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Fernando Di Leo Crime Collection Volume 2: Naked Violence / Shoot First, Die Later / Kidnap Syndicate

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    Ian Jane
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  • Fernando Di Leo Crime Collection Volume 2: Naked Violence / Shoot First, Die Later / Kidnap Syndicate



    Released by: Raro Video
    Released on: July 30, 2013.
    Director: Fernando Di Leo
    Cast: Pier Paolo Cpponi, Susan Scott, Luc Merenda, Richard Conte, James Mason, Irina Maleeva
    Year: 1969/1974/1975
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movies:

    The second, but hopefully not the last, Fernando Di Leo boxed set from Raro Video's domestic wing compiles three of the late writer/director's films that were previously issued by the label on DVD in Italy. Naked Violence and Kidnap Syndicate debut on Blu-ray for the first time, while Shoot First, Die Later was released on its own by Raro earlier this year (the disc in this set is the same as that single disc release).

    NAKED VIOLENCE (1969):

    When the movie begins, a female teacher is in her classroom, alone with her students, where she's brutally raped and then murdered. As there was no one else around, it would seem that the students were the culprits. The cops are called in and an investigation is led by Marco Lamberti (Pier Paolo Capponi) who begins by interviewing the students. Obviously he hopes to get as much information from them as possible so that he can put together the pieces of the puzzle and figure out the specifics of the case.

    Though the kids more or less all seem to come from low income homes and dysfunctional families, Lamberti is not sympathetic. As the kids are all minors, he has to tread carefully, particularly once he's paired up with a social worker named Livia Ussaro (Susan Scott). Livia is very much Lamberti's polar opposite - he wants justice and doesn't care if he has to rough anyone up to get it, whereas she tries to understand what has made these kids the way that they are. When Lamberti's main witness winds up dead, he rightly starts to figure that there might be more to this than he initially thought…

    This one is pretty disturbing right from the beginning. As the teacher writes on her classroom blackboard the movie cuts from shots of her to shots of the students as they deliberately close in on her before showing flashing shots of her skin and then finally a shot of her dead with a handkerchief in her mouth. From here, the investigation begins and the movie becomes as much a character study as anything else. We see interesting contrast between the methods employed by Lamberti and those employed by Livia and as the details of the case slowly come into view and become increasingly sordid, the film boils to an inevitably bleak conclusion. Di Leo's movies weren't known for their optimism, and Naked Violence is no exception. It's hard to imagine the content and subject matter of this one not ruffling a few feathers when it was first released, but it tackles it's the issues head on and with an obvious social conscience. We learn enough about how and why these kids wound up the way they did to, if not exactly forgive them, at least understand how they turned out the way that they did.

    The performances are good here - Capponi is great as the tough guy lead and Susan Scott (or Nieves Navarro if you prefer) is fine as the social worker, easy on the eyes too. She doesn't have as much to do here as Capponi does, he's the one who really carries the picture, but she does fine with what's handed to her. The younger actors that make up the cast of kids in the picture also turn in fine work, and had they been less believable the film would have never worked but as it stands it's an intelligent, well-made and thought provoking thriller and a fine addition to Di Leo's filmography.

    SHOOT FIRST, DIE LATER (1974):

    Although it was only ever released on VHS in Europe, Fernando Di Leo's 1974 cop thriller Shoot First, Die Later was widely bootlegged and offered up for sale by various grey market dealers and as such, it found a bit of a cult following. Now, almost forty years after it was made, Raro bring it to Blu-ray in its proper aspect ratio and with some good extras too.

    They story introduces us to Lieutenant Dominic Malacarne (Luc Merenda), a hero cop who is secretly on the take, accepting money from gangsters for turning a blind eye to their bootleg cigarette operation. He's managed to keep this a secret for the most part, even from his aging father (Salvo Randone), a fellow policeman who couldn't be prouder of his son's accomplishments with a badge and a gun. After he meets a reporter named Sandra (Delia Boccardo) at a press conference, they hit it off and she's soon offering him her support as well.

