This 4-disc, Blu-ray set collects four of the grittiest, ass-kickingest damn gangster movies ever made. These bullet-ridden Italian thrillers spawned from writer/director Fernando Di Leo, who had previously co-written the first two films in the Dollars Trilogy (albeit work for which he went uncredited). Without any reservations I can proclaim this the first must-own release of the New Year for the rabid cinephile.
The first three films collected in this set comprise Di Leo’s Milieu Trilogy. In Caliber 9 (Milano Calibro 9, 1972), small-time bagman Ugo Piazza (Gastone Moschin) is singled out upon his release from prison as the only suspect in the theft of $300,000 from local mob boss, the Americano. Unable to clear his name, Ugo must go to work for the Americano to pay off this supposed debt. The film co-stars Barbara Bouchet (Don’t Torture a Duckling), and actually became an overnight favorite of mine. In truth, I cannot recommend this film enough! Part two of the trilogy, The Italian Collection (La Mala Ordina, 1972) finds Caliber 9 co-star Mario Adorf pushed to the forefront as Luca Carnali, a pimp wrongly accused of stealing a shipment of heroin from the American mafia. And Woody Strode (Spartacus) and Henry Silva (Ghost Dog) appear as the incomparably intimidating American hit men on Luca’s trail. The film takes off in the latter half as it becomes a revenge story culminating in an impressive landfill shootout. Then, like Mario Adorf before him, Henry Silva shifts into the lead role for The Boss (Il Boss, 1973). The Boss opens, in one of the most incredible sequences in the whole set, with the firing of a grenade launcher into a private cinema full of mafia higher-ups. And a mob war ensues with Silva’s character at the center of it all. Concluding Di Leo’s Milieu Trilogy in the only way possible, The Boss stands as the most viciously violent of the films collected herein and is bolstered by an intense score from composer Luis Bacalov.
Finally, exclusive to this set, Rulers of the City (I Padroni Della Cittá, 1976) rounds out Raro’s Di Leo collection. Rulers follows a trio of small-time thugs as they fight local mob boss, Manzari (Jack Palance) for control of the city, or whatever part of it they can get their hands on. While certainly not the strongest of the four features, the epic confrontation between Manzari’s men and the aforementioned trio provides a satisfactory conclusion to the overall narrative of the set.
Raro presents the films here with new HD transfers from the original 35 mm negatives and the results are spectacular. The image is crystal clear with bright colors and each film’s rich grain structure captured beautifully in the process. Unfortunately, each film is marred by two or three flaws. But they’re easy to overlook. The films’ audio tracks are presented in both Italian and English in Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono, and each film features new and improved English subtitles.
This set is downright packed with special features, not that these films need supplementing, and these features include 6 documentaries, 3 photo galleries (Gastone Moschin provides a commentary track for the photo gallery included on the Caliber 9 disc), a biography and filmography of Fernando Di Leo, and a 20-page booklet featuring an interview with Fernando Di Leo about the making of his films (conducted by Luca Rea in 2001). What’s more, this collection of thoroughly solid films, beautifully restored and packed with features has a pre-order price less than $25!