The early Germi films, though they take place in Italy, are mostly pastiches of American genre films. IN THE NAME OF THE LAW (1948) borrows from a host of American westerns about sheriffs who, against all odds and without much help from the townspeople, clean up the town and expose the complicity between a prominent town father and the outlaws. THE WAY OF HOPE (1950) is much like THE GRAPES OF WRATH, depicting the trek of a group of dispossessed workers following an evanescent lead for work in another land. (There's even a scene where they get work on a farm and are called scabs by striking workers, very similar to Ford's film.) THE BRIGAND OF TACCA DI LUPO (1952) is similar to Ford's FORT APACHE: the martinet who insists that men on field campaign for three years adhere to strict protocol, who doesn't know the difference between a good Indian and a bad one, and who insists on leading his men into danger against all the advice of seasoned professionals. FOUR WAYS OUT (1952) is much like THE ASPHALT JUNGLE in plot and tone. All of these films are impeccably made, beautifully photographed and acted, with no false notes, and with neorealist overtones (three were co-written by Fellini). However, they're all a bit slow, a bit too derivative, and they all generate more respect than enthusiasm.
THE FACTS OF MURDER is something else entirely, It is another genre film, borrowing from many police procedurals, yet here one feels that Germi has finally graduated from respectful pastiches to create a work that is completely successful on its own. The plot, about a robbery in one apartment, and a murder in an apartment across the hall a week later, is so complex that it's hard to follow at times (in some ways it's similar to the complex Chandler novels, and with a similar denouement) but it's richly detailed, with many interesting characters. Germi is a superb actor and his handling of other actors is sure. The interplay between the three detectives is sophisticated and clever, and has the ring of actuality. The pace is fast but not rushed, and the writing and the pictorialization are richly nuanced. Above all, it is a highly entertaining film!
This is the film where Germi seems to have come into his own as a master filmmaker, where he still has some the neorealist characters and story structure from his earlier period but also has the biting humor and social satire of his later films. It rivals DIVORCE ITALIAN STYLE as his best film, and is a must see.
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