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Fernando Di Leo Crime Collection, The (Blu-ray)

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    Ian Jane
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  • Fernando Di Leo Crime Collection, The (Blu-ray)



    Released by: Raro Video
    Released on: January 31, 2012.
    Director: Fernando Di Leo
    Cast: Henry Silva, Jack Palance, Woody Strode, Barbara Bouchet, Mario Adorf, Gastone Moschin, Luigi Pistilli, Al Cliver
    Year: 1972 - 1976
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movies:

    Raro has, for this collection, reissued four excellent films from prolific writer/director Fernando Di Leo previously available on DVD in new high definition transfers on Blu-ray taken from 35mm elements. Here's what you'll find inside:

    Caliber 9 (1972):

    The first of the four films, also known as Milano Calibro 9, is just about as bad ass as they come. Heavily influenced by the French and American crime noir films that came before it, the film follows a man named Ugo Piazza (Gastone Moschin) who has just been released from prison. He soon meets up with his former employer, Americano (Lionel Stander) after some toughs kidnap him and beat him severely. Their motive? Ugo hid a sizeable amount of money from a job he did before he went away for a stint in the pen and Americano wants it.

    Ugo's a tough guy, however, and he's not going to crack no matter how many times they might smack him around. Complicating matters further is the fact that the cops figure Ugo's got the money too, and they'd also like a piece of it. The only people he has on his side is a sadistic crook named Rocco (Mario Adorf) and his foxy girlfriend, a stripper named Nelly (Barbara Bouchet), but can he even trust them?

    Slick, stylish and tough as nails, Caliber 9 moves at a great pace, ramps up the tension with impeccable polish and is set to a perfect score courtesy of Luis Bacalov. A film that would set the standard for many of the Italian crime films to follow in its wake, it offers up interesting characters, excellent cinematography and a story that grabs you from its opening sequence, an expertly shot segue in which a package with the money in it is passed from one set of hands to the next. Di Leo's talent for putting the audience right in the thick of things means that we learn just enough about Ugo and his plight as the story progresses that we want to know where he's going to end up and how, while the supporting players all add further depth to the cast of characters.

    With Moschin in the lead we're given a man who isn't about to take any crap, a fairly typical ex-con unimpressed with what those on the outside have been doing in his absence. He's not the most original character but Moschin plays him with such determination that we absolutely buy him in the role. Barbara Bouchet's character doesn't light the world on fire but she certainly looks good and adds the requisite sex appeal, while Stander's 'big cheese bad guy' is perfectly despicable. The real scene stealer here, however, is Mario Adorf. Long cast and best known in comedic roles, his character is the most interesting of the bunch and takes this opportunity, cast against type, to really make Rocco his own man. Sleazy, slimy and a little sick in the head, he's the best character in the movie.





    The Italian Connection (1972):

    Di Leo would follow up the success of Caliber 9 with this film, also known as La Mala Ordina or Manhunt, later that same year. Di Leo would once again write and direct and Mario Adorf would come along for a second ride. Gaston Moschin was out this time, but he was replaced by the likes of Henry Silva and Woody Strode, so we can't really complain.

    When the movie begins, a large shipment of heroin sent from Italy to be distributed in New York goes mysteriously missing and a pimp named Luca Canali (Mario Adorf) based in Milan is accused of taking it. The Americans who were going to be receiving the dope are none too happy about this at all and so they send out two hitmen, Dave Catania (Henry Silva) and Frank Webster (Woody Strode), to get back what they feel belongs to them.

    The catch here is that Canali wasn't the one who stole the dope, and those who did aim on getting him out of the picture before the hitmen show up and figure that out on their own. Canali's innocent wife and kids are murdered in the ensuing fray, however, and this causes him to decide it's time to take care of things himself.

