If you missed this bit of news, distributor Raro Video has partnered with Kino/Lorber to release their expertly-restored rarities from the annals of Italian cinema in the United States. And what better way to kick off this partnership than with the home video release of another picture from Fernando Di Leo, whose oeuvre accounts for a sizable percentage of cinema’s most unrelentingly exciting and violent crime pictures and prefigured the work of John Woo and Quentin Tarantino. Given that Raro’s greatest release to date (to my mind at least) is easily the Blu-ray release of the Fernando Di Leo: Italian Crime Collection, the choice of Di Leo’s little-seen 1974 film, Shoot First, Die Later (Il Poliziotto è Marcio), is a most fitting choice indeed.
I’ve covered the release of a number of Di Leo’s films on home video now, and after the rape/murder madness of Madness, when I tell you that Shoot First, Die Later is the toughest of the director’s films I’ve encountered, that should really tell you something. The film follows a corrupt police detective in the employ of an ever-expanding crime syndicate as he attempts to cover up one of the syndicate’s missteps. In the process, as I’m sure you can guess, many people get horribly murdered. What makes the film so difficult to process is not the murders themselves per se, but the combination of the film’s almost categorical lack of levity, some onscreen animal cruelty, depictions of brutality towards women, and the stereotypical portrayal of a pair of maladjusted, murderous homosexuals. Whereas a healthy dose of ultraviolence in Di Leo’s climaxes usually provides an appropriate counterbalance to any challenging material earlier in the film, the violence in Shoot First’s climax is relatively tame compared to the film’s more challenging earlier bits. The film thereby provides us with scant little catharsis for that difficult imagery, and by denying catharsis really forces us to ponder that deep-seated desire we have as viewer to see violence answered with violence. As a result, Shoot First, Die Later is a film you’ll be thinking about long after the credits roll.
The film comes to DVD and Blu-ray with a new HD transfer from the original 35mm negative and packed with special features. The transfer as presented in the film’s Blu-ray release is as beautiful as we’ve come to expect from Raro’s remasterings, with deep blacks, great image clarity and an incredible lack of damage and debris given the age of the source material. Special features include a documentary centered around a lengthy interview with Di Leo himself, a documentary featuring interviews with a trio of cast and crew members, and the Italian and English-language trailers. The release also comes with a 19-page booklet featuring some extensive and fascinating liner notes, which includes the story of the collaboration between Di Leo and Jean Pierre Melville that very nearly came to be.