along with them...

Mario Bava was no stranger to troubled productions and routinely during his career was brought in to salvage films when the funds had run out or the director had been fired. However, he was unable to save Cani arrabbiati when the producion manager died during post-production and the film became entangled in legal red-tape, being condemned to the shelf. Fortunately in the mid-1990s, actress Lea Lander (who plays the tortured Maria) was able to secure the rights to the film and with the addition of a suitably contemporary title sequence, the largely complete workprint was released. From the start, Cani arrabbiati is a very minimalistic crime film that plays out in almost real-time and it stays faithful to this concept throughout, the action rarely leaving the confines of the hijacked car. The tone is grim even for an Italian crime film and at times looks as though it might be heading into the nihilistic 'rape and revenge' territory of a film like L'ultimo treno della notte (1975).

The emphasis for the characters and setting is on realism - the criminal trio are never 'evil'; the leader 'Doc' is portrayed as a quite pleasant man, resorting only to violence and threats when it is necessary for his own protection, while 'Thirty-Two' who is behind most of the violence is clearly mentally unstable. The characterisation though is otherwise very minimal, there is no background provided to any of the characters (any other adaptation of the story would doubtless contain lengthy flashbacks to break up the flow) and no attempt to explain why the gang have carried out the robbery or how they came to be working together. This does suit the atmosphere of the film - the audience only knows as much as the hostages do about their captors - but it leaves a lot of unanswered questions and makes it hard to build up tension, particularly at the start, as we do not know enough about the characters to sympathise with them. Pacing is obviously on the slow side but the script does not resort to sticking in gratuitous action scenes and only really drags during an overlong cornfield chase.

In the director's chair for what would be his penultimate cinematic production, Bava obviously has to eschew his trademark fantasy colour schemes, as well as the studio shooting he usually favoured. Instead the film is shot entirely on location and the scenes in the car are shot for real, avoiding the horrible rear-projection of many films of the era. The claustrophobia of the car is well represented by the use of very tight close-ups and very few exterior shots of the vehicle and despite some 60 minutes of the film taking place in the small vehicle, Bava mixes up the camera angles well to avoid repetition. The only time that the film's incomplete nature is visually evident is in a few of the stabbing scenes where there are noticable jumps that would presumably have been filled with special-effect close-ups. Composer Stelvio Cipriani's soundtrack was not completed but a number of cues were recorded and these are used as the soundtrack, the result (perhaps inadvertantly) is a quite repetitive soundtrack that well suits the tension within the car.

The enourmous George Eastman takes on a typically bizarre part as the violent "thirty-two", credited here under his real name of Luigi Montefiori. He gives a typically strong performance, managing to convince as a deeply disturbed individual. The ever underrated Maurice Poli gets one of his best parts here as 'Doc' and works really well alongside Riccardo Cucciolla as the luckless carjacked driver. Lea Lander has an incredibly difficult part to play as Maria and her performance is not the best, but she never crosses over into mere scream-queen territory and her looks suit the gritty feel of the film a lot more than the cinematically gorgeous Elke Sommer would have done (who was suggested for the role by Alfredo Leone).

Obviously it is impossible to know if Bava had planned any further changes to the film, Lamberto Bava has stated that the film would have been more tightly edited - a little trimming down would not have done it any harm. The film as we see it here is not without its flaws - lacking in characters to support and somewhat overlong and slow paced - but its dedication to the concept is admirable and the film provides some great close-up acting from the whole cast. The grim brutality might put off some fans of Bava's horror work, but it is work checking out and particularly for thriller fans it comes recommended.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? George Eastman - an incredibly tall actor who most famously appeared in Antropophagus (1980)
Maurice Poli - Italian actor who also starred in Papaya dei Caribi (1978)
Directed by anyone interesting? Mario Bava - one of the most renown Italian horror directors, behind films from Black Sunday (1960) to Hatchet for the Honeymoon (1970) and Lisa and the Devil (1973).
Any gore or violence ? Several bloody scenes.
Any sex or nudity? No nudity but a couple of scenes of sexual violence.
Who is it for? An eye opener for Bava fans more at home with his fantasy horror works and certainly recommended to Bava collectors. Recommended for thriller fans.

Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 1.85:1. Anamorphically Enhanced. Colour.
The print is very grainy but has good colours and detail with minimal damage.
Audio Italian mono - sounds good throghout.
Subtitles English - based on the Italian soundtrack.
Extras This disc includes:
  • Kidnapped - a re-edited version of the workprint created in 2002 by Bava's son Lamberto Bava and producer Alfredo Leone with newly filmed scenes and a new soundtrack with more modern music and new sound effects.
  • Audio commentary by Bava biographer Tim Lucas, containing a good amount of detail about the film and its production.
  • 'End of the Road' - interview piece including Lamberto Bava, Alfredo Leone and Lea Lander discussing the film.
  • Bonus trailers for Black Sunday, Kill Baby Kill, The Girl Who Knew Too Much, Knives of the Avenger and Black Sabbath.
Region Region 0 (ALL) - NTSC
Availability Available as a single release or in the Mario Bava Collection 2 Boxset.
Other regions? Released in Germany and previously in the US from Lucertola Media with a different prologue but otherwise the workprint 'Rabid Dogs' cut.
Cuts? The film is uncut as per the original workprint. Newly created titles and credits are in Italian.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 1st October 2011.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

Please contact: