A beautiful young woman is teaching evening classes to a bunch of juvenile delinquents when suddenly something happens. Next thing the young boys (allegedly aged 13 to 17) are around her, rape her and murder her. As the boys have left the room, all the evidence that remains is the naked and abused corpse and an empty bottle.
All this we see through a series of short scenes and stills. But what happened? What really happened?
The police discover the bottle was full of absinthe and that the boys must ‘ve drunk the bottle and gone completely berserk.
But which of the boys had brought the bottle to class? Or was there another person who’d staged all this?
Fernando di Leo is the Italian director best known for La Mala Ordina and Il Boss. Di Leo’s I Ragazzi del Massacro is a movie that was internationally known as Naked Violence, a title that suggests more nudity than you’ll actually find in the movie. (Raro Video’s release use the same trick: the back of the DVD cover shows only stills where you see the naked corpse of the young teacher.)
Pier Paolo Capponi has the unwelcome task of finding out why the murder took place. This is not a whodunnit, it’s “why did the boys do that?”. Assisting him is Susan Scott, a social worker who laments that society doesn’t really care about these delinquent boys: as long as the killer is found or someone ends in jail, society will be happy. It doesn’t take the duo long to find out the murder was staged, but that still doesn’t mean the mastermind is identified.
Di Leo does address a couple of issues in this movie: there are the delinquents (who are as much victims as culprits), society’s lack of interest for those boys, homosexuality, older women who use tomboys for their own pleasure and corruption.
While I Ragazzi del Massacro is a thriller, it’s one with severe socio-political undertones. It’s a crime mystery which does without chase scenes that’ll raise your adrenalin levels.
Like the international title and the cover stills, another thing that might mislead you is the presence of Susan Scott. This Spanish actress is nowadays mostly remembered for appearing in a couple of giallo movies (e.g. Death Carries A Cane, Death Walks at Midnight, Forbidden Photos of a Lafy Above Suspicion and So Sweet, So Dead) and exploitation movies (Orgasmo Nero, Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals, Emanuelle and Lolita). Compared to those roles, I Ragazzi del Massacro may appear as a bit tame.
But do not forget that some of the issues raised in this movie were not as commonly discussed as they are now and that – while it’ll be streching it a bit too far to call the movie taboo-breaking – I Ragazzi del Massacro did mention and show a couple of acts that were unspeakable at the time. That is the sad role for movies that question society: if society will break a taboo, the movie won’t look so audacious a couple of decades later.
I Ragazzi del Massacro does entertain the viewer, though I must admit I can easily sum up a couple of dozen Italian films I’ll hold dearer than this one.
It is a nice extra to have the socio-political undertone in the movie, but as a murder mystery it isn’t the most exciting movie out there. And, almost 40 years later, you’ll see this more as a historical slice of life in the late sixties than a controversial movie.
Over to a look at the DVD itself.
First and foremost, Raro Video should be applauding for releasing movies like this. The catalogue of Italian cult movie still seems to be growing and it’s nice to see an earlier work from Di Leo (who was one of the most famous directors in the “Italo crime” subgenre) and an early appearance by Susan Scott.
You have the choice between three settings for the movie: Italian, Italian with English subtitles or English dubbed. Choose wisely before you’ll watch the movie, as you won’t be able to switch audio channels once the movie has started.
As the English dubbed version was cut, the missing scenes were shown as Italian with English subtitles.
That’s great if you want to find out which bits were too controversial at the time. And it’s a great improvement on some of RaroVideo’s earlier releases (like Nightmare City) where you could only choose between Italian or English audio. Some of us like to watch movie in Italian with subs, you know!
There are two extras on the DVD worth mentioning: first is a small documentary on the film. However, this is in Italian only and there are no subtitles.
The second is a French documentary on the director. This is in French only and there are no subtitles. (Also, I found the image to freeze occasionally, but that might just be my copy.)
So hurrah for RaroVideo for releasing this movie on DVD, but please think of international audience and add a couple of subtitles. Sure, this’ll cost more, but there are millions of people interested in Italian genre films who don’t speak Italian that fluently.