Considering that he was in some of the most important genre films of the 1970s, amazingly little is known about the actor Pier Paolo Capponi. He appeared or starred in numerous giallos and poliziotteschi, usually playing committed cops or rather dour and humorless characters, and although he lacked the star quality of Franco Nero, Giuliano Gemma or George Hilton, he was perhaps a more accomplished actor, maintaining a very successful career in theater and television at the same time as he was appearing in the likes of Naked Violence and Cat O’Nine Tails.
Born in Subiaco, part of the province of Rome, in 1938, after leaving college Capponi attended theater school and made his film debut at the age of 27 with a small part in Vittorio De Seta’s Un uomo a meta in 1965. It was an acclaimed film, successful more with critics than audiences and it also kick-started his relationship with the kind of more prestigious productions that were held in much esteem at the time but have been rather forgotten today. He changed tack completely, appearing in a couple of spy films, Our Man in Casablanca and then, in his first starring role, the cine-fumetti Mister X. For the latter he used the pseudonym Normal Clark, which he recycled for his supporting role in Maurizio Lucidi’s decent spaghetti western My Name is Pecos. In between all these he also found the time to feature in films for Paolo and Vittorio Taviani (The Subversives) and Valerio Zurlini (Black Jesus).
In 1968 he starred for the first time in the genre with which he was possibly to have his greatest success, the poliziotesschi. Boche cucite was a kidnap film starring Lou Castel and directed by Pino Tosini; it had a limited release and remains hard to see today. There followed a small role in Carlo Lizzani’s superior The Violent Four, Emilio Miraglia’s under-rated The Falling Man (a film where practically everybody used an Americanised pseudonym) and Ferdinando Di Leo’s Naked Violence, a big success which bought him a certain degree of fame. More crime films followed: Camillo Bazzoni’s Black Lemons (72), Warren Kiefer’s Defeat of the Mafia (69, but not released until the seventies) and a couple more for Di Leo (The Boss and Blood and Diamonds (77)). Among all these there was also the cracking, unusual The Last Desperate Hours (74), in which a thief breaks into a research laboratory and accidentally becomes infected with the plague! Towards the end of the 70s the poliziotteschi genre went into rapid decline, and Capponi’s last contact with the genre was Giuseppe Ferrara’s The Bankers of God: the Calvi Affair (2002).
Outside the poliziotteschi, Capponi also had some success in other types of cinema as well. He starred for Dario Argento in his second film, Cat O’Nine Tails and followed it up with giallos for Umberto Lenzi (Seven Orchids Stained in Blood) and Mario Sabatini (Delitto d’autore). He was one of an ensemble cast in the relatively big-budget war films Commandos (68) and Sergeant Klems (71), not to mention Francesco Rosi’s Uomini contro (70). He was even in no less than three nunsploitation films (The Awful Story of the Nun of Monza, The Nuns of Saint Archangel (73) and La badessa di Castro (74). It’s fair to say, though, that he was less than prolific in the comedy genre (in fact, he never appeared in a single comedy film.
By the mid 1970s Capponi moved into TV in a big way. He was kept busy in numerous mini-series, including the likes of Dov’e Ana and L’enigma della due sorelle (80). Although still with no shortage of acting offers, he decided to retire in 2003, dedicating himself to projects for the DSE (Dipartimento Scuola Educazione), which later became RAI Educational.