A long-overdue appreciation of a lost art form.

Don’t try this anywhere: you are not cool enough. (c)

Pointless. Arguably polemic. Undeniably watchable. The on screen car chase has been with us for many a year. This isn’t to be a internet best of, a list of you have to see this or indeed real-life chases, they have no place here. My leanings are courtesy of (frequent DTW contributor) Matteo Licata – the more European-centric film chase from the late sixties and nineteen seventies.

Through Matteo’s lovely website “Roadster Life” he introduced me to some, in my eyes, positively excellent entertainment from dubiously acted, scripted and quixotic movies. These films are definitively of their time but have, akin to the cars used, become amenable in their advancing years.

Whereas today we have computer generated or green screen action scenes in films just as dubious but far more lavish, wind back thirty five years or more to where choreography was for dance routines. Most of these car chases were in real time, real streets and most definitely real and interesting cars and locations.

Our American cousins have their power, oversteering and screeching tyre smoke (that had childhood me along with the Italians, transfixed) but for panache, effortless style and brimming with brio, let’s beat a hurried path to downtown Rome. Plus, you have to let your hair down once in a while. Like enjoying your favourite tipple in their logo-ed glass. Doesn’t alter the taste but enhances the feeling.

The one and only Maurizio Merli. (c)

“Italia a Mano Armata,” has a story purporting to kidnapping, bank robbery, double crossings and general everyday gangster behaviour. Step forward Maurizio Merli, the Commissioner who, as luck would have it, can drive like Gilles Villeneuve regardless of steed. Be it chasing the bank robbers in his actual police car, the eternal olive green Giulia or commandeering the ubiquitous grocer’s Fiat 124 coupé in a fetching blue to pursue the bad guys in their BMW2002: In this film, the policemen helpfully identify both charges for us.

Watch the chase unfold but keep that peripheral vision open too; some of the locations and even parked cars are stunning. Perhaps directly because the streets are not boulevard straight or wide or have Chicago’s suspended railway above, the action does involve a sense of truth combined with speed.

Is this because they are cars of our childhood? How can seeing a Giulia, rapidly becoming more bent, battered and bruised yet still maintaining incredible progress as the chase continues make me feel invigorated? We secretly want the bad guy (with the Black Mercedes 114) to escape for that will enforce another chase but we know the good guy will win out; our more mature selves crush that delinquency to subside.

Although our egos will still have it that we can drive like the proverbial and again secretly wish to be involved in such derring-do but baulk at the insurance claims and jail sentence.

But check out those roadside beauties! Naturally Fiats are first and foremost with Alfas to be expected and even then Lancia being more circumspect. Sprinkle in a 2CV or deux, Renault 4’s and even a Mini and Beetle share some screen time with our protagonists, however fleetingly.

In context they are pivotal, revealing the nature of the mean streets as was. Were the cars treated to a course of enhancement before filming? Beefed up suspension and considerably better brakes than Seignior Lampredi would get from his Fiat garage?

Well, it was sat there with the keys innit? (c)

The punishment dished out on these poor creatures makes one wince. Or just very accomplished helmsmen (for the women are simply not allowed to drive) who get no recognition? And let’s face it, you could just pop round the corner to get another 131 should the driver actually break it.

There must have been an element of staging, for these days with our cynical eyes actively seeking continuity errors, one involving turning a ninety degree left or right with a truck on the “racing line” one second and the next shot has miraculously disappeared. Stick with it though for the next scene involves those most famous of car chase staples; the stack of boxes, the industrial area along with a dockside.

Who doesn’t want to drive through a stack of pointlessly placed (just there) cardboard boxes? Who wouldn’t dearly love to tear around some disused factory stirring up dust like a reverse vacuum cleaner? Who could resist the chance to avoid the cranes and huge drops to the deep blue briny below if you knew you could without reclaim?

