Mean Frank and Crazy Tony (1973)
For those who think Lee Van Cleef worked strictly in westerns during his time in Italy, look no further than this entertaining gangland shoot’em up from producer Dino De Laurentiis that went through various title changes during it’s release.
From the outset during the opening credits we are treated to mafia style hits played out by means of machine guns, car bombs and a rather gruesome murder by a drilling tool. It seems there’s a struggle for underworld power and Van Cleef is going to find himself embroiled in the proceedings.
Before our introduction to Van Cleef’s Mean Frank we first find Tony Lo Bianco playing Crazy Tony. He’s a wanna be hoodlum of the high class variety. Dapper looking and a sexy woman on his arm played by the always attractive Edwige Fenech. It seems Tony is a small time crook with big dreams. When Van Cleef strolls back into town his arrival is like that of a rock star and Tony wants into our leading man’s inner circle.
Lee Van has hit town looking to settle some old scores and sets up what he believes is a perfect alibi to carry out a personal vendetta. He gets himself arrested on a minor charge and with the right pull gets released quietly for an evening scores his hit and returns to jail. The whole time he’s being watched by his excitable student Tony who is also doing a minor stretch in the hopes of befriending his hero.
Plans go awry for Lee Van and his hit comes back to haunt him. He soon finds himself in general population and has to contend with those out to do him harm. This includes a sniper that narrowly misses him when Tony saves the day. Finally Lee Van takes on his young apprentice. When Van Cleef learns of his innocent brothers murder by a nasty hit he swears vengeance and with Tony along for the ride the escape is planned.
Once on the outside Lee Van turns in a very convincing performance as a stone cold killer of the vigilante style that popularized Hollywood cinema at the time. The final shootout of Lee Van versus his underworld enemies is well done and features a messenger of death like Lee Van Cleef walking down his rivals.
While Van Cleef is all business as Mean Frank, the comedy relief supplied by Lo Bianco as Crazy Tony is hit and miss but that could be from a North American point of view versus the Italian markets conception of what’s funny and what’s not. Thankfully our two U.S. born actors are not dubbed though the rest of the cast cannot say the same for the English language version.
For the Edwige Fenech admirers there is a brief bit of nudity in the 93 minute version that I located mixed in with a collection of titles called the Grindhouse Experience Volume 1.
This enjoyable outing was directed by Michele Lupo who also directed an odd title in the career of Kirk Douglas with plenty of underworld twists titled The Master Touch.
A nice addition to Lee Van Cleef’s overseas output and a change of pace from some of the later spaghetti westerns he showed up in like The Grand Duel. Duel being far from my favorite overseas Van Cleef oater. My first and only time seeing the saga of Frank and Tony previously was years ago with a Bandito Video rental from the Sybil Danning line of releases.