    Manhunt is definitely the more appropriate title for this one, as that's really the basis of the story in a nutshell. Once Dave and Frank as dispatched, with the intention of making Canali's murder a deterrent to other would-be thieves, the hunt is one. Canali, however, is sneaky and quite good at avoiding anyone who might do him harm. Once again, Adorf steals the show, playing his character with just the right amount of weasel-ish charm to keep us suspicious, even if we don't think he really took the dope the killers are after. At the same time, we feel for the guy and don't dislike him. On the flip side of that coin are Strode and Silva, two better casting choices you couldn't ask for. The very epitome of cool, Silva has that barely controlled sense of menace just about at boiling point for most of the movie, but not to the point where he comes across as icy cold as he does in some of his other roles. Strode is his usually physically intimidating self and the more serious of the two hitmen, though the two share a good rapport on screen together.

    Once again, Di Leo provides some strong direction and offers up a tight, exciting script. Some great twists and turns keep us interested in how this is all going to play out while some tense scenes of strong violence firmly root the film in action movie territory even if it plays out as more of a noirish thriller. Another catchy score, this time courtesy of Armando Trovaioli, anchors the film nicely.























    The Boss (1973):

    Once again written and directed by Di Leo, The Boss (also known as Wipeout!) really let Di Leo and Silva go nuts with some of the themes and ideas that they're toyed with on their earlier initial collaboration, but the results just aren't as strong as the first two movies in this collection.

    The film is set in the town of Palermo where a bomb is planted inside a movie theater showing porno films. When it goes off, it kills all of the members of the Attardi gang save for one lone survivor, Cocchi (Pier Paolo Capponi), who figures out that the man behind the attack was an assassin from a rival clan lead by Don Corrasco (Richard Conti) and Don Giuseppe Danielo (Claudio Nicastro). Cocchi sets out to get his revenge first by kidnapping the Don Giuseppe's daughter, Rina (Antonia Santilli), who turns out to be a J&B swigging sex addict. What Cocchi doesn't count on is that aforementioned assassin, Nick Lanzetta (Henry Silva), who is not going to let him get away with it, and interference from the local cops lead by Commissioner Torri (Gianni Garko).

    Starting off, quite literally, with a bang in which Silva's character takes out a bunch of opponents with a grenade launcher, the film then slows down for quite a bit. Not that it's boring, mind you, because it's not, but it doesn't ever quite reach the heights that the opening sequence promises. There just isn't as much action here as you might expect there to be - thankfully the film makes up for it by playing Santilli's bratty nympho off of Silva's cold and calculating hitman. Once he's on the case and meets up with her he teaches her respect with the back of his hand and calls her a little slut! Not one to let a woman get out of line, he basically dominates her and in true, misogynist exploitative style, she comes to love him for it.

    Like most of Di Leo's crime films, this one is populated by all manner of untrustworthy miscreants. There are plenty of twists and betrayals, and that there is where much of the enjoyment from this film stems from. Of course, seeing Silva and Conti on screen together is a kick as well and it's great to see Silva as the leading man here. The whole angle involving the boss' daughter is a bit ridiculous, but it's certainly entertaining and sleazy, which is never a bad thing.























    Rulers Of The City (1976):

    The last film in the set is the lightest of the bunch. Known under the alternate titles of Mr. Scarface and Blood And Bullets, the film begins by introducing us to a small time mafia hood named Tony (Harry Bauer) who works for a boss named Luigi (Edmund Purdom) as a collector. Tony might looks like a nice guy on the outside but he's good at his job and he's an asset to Luigi's casino operation. When a new guy in town named Rick (Al Cliver, sans beard) loses some serious cash one night, his boss, Scarface Manzari (Jack Palance), shows up to pay the debt for him with a check. Not one to be trifled with, he has his thugs beat the crap out of Rick to teach him a lesson.

    Tony takes pity on Rick and lets him hang out at his place and recuperate, while Luigi is miffed to find out that Manzari wrote him a bad check! Tony takes it upon himself to come up with a plan to get his boss the money back that Manzari owes him and soon winds up in the thick of some serious mob business as a gang war erupts.