    Things get complicated when some of the gangsters Dominic is involved with want a favor from him. It seems that their involvement in the disappearance of a Swiss national has caused some controversy and they need to make a couple of things disappear, chief amongst them being a witness in the form of an eccentric old man and his cat. There's a piece of evidence in police custody that they'd also like, and they insist that Dominic retrieve it for them - the only problem is that his father is the one who holds it, and Dominic doesn't want to get his old man involved in this mess.

    Di Leo sets a dark tone with this one right from the start, when a gang of mobsters come into a warehouse with machine guns blazing, blowing the kneecaps and shins off of a few competing thugs. From here, we meet Malacarne (even the characters last name has a dark slant to it), the corrupt cop nobody knows is on the take. Merenda is excellent in the lead, he plays the part so well that you can't quite bring yourself to hate Dominic, even if you know that you should. He's a complete bastard, willfully exploiting anyone he can to get ahead but Merenda brings enough charm to the part that you can understand why the beautiful Delia Boccardo's character would fall for him. There's depth here, well written characters in a twisting turning story that never sacrifices plot for action but which is never short on thrills.

    The flashiest scene in the movie is a lengthy car chase in which Merenda and his partner give chase through some crowded city streets and down a series of narrow alleyways. Tightly edited and shot in a very claustrophobic manner, it's an exciting and violent scene. There's also a remarkably grim scene involving the old man and his cat that might make animal lovers a bit uncomfortable (though it doesn't appear that the poor thing was actually killed, thankfully). Politically speaking, Di Leo doesn't pull any punches here. The movie makes some bold statements about police corruption in the Italy of the day, showing how those with authority are able to take advantage of their place for personal gain. This one goes in some very unexpected directions before the end credits hit the screen, making it one of Di Leo's more interesting and layered crime pictures.

    KIDNAP SYNDICATE (1975):

    One of the more underrated crime pictures that Di Leo was responsible for is 1975's Kidnap Syndicate. The movie tells the story of Mario Colella (Luc Merenda), a mechanic by trade. He's not a rich man but he's a dedicated father to his son, Fabrizio (Marco Liofredi) since the passing of his wife. Marco's a good kid, and he's friends with a boy named Antonio (Francesco Impeciati) who just so happens to be the son of a mobster named Filippini (James Mason).

    One day after school, some rival mobsters show up and kidnap Antonio in a daring raid. Fabrizio attempts to stop them and in the ensuing fray, the thugs snatch him too. They demand a massive ransom from Filippini in exchange for the boys' freedom but Filippini refuses to pay. This leaves Mario to get his son back on his own, and once the cops prove useless he takes it upon himself to go get Fabrizio back. As he sets out to track down the mobsters and save his son, he uncovers the existence of a criminal network far more connected than he realized.

    Once again, Di Leo gives us some interesting contrasting characters to dig into. This time around, we get the reasonably humane and compassionate Mario, who really just wants his son back, and the sleazy, money grubbing Filippini who seems to value his back account more than his own flesh and blood. With Merenda well cast as the hero, playing the role with some nobility that compliments the tough guy he becomes once he's forced into action, we get James Mason as the far less sympathetic hood. Here Mason gets to chew a bit of scenery, but he's good in the scenes that involve conflict. Everyone just wants him to pay the crooks off but he's not having it, and it's interesting to watch him basically stand up to everyone else for all the wrong reasons.

