KILLER COP (1975) — History Through Poliziotteschi, New on Blu

Killer Cop hits Blu-ray on June 2 from Raro Video.

In 1969, a bomb rocked the Banca Nazionale dell’Agricoltura building in Milan’s Piazza Fonata, killing or injuring scores of people. Luciano Ercoli’s 1975 film La polizia ha le mani legate uses that event as its inspiration, telling the story of the investigation that followed. It would be the final film in his short directorial career.

Commissioner Matteo Rolandi (Claudio Cassinelli) is a narcotics officer, but finds himself circumstantially intertwined with the bombing investigation. He makes some critical breakthroughs on discovering the bombers’ identities, but his detective work is unappreciated by the other officers officially handling the case. The film is as much about navigating the petty politics within the police force as it is about solving crimes. As Rolandi gets deeper into the case, he himself becomes a suspect as the circumstances conspire to implicate him.

The film’s core narrative is pretty simple, a bit linear even, but in some ways it just doesn’t work. I was continually confused. Perhaps this comes from a lack of knowledge of the real case, which Italian viewers in 1975 would no doubt have better understanding, but I was often unsure of the motivations and affiliations of not only the three bomber characters, but of other mysterious persons lurking in the shadows. Why was one of the bombers obviously remorseful and what was his actual (voluntary or involuntary) involvement? Who are the other radicals trying to kill the bombers? What’s their story? None of this really registered with me. Maybe I just missed the explanations, but I blame it on being 40 years and 8000 miles removed. When the film ended, the protagonist was the only character I really understood.

What the film lacks in coherence, it does attempt to make up for in style. A pair of glasses discovered on the scene becomes the most important clue in the investigation, and the film incorporates this conceptually into its visual language. The camera uses both transparent and reflective surfaces prominently: Mirrors reveal actions that would normally be hidden from the camera’s view, while various kinds of glass objects and lenses refract and distort. It’s a neat trick that gives the film an extra shot of flavor, and perhaps hints at a deeper meaning about the skewed and distorted truths and values that Rolandi must navigate.

Like many Eurocrime films and foreign films in general that have acquired multiple titles through regional marketing, the title of Killer Cop is a flashy misnomer that’s a poor representation of what the movie’s actually about. There’s no killer cop, for one thing. The original Italian title, La polizia ha le mani legate, or “The Police Can’t Move”, a much more fitting encapsulation of the story, fittingly paired with poster art of a man’s hands literally tied.

The title Killer Cop also seems suggestive that this, like many Italian crime films, will be full of sleazy and exploitative elements, but actually that’s not the case. While it has some brief sex and violence, these depictions are much milder than other films of this kind.

The Package

The disc isn’t huge on features but it does have handsome packaging including a slipcover and 12-page booklet, as well as an informative interview, and an apparently rare English dub. The menu notes that English dub is partially incomplete and fills in subtitles for the missing portions.

The disc’s subtitles are generally pretty good, aside from a couple of minor typos.

The film is not rated but the content includes mild violence and brief nudity; roughly equivalent to a PG-13 or soft R. As I mentioned before, it’s a tamer representation of the genre, presumably due to its historical origin.

Special Features and Extras

Interview With Alessandro Calosci (20:20)
 A relaxed, somewhat informal 20 minute interview with production manager Alessandro Calosci. Calosci, apparently still active in his field, speaks about the film, American actors like Arthur Kennedy finding second careers in Italy, and how filmmaking has changed over the years. The interview is set outdoors in a public area and has a bit of background noise.


Lacking the bombast and exploitative elements common to the genre, Killer Cop is an unusual Eurocrime offering, making it a bit of a hard sell. The character motivations are difficult to follow and the story suffers as a result. That said, it’s still an intriguing film with a strong visual style and a glimpse into a real terrorist event in Italian history.

A/V Out.

Get it at Amazon:
Killer Cop — [Blu-ray] | [DVD]

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