Even during the height of the zine craze, while most of them were happily reviewing Italian horror, one pasta-encrusted genre that often went unnoticed was the Italian action film. Often times even more shocking and bizarre than their gory counterparts, they were wonderfully volatile, ultra-violent and, even with all the RAMBO rip-offs, unabashedly imaginative. Bloggers Paul Cooke and David Zuzelo are finally bringing this much-ignored genre to the forefront in their wonderfully nostalgic TOUGH TO KILL, VOLUME 1: THE ITALIAN ACTION EXPLOSION.
I say “nostalgic” because this self-published book hearkens back to the aforementioned zine era, so much so that even its (minor) flaws are endearing. The first of a series, this starting volume collects the duo’s reviews, written with such a fanboy love and craze for these flicks that their lack of professional tact will probably turn off readers looking for an in-depth, analytical review.
Instead, Cooke and Zuzelo go off on the beauty of the blood sprays, the joy of an exploding hut and the thrill of seeing Fred Williamson on the screen. These guys act like film geeks in a mom-and-pop video store salivating over an underground find, urging you to rent it, with their excited demeanor infectiously daring you to plunk down your dollar.
For example, after reading this book, I am looking all over for a copy of THE LAST MATCH, starring the unholy trinity of Martin Balsam, Ernest Borgnine and Henry Silva. It’s a revenge-and-rescue movie that substitutes well-trained, elite search-and-destroy soldiers for a uniformed football team who uses their sports skills to save the day. Apparently, one of the players even blows up a helicopter with a punt. A freakin’ punt! Hell, they give it four exploding huts!
My only complaint with the book would have to be the same complaints I had with zines, oddly enough: the design, or lack thereof. Written across the page with only the occasional picture, it is easy to get lost in the sentence when it stretched across a normal-sized sheet of paper. Next time, guys, try two or three columns and, just to keep the reader on their toes, more photos. I mean, I feel like kind of an asshole even bringing it up, considering the lack of these types of books out there, but this is a series I want to succeed and see more of.
TOUGH TO KILL is, for me, a seminal textbook, introducing me to a new genre that I never not only really paid attention to, but never really knew anything about. Very rarely do review books do that to me anymore, so keep it up, guys. —Louis Fowler