    The first half of the movie is almost entirely setup for the last half of the movie. Once we get to know the characters and the kidnapping has taken place, Di Leo makes sure we understand how and why it is that Mario takes the law into his own hands. He's careful enough to justify his protagonist's actions before then launching the movie into the hardboiled crime film territory we want it to go towards. Once this happens the pace shifts from deliberate to almost out of control. There have been more action intensive Italian crime films made before and since but Di Leo hits all the right notes - we get the requisite chase scene or two, some good shoot outs and plenty of tough talking dialogue to stitch it all together. The end result is a pretty fantastic mix of action and drama with some interesting characters and solid performances.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Raro presents all three movies on Blu-ray in VC-1 encoded 1.85.1 widescreen in full 1080p high definition. The transfers aren't always mind blowing in detail and texture but it sure is a nice step up from the grey market and bootleg releases that have made the rounds over the years - but this should theoretically go without saying. Some softness that appears to be inherent in the original photography comes through here and there. Naked Violence is the worst offender here, though in all fairness, it is the oldest of the three movies and it was shot with an intentionally rough look to it. In some spots there does look to be some noise reduction applied in minor doseds but it doesn't smear the image the way the worst offenders tend to. Some minor noise is visible at times, but colors look excellent throughout each of the three movies and black levels are fairly strong. Some shots in Shoot First, Die Later show what looks like natural grain and film like texture, others do not - all in all though, the movies looks pretty good here, particularly Kidnap Syndicate, which shows really sharp detail and great colors as well as some impressive texture.

    Audio options are provided in English and Italian for all three films, both mixes in LPCM 2.0 Mono, with optional subtitles (or more specifically, in regards to SFDL dubtitles - which puzzlingly rename Merenda's character Dominique! - the other two movies get proper subs) available in English only. All three movies sound pretty good here; there no problems with any serious hiss or distortion to note and the levels are properly balanced throughout. The score sounds good, there's some decent depth to the proceedings and for an older title, things sound fine.

    The extras are movie specific and break down across each of the three Blu-ray discs as follows:

    NAKED VIOLENCE:

    Naked Vengeance kicks off its extras package with a featurette entitled Goodfellas on the packaging but Those Good Fellas on the disc itself. This is basically a collection of eighteen minutes worth of interviews with Pier Paolo Capponi, Maurizio Colombo, Luca Crovi, and Franco Lo Cascio with some archival clips of interviews conducted with Di Leo cut in throughout. The disc also includes a second featurette entitled Fernando Di Leo At The Cinematheque Francaise. Clocking in at sixteen minutes, here we get input from Jean-Francois Rauger and Olivier Pere of the Cinematheque Francaise in which they detail their appreciation of the late director and discuss the importance of his work.

    SHOOT FIRST, DIE LATER:

    Raro have included two new featurettes on this release, the twenty-four minute long Master Of The Game and the twenty-one minute The Second Round Of The Game. The two pieces cover similar ground and maybe could have been cut into one longer documentary piece but either way, there's some interesting stuff to be found here including some vintage interviews with the late Di Leo himself, input from Mirenda and thoughts from some of the people they worked with. The focus isn't just on this particular film but instead on Di Leo's work in the Italian crime film industry as a whole - between the two featurettes we get a pretty good feel for what makes his work unique and where some of his political leanings were going at the time he made these movies. Interesting stuff. Aside from that we also get North American and Italian theatrical trailers.

    KIDNAP SYNDICATE:

    The main extra for Kidnap Syndicate is a documentary called Violent Cities: The Other Fernando Di Leo's Trilogy. At almost a half an hour in length, this is a pretty comprehensive piece that includes interviews with cast members Luc Merenda and Dagmar Lassander, producer Armando Novelli and editor Amedeo Giomini in addition to an archival clip with Di Leo himself. There are some interesting clips from different Di Leo movies included here and the input from those who worked with him help to share some background information on this and other pictures that dealt with much of what was happening, politically, in Italy at the time. There are also some interesting stories about what it was like to collaborate with one another and some input from Merenda as to his take on the characters he played for the director.

    Menus and chapter selection are provided for each of the three discs in the set. The set also includes a nice full color insert booklet of liner notes that offer up an essay on the picture and some nice details about the movie and the people who made it.

    The Final Word:

    Raro have done a fine job bringing three more of Di Leo's classic crime films to Blu-ray. The transfers are solid, the audio is fine, and the extras do a nice job of complimenting the feature attractions. The movies themselves hold up really well, each of these three pictures is tense, exciting, gritty and anyone with an interest in the genre really ought to have this in their collection.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    NAKED VIOLENCE





















    SHOOT FIRST, DIE LATER






















    KIDNAP SYNDICATE























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