A Special Cop In Action (1976)

A Special Cop in Action

The final instalment and lowest grossing outing of the Inspector Betti series sees Maurizio Merli reprising the role for the final time. A Special Cop in Action would be better suited with the Violent Milan title to keep with the series’ naming convention, however, Weapons of Death director Mario Caiano made a different film in 1976 with that title. Starting out in Turin and moving to Milan Merli has to track down some kidnapped children, negotiate their release and deal with the group responsible. Simple.

Marino Girolami is back for this outing, Umberto Lenzi lensed the second instalment, and Marino shakes things up with Special Cop by taking a slower approach to the story than both Violent Rome and Violent Naples, however, it is packed with intrigue and thrills. Instead of chases and action, of which Special Cop has it’s fair share, the plot is densely filled with exciting events that sees a spat of kidnappings, some extended detective work to locate the children, a tense negotiation scene and Betti being sent to prison! All this gets us to the halfway mark and following some rooftop antics and car chases a clever ruse is deployed to bring us to the finale and ultimately take down the villain.

A Special Cop in Action feels a little different to the other films in the series, however, I would say that it is my favourite of the trilogy, right from the stylish, pounding, familiar overture that beautifully prepares the viewer for the tough, taught and tense world of Inspector Betti. We spend a little more time with Betti and see a little more of his human side and this is invaluable. Plot events are memorable and whilst the trickery used in the story is a little childish, it’s simple and enjoyable. The mid-film action sequences are worth the wait if a little short lived.

One of the oddest things about A Special Cop in Action is the approach feels more sophisticated. The story is more fleshed out, with a lot more going on. The level of violence continues from the previous outings with the murder of an undercover cop as he is dragged behind a car and a close up assault of a young woman are amongst the more memorable adult scenes.

Merli is front and centre of the story and fully engaged in the action. There wasn’t much to challenge the actor in this entry and this would be the only main criticism. Betti does have a small amount of growth in the film as he discusses his loneliness at night whilst some welcome romance blossoms out of a dark scenario. Betti has had love interests in the films before, however, the entry invests more time into the relationship for maximum impact in the final moments of the film.

John Saxon… returns to the series, in a different role. This time bringing a smug but likeable heavy to mess with Betti’s talents. Secondary villains play a larger part throughout the events of this film as we spend time with the kidnappers seeing their frustration grow. Tenebrae’s Mirella D’Angelo manages a tough job of transitioning from grieving sister to love interest quite well.

Betti’s story might come to an end with this film, however, there was a spin-off of the most questionable calibre. Returning to the child character, Gennarino, from Violent Naples 1977’s Weapons of Death moves forward with some questionable hooks to this series, not to mention Leonard Mann playing Inspector Belli… Franco Nero’s character from High Crimes or perhaps Ring of Death? A Multiverse?

A Special Cop in Action is a solidly entertaining conclusion to the Betti series and surprisingly this turns out to be an incredibly entertaining trilogy, especially when you consider they were all made pretty much back to back. It is unfortunate that these films were being dismissed outside of Italy when released. It’s obvious that the decline in the box office was due to audience fatigue for cop movies at the time, however, finding them today evokes a dose of nostalgia for the look and feel of this type of film. 

I fell in love with Italian action movies when I was a kid because of two things, raw, exciting car chases and dodgy dubbing. Watching them as an adult I can appreciate the plot and the clever, if perilous, approach used to realise the story and stunts. Most of all, the gorgeous look of Italy in the 70’s. An historically old country that had repealed fascism and was fighting a continually rising criminal element. With only two television channels, Italian cinema was one of their most important forms of entertainment and to see a tough cop stamping out that criminal element that was feared on a daily basis was invaluable. These are three of the best and Merli was an underrated talent who was unfairly labelled as a poor man’s Franco Nero.

There isn’t a huge collection of art for this third film which is unfortunate, however, the original image of Merli from the first poster saw a lot of use over the years on soundtrack CDs, books and magazines.

Unlike the first two films in the series, A Special Cop In Action was released in 2019 with the spin off, Weapons of Death in North America on Blu Ray.

I noticed a copy of it on Ebay a couple of years ago and it went for roughly 3 kidnapped children and a box of black market kidneys.

Spin off Weapons of Death (1977)


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