    Much more lighthearted than the other three movies in this set and offset with maybe a bit too much comic relief, Mister Scarface is nevertheless a pretty entertaining picture. While the violence in the picture is a lot more cartoonish than the earlier offerings, it does give Palance a chance to strut his stuff and showcase his talent for playing cold blooded types. He may have been a bit stereotyped in roles like these, but it was for good reason as he really did excel in them. On top of that, we get good work from the instantly recognizable Al Cliver and from Edmund Purdom as well, with Bauer delivering a fun leading performance too. What we wind up with is a rather goofy comedic crime film made far more interesting thanks to the efforts of its cast.

    We're also treated to a wonderfully shot finale that takes place in the most convenient of crime film locations, the ever trustworthy abandoned industrial building (which in this case happens to be a slaughterhouse). Di Leo manages to crank up the tension for the big finish and we're treated to some great stunt work and cinematography here. Bacalov contributes another rousing score that compliments the action better than it does the more comedic aspects of the film, while a fair bit of welcome but gratuitous nudity ups the exploitation ante a bit.























    Video/Audio/Extras:

    All three of the films are presented in new AVC encoded 1080p high definition widescreen transfers, including Rulers Of The City which was issued by Raro on DVD in a disappointing 1.85.1 non-anamorphic widescreen transfer for some reason. Rulers Of The City still looks the weakest of the three films and it sports some noise throughout but it's quite noticeably improved over the DVD release and its fans will appreciate the upgrade in quality here. The other three films, however, look better not only in terms of detail but also in terms of color reproduction, contrast and texture - though periodically showing signs of digital manipulation in spots. These don't compare to newer, bigger budgeted pictures, nor should they be expected to and there is some softness in some shots that you can't help but notice but overall, Raro has done good work here. Skin usually looks more natural, the mild shimmering that pops up from time to time isn't distracting and there aren't any obvious compression issues to note. Grain is present but there's not much in the way of actual print damage to complain about. Eagle eyed viewers might spot some shimmering here and there, but aside from that, things shape up nicely.

    EDIT: Note, as pointed out in the comments section below (thanks bgart!), there are a half dozen or so verticle lines that pop up during The Italian Connection. These appear on the screen for less than a second each and literally, if you blink, you'll miss them, but they are there:


    In this writer's opinion it doesn't really takea away from the set as a whole, but once you notice those glitches, you're probably going to see them every time you watch the movie - which is more than a little bit annoying. Ideally Raro will correct this soon, but at the time of this writing there's no word of that happening yet.

    Each film has DTS-HD 2.0 Mono tracks available in either English or Italian with optional English subtitles (the packaging states that the audio is Dolby Digital Mono across the board but that's not correct). There's marginally improved clarity here for each of the four films and if things are just a tiny a bit on the flat side, we can safely attribute that to the way the films have always sounded. That said, dialogue is clean, clear and easy to understand and the levels are balanced properly. Hiss and distortion are never an issue and the mixes are problem free.

    Extras are identical to the domestic DVD releases from 2011. Which means that Raro have taken all of those unsubtitled documentaries, interviews and featurettes from the older Italian DVD issues and subtitled all of them. The down side is that there aren't any new extras here - and why aren't the trailers included? Regardless, what's here is good - this is what you'll find on each of the four discs in this set:

    The Caliber 9 special features kick off with a Documentary on Calibro 9 (29:41) which clocks in at about half an hour and which features interviews with Franco Lo Cascio, Maurizio Colombo, Luca Crovi, Andrea G. Pinketts, Armando Novelli, Amedeo Giomini, Philippe Leroy, Barbara Bouchet and Luis Bacalov and Di Leo himself. It's a pretty solid look at the making of the picture and while a commentary would have been nice, this does a great job of filling in the blanks on the picture's history.


