Fernando di Leo Crime Collection

 

Fernando di Leo Crime Collection

Written & Directed by Fernando di Leo:

 

Caliber 9 [Milano Calibro 9]

1972

 

The Italian Connection [La Mala Ordina]

[aka: Hired to Kill]

1972

 

The Boss [Il Boss]

[aka: Wipeout!]

1973

 

Rulers of the City [I padroni della città]

[aka: Mister Scarface]

1976

 

Featuring:

Henry Silva, Mario Adorf, Jack Palance, Gastone Moschin

Richard Conte, Woody Strode, Pier Paulo Capponi

Barbara Bouchet, Philippe Leroy, Luciana Paluzzi

Frank Wolff, Adolfo Celi, Ivo Garrani, Luigi Pistilli

 

Studio:

Theatrical: Cineproduzioni Daunia 70

Video: Raro Video USA


Presentation:

4 Digipaks in slipcase + 20-page booklet

Release Date: March 15, 2011



Product Description :

On March 15, 2011, Raro Video US will release THE FERNANDO DI LEO CRIME COLLECTION.  The set features di Leo's Milan Caliber 9, The Italian Connection (aka: “Hired to Kill”), The Boss and Rulers of the City (released in the U.S. as “Mister Scarface.”)  Among the Eurocult stars appearing in these four films are Jack Palance, Henry Silva, Barbara Bouchet, Luigi Pistilli, Philippe Leroy, Frank Wolff, Ivo Garrani and Gastone Moschin.  From in The Italian Connection for example, you’re sure to recognize two veterans from the James Bond film, “Thunderball”: the voluptuous Luciana Paluzzi (who played Bond’s hapless dancing partner, Fiona Volpe) and the sly Adolfo Celi.


    
 


All of the documentary material from the Italian set has been carried over to this edition along with Italian and English audio options and optional English subtitles.  Of importance to those considering picking up this set if they already have the Raro Italian, two things: The extra features all have optional English subtitles and there appears to be no PAL speedup.  Also included is a 20-page booklet and clever bookmark.   


Details:

Caliber 9

1.85:1 anamorphic

Runtime: 101 min

English and Italian Dolby 2.0 mono

Optional English subtitles

"Caliber 9" documentary (29:35)

"Fernando di Leo: Genius of the Genre" (38:30)

"Scerbanenco Noir" (26:05)

Photo Gallery - commentary by Gastone Moschin


[Amazon]: Just out of prison, ex-con Ugo Piazza (Gastone Moschin) meets his former employer, a psychopathic gangster Rocco (Mario Adorf) who enjoys sick violence and torture. Both the gangsters and the police believe Ugo has hidden $300,000 that should have gone to an American drug syndicate boss.


   
 

   
 

   
 


The Italian Connection

1.85:1 anamorphic

Runtime: 95:30 min

English and Italian Dolby 2.0 mono

Optional English subtitles

"Roots of the Mafia" documentary (20:33)

Photo Gallery


[Amazon]: When a shipment of heroin disappears between Italy and New York, a small-time pimp (Mario Adorf) in Milan is framed for the theft. Two professional hitmen (Henry Silva & Woody Strode) are dispatched from New York to find him, but the real thieves want to get rid of him before the New York killers get to him to eliminate any chance of them finding out he's the wrong man. As the innocnet and guilty body count rises in the course of the "manhunt", Adorf swears revenge.


    
 

    
 

    
 


The Boss

1.85:1 anamorphic

Runtime: 109 min

English and Italian Dolby 2.0 mono

Optional English subtitles

"Stories of the Mafia" documentary (23:15)


[Amazon]: A bomb attack in a cinema in Palermo kills everyone in Attardi's clan apart from Cocchi (Pier Paulo Capponi), who attributes the attack to Don Corrasco (Richard Conte). Cocchi is determined to revenge. His actions, including the Corrasco's daughter kidnapping in Palermo, will soon destroy the old equilibrium giving the way to an escalation of violence that promises death to all. Can Cocchi survive to become the new mafia boss?


    
 

    
 

    
 

 

Rulers of the City

1.85:1 non-anamorphic

Runtime: 95:20 min

English and Italian Dolby 2.0 mono

Optional English subtitles

"Violent City" documentary (15:30)


[Amazon]: Tony (Harry Baer), a mob loan collector, is dissatisfied with his station in life. Though he dreams of one day being rich, he is stuck with the dead-end job of beating up borrowers who fall behind in their payments. After meeting up with Napoli, another mob enforcer who's just been fired from his job, the two hatch a plan. Together, they will con mob boss Manzari (Jack Palance) out of a fortune, after which they can retire and live in luxury. Manzari, however, is not about to let them go so easily.


    
 

    
 

    
 


Comment:

Italian gangster movies of this period, and especially those by Fernando di Leo, are not to everyone’s taste.  Howard Thompson writing for the NY Times in 1973 referred to “The Italian Connection” as “plain garbage.”  On another hand in a totally different galaxy, the cover of Raro Video’s box set headlines this quote by Quentin Tarantino:  “I am a huge fan of Italian gangster movies, and Fernando di Leo is, without a doubt, the master of this genre.”


