Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Mustachioed Bit of Levity

[NOTE: This entry was initially lined up to go up much sooner...but as you can imagine, last week was one of those weeks for...just about everyone, really.  For what it's worth, to those still effected by last week's happenings, my best wishes and hope things fare well.]
Well, let no one say we here at The Third Row don't keep our word (...most of the time.)

Last entry, I promised you guys Italian Spiderman, and I haven't been this happy to oblige in a long time.

...I'm gonna be honest.  Captioning may be tricky with this one.  I mean, riffing a movie that's already a parody feels kind of redundant, no?

Right about now, some of you are already thinking "Oh God...", while others are likely wondering "What the Hell is Italian Spiderman?"  So, let's get started with some of the background -

Italian Spiderman is a two-fold sendup film conceived of by a team of Australian filmmakers.  It serves as both a send-up of Italian action movies of the 60s and 70s (presented as a 'lost' film of fictional Italian orange magnates, Alrugo Entertainment,) as well as a good natured send-up of the custom of foreign 'repurposes' of popular titles (things like Turkish Star Wars, etc.)  The result is a low-budget, dubbed over, and downright hysterical piece of insanity.

In fact, before I go any further on describing this movie, I'd argue now would be a good time for you to look up the trailer.

It's OK, I'll wait.

For those of you who didn't want to look up the trailer, I'll try and keep the description short and sweet.  For those who did...well...bear with me for this description.  Again, I'll keep it short.  For starters, this isn't the Spiderman you know from comics and films.  Naturally, this is part of the joke.  Rather than being the endearingly gawky nerd who gained superpowers from being bitten by a radioactive spider that now allows him to leap from building to building in a skintight red-and-blue costume, this movie's vision of Spiderman is...different.
Picture a stocky man with an appearance like a cleaner Ron Jeremy, a domino mask, and a red turtleneck with a giant spider on it.

For as many weird things as Marvel has done with the character, I feel kind of saddened this was never one of them.

Our hero, ladies and gentlemen!

Also, he's not about nimble acrobatics and quick quips.  This is established in the first scene, where, in the midst of a tense poker game with a classically one-eyed villain, he produces a shotgun from nowhere and starts the shells firing.  It's a sequence that has no real purpose for the rest of the film, but it's still a great way of both introducing our hero and establishing the flavor of the movie.  Low-budget effects, including a man turning into a rubber snake to escape a beating and goofy as Hell fight choreography, including seeing Italian Spiderman cold-cock several women, all set the stage for what's to come wonderfully.

From here, we establish the movie's actual story, loose as it is.  Italian Spiderman, who simply is...that's just his full identity, job, and any other aspects, is the friend of scientist Professor Bernardi.  Bernardi has been researching an asteroid that fell to Earth (first presented into a sequence that introduces us to a young student who's shocked expressions turn into a brilliant running gag.) 

I'd like to believe somewhere there's an entire reel of alternate reactions this guy gave for every scene he had to look shocked in.

Unfortunately, his research has also caught the eye of the villainous Captain Maximum - a cackling villain whose dress sense involves a sharp grey business suit and a Mexican luchadore mask.  These three, as well as Jessica, Bernardi's niece and Spiderman's love interest, make up the four main players in this loose story that plays as a whirlwind of action, espionage, and some over the top insanity that's hard not to love.

Likewise, kind of saddened that such a villain doesn't appear to be part of the classic Marvel rogue's gallery.  If someone knows otherwise, feel free to correct me.

I will admit here, it feels a bit odd to try and seriously review a movie that, by its very design, is meant to be a parody of incredibly goofy, low budget films.  Mostly because it's not the kind of film that is necessarily quantifiably good, but it is VERY entertaining.

In particular, that entertainment comes down to two elements more than anything else (not to diminish the rest, but these have earned the praise.)  The first is the performance by 'Franco Franchetti' (David Ashby) as the film's hero.  Half of what makes Italian Spiderman such a fun movie and character is the fact Ashby plays the role with such zeal.  Whether it's dispensing morals to people he's just punched out, or demanding information from a rubber snake, Ashby plays the character with just the right level of over the top energy.  He's fun without feeling like overkill.  A trick that, in a parody, is a pretty delicate balancing act to get right.  The other standout here is the film's director, Dario Russo.  Russo, as director and producer, does a lot for helping give this film its wild feeling.  Between the faux-60s setting and the over-the-top low budget action (one of the highlights being a scene where Italian Spiderman makes a man's head explode using only his mustache.)  Like Ashby's performance, Russo has a sense of how much is just right here and hits the mark almost all across the board.

Proof of the above-mentioned interrogation and head explosion.

Really, this is one of those movie that feels almost impossible to hate.  It's a parody that understands its subject well enough, and approaches it with the right levels of good humor and, oddly enough, love to make the film still feel enjoyable while also feeling relatively faithful to what it's riffing on.  I realize I'm coming back to that element of balance a lot in this entry, but it's because it really is a big element of what can make or break a parody movie.  It's also what causes this movie to succeed with such flying colors.

Seriously, they pull no punches.

Like I said, given the film's big failings are in there by intent, I can't rightly find much to fault this movie for.  The only complaint I could really feel with this movie is the fact that, as an independent project, it's only 40 minutes in length.  Though at the same time, I almost can see how that could be an asset.  I mean, I walked away from this movie wanting more (and not just because of its cliffhanger ending,) but I can also acknowledge maybe it's best we only got what we did rather than risk the idea of the joke overstaying its welcome.

With an ending like this, the knowledge a sequel will never come haunts me.

Though I must admit, I certainly wouldn't say no if the team ever decided to reform Alrugo and revisit this mustachioed hero one more time.

The movie is actually available on the web, legitimately, and free of charge (with English subtitles) for all to see.  Suffice it to say, if you haven't watched this yet, and if this article has raised even the slightest interest, then by all means - Go! Go! Make yourself a Machiatto, pull up a chair, and watch Italian Spiderman!  It may not be necessarily artistically fulfilling, but it's still a VERY enjoyable 40 minutes to just unwind and have fun.

OK, so this entry was a little bit more freeform than I was expecting.  Though given the nature of the movie in question, that actually fits, in a way.  If it helps any, the next review is already in the works and will be a bit more structured, if somewhat less insane, sadly.  Ah well, can't have 'em all that way, or I'd get sick of it.   Such a prospect terrifies me.

Until next time...
See ya!

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