Hard right, miss the pram, through the boxes! (c)

Glissading in style, steely stares abounding, never breaking sweat nor having a single hair of your perfectly bleached blonde locks out of place or nary a moustache twitch, heaven forbid. Should you take all this as total and complete nonsense you would miss the scene where Commissioner is thrown from a getaway Alfa on the autostrada, suffering but a small gash to the forehead. His suit and medallion are a-ok, thankfully. Later in a rare non-car chase scene his shirt is cut in a fight causing him some distress, a disdainful glance at the torn silk. The perpetrator dealt with.

There are numerous films with ever more extravagant sequences along with ridiculous outcomes. Longevity (or brevity) of the chase is immaterial. Just indulge the child within to some quality motors, fender bending antics and Italian flamboyance, thank you.

See you on the dock-side, Matteo. I’ll be wearing a kipper tie and be driving a, well, you’ll hear my tyres stridere

Author: Andrew Miles

Beyond hope there lie dreams; after those, custard creams?

11 thoughts on “Inseguire!”

    1. Wow ! Bullit gets a lot of hype, but take McQueen, SF, Charger and Mustang out of the equation and this one might be better. Also, cars were a lot sturdier, apparently…

  1. an old favourite of mine is Le Casse/ The Burglars, a 1971 French film by
    Henri Verneuil, with Belmondo and Sharif indulging in an outrageous chase
    in Fiats (124s I think but it was a long time ago) in Athens. the sort of wit and
    energy – with music by Morricone – that might inspire a less sober person
    than me to go out and do something stupid. if only I still had a 205.

    1. Seems that a Fiat with Lampredi Twin Cam is a good chase car…

  2. Those big-budget movie chase scenes were hugely appealing to me as a car obsessed youngster in the 1960’s and 70’s, but I remember equally well their low-rent equivalents from TV cop and detective series. The Rockford Files, starring James Garner, was typical. Here the chase scene often involved two huge American sedans, lumbering around corners and bouncing into and out of potholes at quite modest speeds. Damage was usually limited to an errant hub cap, which would go flying off for dramatic effect. In one chase, the same hub cap managed to fly off twice!

    British dramas such as The Sweeney usually featured the bad guys in a tatty S-Type Jaguar ploughing into the pile of empty cardboard boxes in a derelict warehouse while bring pursued by the heroes in their Ford Consul 3000GT. Budgets were tight so, when a “crash” occurred all the viewer saw of the “wrecked” car was the bonnet popped open and lots if steam.

    Regarding continuity errors, there was an infamous one in a 70’s TV series called The Persuaders, starting Roger Moore and Tony Curtis. Moore’s character, Lord Brett Sinclair, drove a yellow Aston Martin DBS. In one chase, the final seen needed to be re-shot and the DBS was unavailable so they substituted it with an Audi 100 Coupé with the grille badge removed! The footage used to be on YouTube, But I can’t find it anymore. Here are examples of the two cars for comparison:

  3. I hate to be that (italian) guy, but the correct spelling is “Inseguire” not “Insegurie” and “stridere” not “stradore”

  4. Love reading your articles Andrew. It’s my lunch time treat over a coffee, or hot chocolate today, in the local coffee shop. My escape from work for an hour (or so 😂). Anyway, you can’t beat a good 60/70’s car chase, just like The Italian Job through the streets of Milano.

  5. Thanks for this somewhat unexpected, but highly entertaining piece! I enjoyed watching the linked scenes a lot.
    I’m a bit too young to remember these films from their original time. My oldest memories of car chases come from “The Fall Guy”, which in its German translation “Ein Colt für alle Fälle” must have aired from around 1983. For us ten year olds the chases and stunts were by far the most interesting parts of the series, the rest being basically incomprehensible and boring for a kid. So we basically watched these scenes and did something else in front of the TV for the rest of the time. And of course, we had to reproduce the stunts with our toy cars – I remember that I went to the shops very often to find a similar pick-up truck as Colt drove…

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