It is said that that John Woo was influenced by di Leo.  If so, we can easily see from A Better Tomorrow onwards how Woo melded the kind of cutting techniques of his Italian predecessor into heartfelt dramas laced with touching irony.  With di Leo everything is so overwrought. There is a distinctive comic book feel to all the goings on: the dialogue, the sex (not so much sex, really, as various forms of rape), the topless dancers (who, with the exception of the black dancer in “Rulers of the City”, all seem bored out of their skulls), the fights, the killings - all tinged with a gleeful sadism that teases the audience yet distances us from any sense of reality, despite the blood and crunch of bones.  On the one hand, Di Leo’s movies are like cynical “R” rated versions of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. or Batman television shows, with that familiar generic 70‘s pseudo cool jazz pop suggestive of wide lapels and earnest line readings.  On the other, they’re reminiscent of Russ Meyer’s sexploitation movies, without the eroticism or humor.  Di Leo adds more grit, sneering, blood and frontal nudity (less than Meyers, and always carefully cut to avoid anything between the waist and the knees.) Aficionados no doubt find it all very funny.


               

 

Image: 8~/7

I gather from various sources that these transfers are exactly similar to the Italian Raro Video DVD releases in respect to image.  They are all pretty much and without blemish, remarkably sharp and very tightly resolved, even for DVD.  They have generally good black levels, contrast and color, especially flesh tones, which can be way off the mark in transfers of films of this period.  I could hardly have expected better, except in the case of Rulers of the City which is here, as it was for the Italian Raro DVD, presented in non-anamorphic 1.85:1.  This is especially unfortunate because it is by far the best and most interestingly photographed: Di Leo used Franco Villa as his cinematographer for the first three movies, but switched to Enrico Menczer for “Rulers.”


                           

 

Audio & Music: 5/5

Raro Video offers both Italian and English language tracks for all four movies.  I hesitate to say which is the original, as there is so much dubbing going on in both it really makes no difference which you use from a purist point of view.  I find the sync so poor on the Italian tracks, and the voices for the Italian actors often unconvincing, that I recommend the English for English speakers.  Use the subtitle option and you’re covered.  While a comparison of run times to the Italian Raro Video indicates there is no PAL speedup, the voices sound constricted, lacking in chest tone, and with a pronounced upper mid-range bump.  I suppose it’s consistent with the overall “hot” scripts, effects (fistfights, gunshots, cars tires squealing and cars crashing) and cutting of the action sequences.


               

 

Extras: 8

As with Raro Video’s DVD of “I Clowns” the extra features and booklet here are first rate.  They are the same as for the Italian DVD set except – and this is a most important “except” – they all are subtitled in English.  In addition to the 20-page booklet that includes an interview with Fernando di Leo, the other bonus features are spread throughout the set. 

 

There are three on Caliber 9: a 30-minute collection of interviews with the actors and filmmakers about the film’s production; and one titled Fernando Di Leo: The Genesis of the Genre that looks at di Leo’s career in overview; and a 25-minute documentary titled “Scerbenenco Noir” which is a good place to start even before you watch any of the films on this disc, as it examines the history of the Italian crime and noir genre.

 

In “Roots of the Mafia” – a 20-minute documentary found on “The Italian Connection” DVD, isn’t really about the Mafia or its roots but instead it’s a consideration of the style of this movie and how it compares with other international directors, especially Stanley Kubrick, and acting styles, for example, Charles Bronson.


               

 

The segment tiled “Stories of the Mafia” found on “The Boss” DVD is truer to its title, that is, if you take the information in it as gospel.  The feature discusses the movie in the context of the notorious crime organization and the time period the film was made.

 

The aptly named “Violent City” makes for a fitting, if brief (15-minute) conclusion to the group of bonus features included in this collection.  Jack Palance is front and center, along with di Leo.  Other critics talk about what they particularly like about this movie, and others discuss various aspects of production.


I might note that both booklet and specs on the back of the individual cases indicate timings for two movies incorrectly.  “The Italian Connection “ is 95:30 minutes, not 100; and “The Boss” is 109 minutes, not 112.  You needn’t be concerned about possible cutting since both are longer than their Italian DVD counterparts.


               

 

Recommendation: 6 

While I’m not quite in Mr. Thompson’s camp about these films, I don’t respond enthusiastically to them either.  His cardboard characters are pointlessly brutish.  I might feel differently if only the dialogue tracks – either of them – had merit.  But on both technical and artistic grounds they hardly rise to the level of “routine.”  On the other hand, even though I haven’t seen any of these movies theatrically, given the resolution limitations of DVD, I would be surprised if they looked any better than they do here. The extra features are worthy if you want to learn more about the historical context in which Fernando di Leo worked and played.  Bottom line: if the genre appeals to you, Raro Video will not disappoint. And at $10 retail per movie, with extra features and a handsome booklet thrown in for good measure, the price is right.


Leonard Norwitz

© LensViews

March 12, 2011


 

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