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For poliziotteschi's aficionado, this Fernando Di Leo's box set is an essential addition to your collection. Never before the films included in this box set has appeared as beautiful - we must admit that the previous DVD editions had a sometimes quite questionable image quality overall - and it is great to get these brutal and gritty stories back on screen. Also, it must be admitted that Caliber 9, The Italian Connection and The Boss may be Di Leo's best movies. It's not to say that they are without flaws but they are the one that defines the most Di Leo's contribution to the genre. Extras contained on the different discs also offers a very interesting view of the filmmakers approach to their craft. To buy without hesitation.
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33 of 33 people found the following review helpful
When you find a director like Di Leo - You Tip Your Cap!April 23 2011
- Published on Amazon.com
After watching way too many poor transfers of Euro films from the seventies, it's a real treat when I get a chance to see them released by a studio that actually cares what the final product looks like. In my opinion, Raro Video did an outstanding job with these four films, from the production value of the transfers to the package as a whole. I'm not going to imply that each one of these films is a five-star effort - even though fans of this director and this genre will most likely rate them very high, while others may nitpick at them - rather that it is the collection itself that I'm rating as top of the line, one that any enthusiast of Eurocrime or seventies cinema will find it well worth their time to track down.
Were I to rate them separately, I would give each film four stars - they all have their plusses and minuses, which seem inextricably linked in each. The first three films - Caliber 9, The Italian Connection, and The Boss - are part of Di Leo's 'Milieu Trilogy', a loosely linked series that doesn't follow a continuous storyline, but rather examines the criminal landscape of Italy in the early 1970's. Taking inspiration from the stories of Russian-born émigré Giorgio Scerbanenco, 'Caliber 9' (Milano Calibro 9) may very well be the overall best of the three, with Gastone Moschin taking up the part of the just-released convict Ugo Piazza, whom the berserk Mario Adorf suspects of having stolen money from his organization prior to the start of his three year-prison sentence. Labeled as noir by some, with a plot twisting and turning as well as anything by Chandler or Hammett, this film has one remarkable ending.
Mario Adorf returns in 'The Italian Connection' (La Mala Ordina) as a small-time pimp and hustler Luca Canali who gets served up as a fall-guy for two American hit men (Woody Strode and Henry Silva), who are sent to Milan to make an example of the man who stole a shipment of heroin. On the run, with nothing to lose, its either fight back against the overwhelming odds or die. This one is also based on a Scerbanenca story, and though I don't think it's quite on the same level as 'Caliber 9', it is still an extremely entertaining film. Henry Silva is back again in the trilogy's final installment, 'The Boss' (Il Boss), as bit-player Nick Lanzetta, and the film tracks his violent climb to the top of the organization. Somewhat talky, which slows down the film in spots, Silva still shines as an ice-cold killer.
The last film, supposedly exclusive to this box set, is 'Rulers of the City' (I Padroni della Città) with Jack Palance, Al Cliver and Harry Baer. This film seems somewhat mislabeled as a comedy - it is a bit more light-hearted than the others, but that's about it. Baer (looking like nothing so much as the younger brother of Robert Downey Jr.) and Cliver, a couple of nobodies trying to get ahead in the world, scam Palance's organization out of 10 million Lira. Getting the money was easy - getting away with it is the hard part.
All four films are highly entertaining, though time and distance mutes some of the social commentary that di Leo peppered his films with. All but 'The Italian Connection' include a soundtrack by Luis Bacalov, which reminds me (especially in 'Caliber 9') of the outstandingly funky pinball theme from Sesame Street. I watched all the films in Italian, but they all come with both English and Italian options. From my understanding, all Italian films from this time were re-dubbed after filming, even for Italian audiences, and 'Caliber 9' has probably the worst dubbing of the four films, though I consider this somewhat to be expected with these films and don't subtract much because of it. The 'Milieu Trilogy' films are all in 16x9 anamorphic widescreen with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1; 'Rulers of the City' is non-anamorphic wide-screen (black bars on top, bottom and sides). Above all, these films look terrific. Restored and remastered, they pop off the screen. Extras include five documentaries spread out over the four discs, consisting of interviews with Di Leo, his actors and crew, and historians to address different subjects relating to each film. Also included in the box set is a small booklet containing excerpts of the Di Leo interview.
While its understandable that anyone can get a lemon, I thought the packaging in this collection was fine - each film comes in its own case, and which are exactly the same as regular DVD packaging except that they are half as thick. The DVD itself is affixed to a spindle to keep it in place (as it is in traditional cases), and unlike some cheap sets, the tension on the spindle is sufficient to keep the DVD from slipping off and banging around loose inside the case. All my DVD's arrived in good shape and played well, and I highly recommend the entire set.
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Great Collection w/DVD issuesJuly 5 2011
Barclay G. Virden
- Published on Amazon.com
Nothing to add in the way of another film review. The treatment of these movies is good, they look and sound very nice. Yes, the cases are a bit flimsy but they're acceptable. I, too, had an issue with the Il Boss disc. The feature doesn't freeze up but the Storie di Mafia documentary does have the 30 second audio delay. It's pretty f'n annoying and might render it unwatchable for many. I'm pretty patient with such things and still had a difficult time. The "anyone can get a lemon" assessment by an earlier reviewer doesn't apply here. The now-majority of Amazon buyers are having these same problems. What seems odd to me is that the quality warnings on here are getting "1 out of 5 found this helpful" responses. Seems to me that it might be kind of important to a potential buyer.