    This is followed by the forty minute documentary, Fernando Di Leo: La morale del genere (38:33) which includes input from the director himself and many of the participants from that first piece as well as some other interesting participants: Nino Castelnuovo, Gianni Garko, Amedeo Giomini, Pierpaolo Capponi, Luc Merenda, Franco Villa, Barbara Bouchet, Dagmar Lassander, Howard Ross, Jenny Tamburi, Gianluca Curti. This is more of an overview of the director's career with input from many of the people who worked with him over the years in various capacities.

    The third and final documentary on the disc is Scerbanenco Noir (26:10), a twenty-five minute retrospective look at Italian crime noir films which includes interviews and comments from Andrea G. Pinketts, Gianni Canova, Maurizio Colombo, Luca Crovi and Lamberto Bava of all people. Rounding out the extras is a lengthy still gallery that includes audio commentary from Gastone Moschin (3:27) interviewed via telephone, a text based biography and filmography for Fernando Di Leo, animated menus and chapter stops.

    The Italian Connection special features are highlighted by a documentary entitled Alle Roots Of The Mafia (20:37). Here we find interviews with Di Leo, Amedeo Giomini, Armando Novelli, and Francesca Romana Coluzzi, all of whom discuss the making of this particular picture. Some interesting comparisons are made between Di Leo's style and Stanley Kubrick's work and between Silva's acting and that of Charles Bronson who also made some crime films in Italy in the same era.


    This disc also includes a generous still gallery, a director biography and filmography, menus and chapter stops.

    The Boss special features also include a documentary. Entitled Stories Of The Mafia (23:20) which basically gives us a history of the mafia and how it relates to these films. Armando Novelli and Fernando Di Leo appear here again, along with Gianni Garko, Pier Palo Capponi, Gianni Musey, and Howard Ross. There's some good input from all and a lot of focus put on the socio-political context of these films and how they reflect the world in which they were made. The same director biography and filmography piece rounds out the extras alongside the requisite menus and chapter stops.

    Last but not least, the Rulers of the City special features include, you guessed it, a documentary. Violent City (15:33) takes a look at the making of this odd film with input from Di Leo, Amedeo Giomini and Al Cliver, the latter of whom proclaims to truly love this film. They discuss working with Palance, who is described as 'laid back' and about the stunts. Input from weapons expert Gilberto Galimberti details the different guns used in the film and the difficulties of that particular job as it pertains to the movie industry, and Di Leo talks about the involvement of the producers in this particular film. The text director biography and filmography, menus and chapter stops close out the supplements on this fourth and final disc.


    Each one of the four Blu-ray discs fits inside its own thin plastic case which in turn slips inside a case. Also included inside this case is a nice full color booklet containing a length interview with Di Leo himself, who speaks at great lengths about his involvement in the Italian film industry and about his crime films in particular.

    The Final Word:

    Those who bought the original DVD boxed set last year might feel a bit stung by the quick upgrade to Blu-ray that's happened but you've got to give Raro credit for offering a nice upgrade here and at a very fair price - even if those glitches in The Italian Connection are annoying. There's a lot of bang for your buck in this set - you get four great crime films, loads of extras, and a solid (if not perfect) presentation, and so it's hard to take issue with that. Definitely recommended!

    • Mark Tolch
      #22
      Mark Tolch
      Senior Member
      Mark Tolch commented
      Editing a comment
      Rulers of the city says that it's 4X3 with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 haha. I put it on, looks like 1.78:1, but not letterboxed.

    • Ian Jane
      #23
      Ian Jane
      Administrator
      Ian Jane commented
      Editing a comment
      Anamorphic doesn't apply to Blu-ray. It's proper 1.85.1 widescreen on the Blu-ray, vs. the non-anamorphic transfer that was on the DVD. The caps in the review are straight off of the disc and not cropped or anything and properly represent the framing on the Blu-ray.

    • Mark Tolch
      #24
      Mark Tolch
      Senior Member
      Mark Tolch commented
      Editing a comment
      Looks 1.78:1 to me.
    Posting comments is disabled.

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