Directed By: Fernando Di Leo
Starring: Gastone Moschin, Barbara Bouchet, Mario Adorf, Woody Strode, Henry Silva, Jack Palance, Harry Baer, Luigi Pistili
Can you take 410 minutes of deception, betrayal, murder, mayhem and loss? Yes, well I’ve got a box set for you. Inside you will find four Italian noir masterpieces by Fernando Di Leo full of pimps, thugs, and small time hustlers all trying to survive in world that wants to just roll right over them.
In order of weakest to strongest:
Rulers of the City (I Padroni della Citta)
The film begins from the dreamy perspective of a young boy awakened from sleep by two men entering his apartment. Sunlight pours through the door backlighting the figures. One of the figures lays a bag on a table and pulls from it a wad of cash and then walks towards the boy. The second figure draws a pistol and shoots the first figure in the back. The injured man manages to fling an ashtray at the shooter, cutting his face before the shooter fires again and finishes him off. The shooter sets the gun on the table and starts to pickup the cash which was spilled during the brief melee. The boy rises from bed and picks up the gun before the shooter can stop him. The boy is staring right down the barrel at the shooter, who we now see is Jack Palance, he just grins. The boy pulls the trigger and nothing happens. The pistol is empty. In the next scene we meet Tony, Harry Baer, a young man with a dune buggy who collects small debts for a two bit time hustler who lords over a third rate protection racket, pool hall and gambling den. Tony ends up befriending another young man in the same position that he is in and together they hatch a plan to hustle Scarface, Jack Palance, leader of a successful and powerful gang in town. Their plan works, but Tony can’t help rubbing it in Scarface’s nose. So now Tony and his newfound friend are just trying to survive and figure out someway to turn the tables on Scarface. Of course it is obvious to the audience that either Tony or his friend is the boy from the opening scene and the whole charade is a way to extract revenge from Scarface. This is the lightest of the four movies and while it’s fun it just doesn’t captivate like the other three films.
The Boss (Il Boss)
The Boss starts with a bang, literally, Henry Silva playing Lanzetta opens the movie by nearly wiping out an entire mafia family in a private theatre with anti tank rounds. In retaliation the remaining members of the attacked family kidnap the daughter of Daniello, Lanzetta’s boss. They don’t want ransom they want Daniello. While Daniello is willing to give himself up to free his daughter that isn’t acceptable to his boss. Do you start to see where the title of the movie comes from? The fear is that if Daniello gives himself over harmful information could be tortured out of him. In an amazing scene it is explained to Daniello that the needs of his family must not come before the needs of “the Family”. Daniello doesn’t buy it though so he starts to make his own plans to get his daughter back. So now you have a war between two mafia families, one almost dead and one divided and scheming against itself. If that isn’t enough throw in the police, some honest, some in thrall to one or the other family. Through all of this intrigue and politics expressed in murder and betrayal there is Lanzetta. In the chaos is opportunity and danger. He could end up boss or he could end up dead.
The Italian Connection (La Mala Ordina)
Luca Carnali, Mario Adorf, a failed gangster turned pimp, has unwittingly upset the one of the New York families. What he has done is monstrous enough for the New York boss to send two hit men, Henry Silva and Woody Strode, to Italy to make an example of him. Luca has no idea what he as done to bring this man hunt down on himself, not that there is any chance of reconciliation at this point, so Luca just tries to survive, until they go too far. With no way out and nothing left to lose Luca turns the tables on his pursuers in a junkyard showdown. Mario is outstanding as the flamboyant and emotional Luca. Henry Silva and Woody Strode play contrasting hitmen with Silva playing the hothead while Strode personifies the cool collected killer.
Caliber 9 (Miano Calibro 9)
Ugo Piazza, Gastone Moschin, has just finished a three year prison sentence. He should be overjoyed but he’s not. The problem is that no body believes Ugo was simply caught by the police three years ago. You see right before Ugo went away three hundred thousand dollars went missing and everyone thinks Ugo has it. The theory is that he let himself get caught in a petty crime just so that he would go to prison until every one had forgot about the three hundred thousand. Of course nobody has and nobody believes Ugo’s protestations of innocence. Not his old boss, his old friends, even his old girlfriend. This is the best of the bunch. Gatstone’s Ugo is unforgettable, cool and restrained but capable of animalistic outbursts of violence. Contrasting Ugo is Rocco, played by Mario Adorf, loud, vulgar and promiscuous with his cruelty but at the same time dogged and loyal. The ending is not exactly a surprise but the way it all comes together is wonderful piece of storytelling.
All four films are presented in widescreen format. The transfers were done from clean crisp prints. The blacks are black and not grayed out. Skin tones and other colors are balanced but there is a slight flatness to the color palate and it’s not uncommon for the sky in external scenes to be blown out. The four films are remarkably consistent in their look which makes it easy to think the four stories all belong in the same world. Each film is burned to its own DVD so there are no issues with the films being over compressed; in fact I never noticed any digital artifacts, no moiré, blooming, or aliasing.
The audio for all four films is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono. There are English and Italian tracks with English subtitles. The Italian language tracks are great. The dialog is clear and the mix is good, with the beautiful scores by Luis Enriquez Bacalov, on three of the films, and Armando Trovajoli, on the fourth, and the foley never interfering with one another. The English language tracks are problematic. The dialog is tinny and the levels jump up and down like the track was assembled from several different sources and occasionally it jumps back into Italian for brief bits.. Interestingly for all its flaws the English track is superior to the subtitles. I don’t know which one is more accurate but the subtitles come across as simple and flat.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The four DVDs each come in there own slimline DVD case with a cardboard case to house them all. Included is a bookmark and a booklet with a candid interview with director Fernando Di Leo. The artwork is simple and powerful with a red and black theme that is common to the cardboard slipcase and the individual DVD cases. The menus are all consistent as well. All four manage to feature bikini clad dancing women, but there is no cheating, all of the scenes do come from the movies. Each DVD contains at least one documentary, Caliber 9, has four. There are photo galleries and filmographies sprinkled in as well.
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10
All four movies are entertaining with The Italian Connection and Caliber 9 being true classics. After watching Caliber 9 its impossible to believe that Jason Statham is not a huge Gastone Moschin fan. The whole collection just looks cool Rarovideo knocked this one out of the park.
The Movie 8/10
The Video 8/10
The Audio 5/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 8/10
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10