Leaden Italy, Lost Italy
: A Cross-Cultural (Re-)Assessment of the Italian Crime Film in the Years of Terrorism and Social Unrest (1969-Early 1980s)

  • Giovanni Memola

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis examines the generic body of a vast group of commercial crime films produced in Italy during the anni di piombo, or Leaden Years, a time peculiarly marked by widespread episodes of political violence and tragic facts of terrorism (1969-early 1980s). These films achieved resounding success at the national box-office by conjugating the aesthetic of foreign crime films and formulas with clear references to the grim and violent Italian reality. The aim of this thesis is to assess how, and to what extent, problems and concerns associated with contemporaneous historical events had effectively influenced their production and consumption, as well as their generic identity.

In contrast with traditional (and prevailing) critical accounts, this thesis contends that these films and their generic images are less concerned with terrorism and related political extremism than they are with other contemporaneous social events, such as the reigniting of culturally deep-seated regional tensions, and the crisis of a national benchmark such as the patriarchal family. In discussing this point, this thesis provides a thorough historical contextualization of the Leaden Years which does not rest exclusively on political-terrorist issues, but takes into account other topical social problems, as well as reconstructing the cultural and political-ideological complexity that marked this era. Arguments in support of this thesis have been crucially elaborated through referencing historiographical material and critical sources mostly from Italy, in an attempt to further provide the examination of these films and of their generic identity with an Italian critical and cultural perspective to date scarcely represented in the Anglo-American film studies upon which the theoretical body of the Italian crime film is prevalently built.
Date of Award2 Apr 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Winchester
SupervisorLeighton Grist (Supervisor), Neil McCaw (Supervisor) & Steven Allen (Supervisor)


  • Anni di piombo
  • Italian cinema
  • crime film
  • Giallo
  • Poliziottesco
  • Filoni
  • terrorism
  • political violence
  • Italian family
  • regionlism

Cite this

Leaden Italy, Lost Italy: A Cross-Cultural (Re-)Assessment of the Italian Crime Film in the Years of Terrorism and Social Unrest (1969-Early 1980s)
Memola, G. (Author). 2 Apr 2015

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis