Kendra Steiner Editions (Bill Shute)

April 11, 2020

Stay-At-Home Film #3: TUTTO SUL ROSSO (Italy, 1968), starring Brett Halsey

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TUTTO SUL ROSSO (All On The Red), Italy 1968

Italian language (subtitled in English)

starring Brett Halsey, Barbara Zimmerman, Gordon Mitchell, Piero Lulli, Josè Greci (note: Ms. Greci was billed in some sword and sandal films as “Susan Paget” and “Liz Havilland”!!!)

written and directed by Aldo Florio (mostly an assistant director, his best-known film for American audiences would probably be FIVE GIANTS FROM TEXAS (1966), starring Guy Madison, which got a VHS release in the late 80’s from Trans-World Entertainment…)

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No IMDB reviews (yet) for this entertaining heist-caper film set in the world of Italian casinos. It’s not as technically involved with the intricate details of the swindle as, say, GRAND SLAM, but it should appeal to people who enjoy European genre films of the late 60’s, fans of Brett Halsey (and who isn’t?), and fans of films such as FIVE AGAINST THE HOUSE.

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Halsey plays American casino professional and free-lance thief Mike Chapman, always looking for his next big score. In the opening pre-credit sequence, which must run five minutes, Halsey is disguised as an eccentric priest who is in a train cabin with three other men (they are on one side, he is on the other) and the Father slowly eats a modest lunch, piece by piece, taking each item out of his lunch basket. I had no idea what this film was about when I came into it, so I didn’t know where this sequence was going. Let’s just say you’ll be very surprised what the Padre eventually takes out of his lunch basket.

No one does on-the-edge vein-popping anger better than Gordon Mitchell, and here he is the owner  of a casino who has been trying to get Halsey to work for him in GM’s various crooked schemes, but Halsey prefers being a free agent. After making a big score against Mitchell in the first section of the film, Halsey then teams with an on-again, off-again partner, Belinda Duval, played by Barbara Zimmerman (was Margaret Lee not available?), a name new to me. BZ made four films in Europe in the 1968-71 period, and that’s all the credits she has (under that name, at least). As she’s dubbed in the film I can’t tell you if she is of North American or European origin. Half the film she’s a blonde, and half the film she’s a redhead. Halsey then enlists an old friend, Laszlo (played well by a nervous Piero Lulli), who has fallen on hard times (he’s become an alcoholic after the breakup of a relationship with a lounge singer, Yvette, played by peplum film regular Josè Greci) to assist them in an ambitious scheme to rip off a large casino through fixing the roulette wheel and having Halsey pose as another croupier, a Vegas pro named Reikovic).

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The first half of the film sets up the scam, and then when it seems foolproof, things start falling apart—-Mitchell realizes Halsey ripped him off and seeks revenge and the stolen money, the lounge singer re-appears (and sings a song!) and Laszlo falls off the wagon (Halsey agreed to hire him if he’s not drink), there are other peripheral characters who are being fleeced while attempting to fleece the ones doing the fleecing (or are they), Mitchell kidnaps Belinda, and the film’s final 25 minutes or so are non-stop action and twists with a surprising and violent and downbeat ending.

The title TUTTO SUL ROSSO (All On The Red) is perfectly chosen, as it’s clever and appealing in a seductive and ambiguous way before you know what the film is about, and once you do know, it both indicates the setting (the roulette tables) and symbolizes Halsey’s character’s putting everything HE has on a longshot bet. Does he succeed? Yes and no–you’ll have to see it for yourself.

The film manages to inject comedy at the right moments, and there are actually three nightclub entertainment sequences, a good way to lighten the tension between tense and action-filled scenes and to pad the running time, going back to 1940’s crime films (both Columbia and Monogram liked to work nightclub sequences into crime programmers). Brett Halsey brings his magnetic charm and Euro action-adventure credentials to this role (I just saw him in a 50’s Highway Patrol episode the other day, and have seen and enjoyed many of his 60’s-80’s European films) and was an excellent choice for the part.

Unlike Halsey’s SPY IN YOUR EYE, this did not get an American theatrical release, and unlike his ESPIONAGE IN LISBON, it did not play American television. I’m not sure it was even dubbed into English (my copy is in Italian, taped off European cable TV). It should definitely be better known. It’s not what could be called a Eurospy film—-it’s more of a crime-heist film. I can’t really fault the film in any way, and it kept my attention for 90 minutes, putting a smile on my face during Halsey’s priest sequence at the film’s start, and keeping me on the edge of my chair for the final 25 minutes. As Joe Bob Briggs would say, check it out!

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