3 March 2019 | Bezenby
Mario Merola downsizes (not physically) from a cigarette smuggling Guappo to a vegetable seller who gets jailed for a crime he didn't commit in yet another Naples-based crime move directed by Alfonso Breschia. I'm not complaining!
It seems Mario this time around is a divorcee looking after his ailing mother while also bringing up his ten-year-old daughter. His ex-wife, Erica Blanc, is wracked with guilt for leaving Mario and her daughter for a life of jewellery and money with a local Don. Things get much worse for everyone when a lecherous crime boss rival (Biago Pelligra) kills the Don and rather stupidly, Mario turns up shortly afterwards and picks up the gun.
Sent straight to jail, Mario finds that the head of the prison guards not only hates him, but he's also in cahoots with Biago. Biago ends up in jail too, but can Mario save his own hide and show some respect to the Mafia Don? Or can he clear his name? Or escape to look after his mother? Or, and this seems to upset him the most - can he get out in time to attend his daughter's communion?
Expect the usual fat guy doing slapstick (Lucio Montanaro again), the usual bad guy (Biago Pelligra again), the usual scenes centred around eating, and two different kids playing a pretend husband and wife, and you've still got a fairly entertaining Mario Merola film. Why? Because the man wears his heart on his sleeve. He loves his Mama so much he reduces the entire prison to tears just singing a song about her! He loves Napoli so much he sings a song about it! He even sings a song directly to Mother of God at the end of the film - I nearly converted to Catholicism myself right that and then.
Erica Blanc's not in it much mind you.
Born Melvin Merrylees in Filey, East Yorkshire, Merrylees moved to Grimsby as a young man and took up a living on a fishing vessel. Falling overboard one stormy night, Merrylees was picked up by an Italian shipping vessel importing clams and found himself stranded in Naples. Upon discovering that his favourite brand of cigarette, Woodbine, were among those smuggled into the port, Merrylees found himself making a living by singing in restaurants around the bay. "I didn't understand t'language, but I found if I just sung as loudly as possible and threw in the words "Napoli" and "Mama" people went wild." An overnight sensation, Merrylees changed his name to Mario Merola and recorded the platinum selling albums "Napoli - Ti Amo", "Amici, Napoli, Amore", and "Ti Amo Mama". Following this, he sought a career in film and teamed up with highly respected sci-fi director Alfons Breschia (Director of "Cosmic Planet War of the Beast Robots in Space"), making several dozen Napoli-based crime films where Merola typically played a singing Guappo who cried at the drop of a hat, drove a blue Mercedes, and slapped a fat guy in the face.
Merrylees returned to Grimsby in the late eighties when the Italian film industry collapsed, but has many a great memory of his time in Italy. "The birds were champion," he said in a recent interview. "Proper dirty."