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This quartet of hard-to-find Italian actioners gets the high-def bump, but is it worth a double-dip.....?
Raro Video / 291 Minutes / 1972-1976 / Unrated / Street Date: January 31, 2012
Talk about escapist, time-travel fun: The four films on this Fernando Di Leo Crime Collection may not house a bunch of titles that many viewers have innate familiarity with, but this Raro Video Blu-ray upgrade makes good on proving very quickly why Di Leo's international reputation is as notorious as it is. It's not quite fair to say that these are the kind of gangster-pulp movies that Sergio Leone would have made if here were more into sweaty leather than cigarillos and out-west shootouts, but (and this is meant as a sizable compliment), sometimes these pictures kinda feel that way.
There's a looseness to Di Leo's directorial construction on these films - Caliber 9 (1972), The Italian Connection (1972), The Boss (1973), and Rulers of the City (1976) - that prevent them from being entirely narratively comprehensible, but if you can get on Di Leo's wavelength early enough, storyline logic ends up not being all that important at all. What these four flicks lack in dramatic distinction and savvy, they make up for with balls-out, broad-stroke action.
Caliber 9 is the classic of the bunch. This saga of a mob criminal (Gaston Moschin) who gets released from prison only to find that there was much more personal safety for him behind bars than out in the world is a movie heavy on go-go dancers, shoot-outs and violent threats, and this sensibility suits the movie just fine. The other flicks here may have more starpower to them - the appearance of Henry Silva in The Italian Connection and The Boss is welcome, indeed - but Caliber 9 has the kind of hipster cool chic to it that cult classics are made of.
Unsurprisingly, this isn't a set for everybody - as goofy fun as these thrillers can be, their innate zaniness may turn off viewers with more interest in straightforward storytelling - but this writer fell pretty quickly in love with The Fernando Di Leo Crime Collection. These are under-the-radar affairs that are bloody and odd, gritty and crazy, and they work like gangbusters. Again, they're likely too 'off' for many gangster movie fans, but if you're in the market for a shoot-em-up that looks and sounds like nothing you've experienced before, don't hesitate to investigate this set.