The Curator of Schlock #184 by Jeff Shuster
And the crowd goes wild.
We’ve covered vigilante movies on this blog before. We know the basic premise. Crime is out control. The justice system is either anemic or is actually complicit in rising crime. An honest citizen stands up and takes the law into his own hands, usually after the death of a loved one at the hands scummy street punks or drug dealers.
There’s no nuance here. The criminals deserve what they get, but nothing gets resolved because there are always more criminals out there.
But the movie we’re viewing today doesn’t involve vigilantes. In fact, it shows us what happens when you don’t have a Charles Bronson taking care of business. It shows us what happens when you leave the scummy street punks and drug dealers to the police.
1977’s Stunt Squad from director Domenico Paolella starts off with small business owners complaining about the harassment they’re getting from the local protection racket.
You know what a protection racket is, don’t you? That’s where I come to your store and ask you to pay or else bad things are going to happen. Maybe I’ll drink out of some milk cartons or crunch up every bag of Sun Chips you’ve got in the place. That’s just what I would do.
In Stunt Squad, Valli (Vittorio Mezzogiorno), the head of this protection racket, isn’t me. If you don’t pay, he sends out his goons dressed as telephone repairmen and they stick a plastic explosive in the business’s pay phone. Then Valli calls the business.
One of the victims is a little old lady trying to buy a loaf of bread! What has the world come to?
Enter Inspector Grifi (Marcel Bozzuffi). Grifi knows Valli is running the protection racket and killing too many civilians. The higher ups want Valli arrested. If people lose faith in the police, they’ll turn to vigilantism and that will be the end of democracy.
Grifi suggests the obvious solution: forming the Stunt Squad, an elite group of police officers trained in the art of motocross. Yeah, it’s bunch of cops on motorcycles all wearing yellow helmets in an effort to blend in. The only problem with the Stunt Squad is that they follow due process. This gets them killed one by one.
There’s this one scene where Valli sets a trap for the Stunt Squad. He sticks a plastic explosive inside a cage in an abandoned building. He knocks the light inside the cage causing it to swing. When one of the cops investigates, he gets a face full of bomb. This Valli guy is really evil.
He disembowels this one pimp who was working for him because the pimp spilled the beans to the cops. Valli guns down detectives that’s tailing him right in front of a bus full of nervous passengers.
Inspector Grifi finally gets a shot off, wounds Valli in the shoulder. Grifi is about to place him under arrest when the crowd of passengers turns nasty. They smack Grifi around a bit, but their main focus is on Valli. They begin punching and kicking him to death. Other citizens join in. Heck, I think I saw some people leaving a church and joining in on the beat down. Grifi inspects their grisly handiwork, leaving the scene in disgust. So in the absence of a lone vigilante, you get mob rule. The times we have to live in. Where’s my motorcycle?
Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47, episode 102, episode 124, and episode 131) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.
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