Exploitation Retrospect | The Journal of Junk Culture and Fringe Media
Contraband (1980)
Blue Underground |
Review by Dan Taylor

When you hear Lucio Fulci's name, most drive-in afficianados think of gore-soaked Italian horror classics like ZOMBIE, GATES OF HELL, HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY and THE BEYOND. But pigeonholing the prolific director - who died in 1996 - would be a mistake.

Throughout his career, Fulci seemingly dabbled in every genre under the cinematic sun including futuristic action (THE NEW GLADIATORS), Spaghetti Western (MASSACRE TIME), comedy (DRACULA IN THE PROVINCES), giallo (THE PSYCHIC), and sword-and-sandal (CONQUEST). He even tried his hand at crime thrillers like CONTRABAND starring Fabio Testi as Luka, a naíve Italian smuggler involved in the cigarette trade.

The flick opens with a botched smuggling operation which leads to a boat chase between Luka's smuggling cronies and a somewhat disinterested police force. Using the old "Exploding Boat Filled with Rubber Dummies" gag, Luka escapes to smuggle another day.

But all is not well in the smuggling underworld. Sure, cigarettes are great, but why not smuggle something with a little more street value? Why risk it all for some packs of smokes? That seems to be the message from The Margliese (Marcel Bozzuffi), a shadowy underworld figure applying pressure to the heads of the various crime families.

When "pressure" fails, The Margliese starts offing the various crime family heads (and some family members) in graphic fashion, which is where Fulci shines - and the flick perks up. For violence buffs there's an uncomfortable sequence where a chick gets her head set on fire for trying to pass bad drugs, which is right up there with the GATES OF HELL drill-to-the-skull scene on the Itchy-Skitchy Meter.

It's up to the principled smugglers to strike back once the villainous drug pushers kidnap Luka's wife. The body count rises, double crosses ensue, surprise revelations are, um, revealed and Fulci paints the screen red and juicy in the gory finale.

Occasionally confusing and fairly entertaining, CONTRABAND is a decent thriller with enough action and gore from the master to keep viewers interested.

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