For whatever it's worth I'll contact RaroVideo. Still, I won't be returning the set. The films are great and I'm happy to have spent $20 to have them collected.
UPDATE: The good people at RaroVideo are aware of the issue, have fixed it and have offered to send me a replacement.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
When You Get A Blu-Ray Like This, You Tip Your HatDec 11 2013
Justin A. Swartz
- Published on Amazon.com
My first experience with Fernando di Leo's films was on Video Asia's Thug City Chronicles: Volume 1 collection, which contained decent transfers of "Milan Caliber 9," "The Italian Connection," and "The Boss." The drawback about the Video Asia set was the presentation, which had panned-and-scanned letterbox versions of each film to fit a 4:3 frame. When I looked up the movies from the Thug City set on Amazon and found this Blu-Ray box set, I was thrilled, and even more so when I found that it was on sale for almost 50% off. I snatched up a copy and have recently completed watching the set on Blu-Ray, and thought it deserved a review.
I started with the first and arguably the best film, "Milan Caliber 9," which is simply labeled "Caliber 9" by Raro Video. This movie was Fernando di Leo's first entry into the euro-crime genre and the first part of the loosely-connected Milieu trilogy. Gastone Moschin plays Ugo Piazza, a hood who just spent three years in prison after getting nailed for robbery. Unfortunately, Ugo's old mafia buddies (which includes Italian mainstay Mario Adorf as the vicious Rocco and Lionel Stander, the voice of Kup from Transformers: The Movie, as Rocco's boss) believe that he has $300,000 of Stander's money hidden somewhere. The cops, who are really no better than the crooks, want Ugo to snitch on Stander and send him and his associates up the river. Even the beautiful Barbara Bouchet, who plays Ugo's girlfriend, believes he has the money. When push comes to shove, Ugo starts manipulating Stander, Adorf, Bouchet, and the cops like a chess master, making all of them run around like a Chinese fire drill. But boy, he didn't see that double-cross coming, and neither will you.
The second film in the Milieu trilogy is "The Italian Connection," which has been available for years in the public domain as "Manhunt." Henry Silva and Woody Strode headline this tale of two American hitmen sent to Milan to eliminate a small-time pimp named Luca Canoli (played to the hilt by Mario Adorf). They're told that he ripped off a New York cocaine shipment, but that couldn't be further from the truth, and the more Luca tries to figure out why he's been fingered in this mess, the more people his boss, the detestable Don Vito, sends to kill Luca. Even Luca's ex-wife and daughter aren't safe from Don Vito's wrath, and while Silva and Strode live it up nightly in the clubs, trying to find Luca, Luca is slumming it out with a hippie girl he knows, trying to find some place to hide and some place to figure out why his life is going to hell. When the truth comes out and the final confrontation between Silva, Strode, and Adorf is set to take place, you will be in for a real treat.
The third and final film in the Milieu trilogy is "The Boss," which is my absolute favorite. Henry Silva returns as the lead star in this film, but loses the useless appendage that Woody Storde was in "The Italian Connection." Silva plays a bad-ass mob hitman named Frank Lanzetta, who opens the film by blowing up a group of men watching a skin flick in a screening room. He does this via a 1970's-style grenade launcher, and as he escapes uses his last grenade on one of the filmgoer's henchmen, tearing him to shreds. The screening room hit was ordered by Don Corasco (played with expert reserve by Richard Conte), a man who heads up the Sicilian mob. Unfortunately, Lanzetta got all but one of the skin freak's men--Coukky, a crazed and wild mobster who refuses to make peace with Don Corasco and kidnaps Lanzetta's boss's daughter in broad daylight. Lanzetta is sent in to rescue her, but having been given orders from Corasco, he makes sure his boss and his assistant won't cause Corasco any more trouble, and soon makes his way up the mob food chain, double-crossing everyone in his path and laying waste to Coukky and his men.
The fourth film included in this set is "Rulers of the City," which has been widely available in the public domain as "Mister Scarface." Jack Palance plays Mister Scarface, a mob boss who smokes cigarettes in an old-fashioned holder and has a reputation of shooting first and asking questions later. Tony, a debt collector for a small-time mob dude named Luigi, dreams of making it big someday and going to live with his brother in Brazil (which is made pretty clear by Tony wearing a shirt that says "Brazil" for the first half of the movie). When Rick, a blonde-haired, blue-eyed pretty boy who works for Scarface loses some of Scarface's money while playing poker at Luigi's place, Scarface comes in to make the deal right, and roughs Rick up to teach him a lesson. Tony takes pity on Rick and takes the puny thug to his place, where they concoct a plot to rip off Scarface for ten million dollars. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and when Luigi gets word that Scarface is looking for Tony because of the rip-off, people get double-crossed, peopled get killed, and people get avenged.
Each film is presented in 16x9 widescreen with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio (despite what the box says about "Rulers of the City" being in 4:3). They filled the entire screen on my 32" widescreen TV, something I very much appreciated. I watched all four films dubbed in English, which I think adds to the kitsch factor of it all, and found that the English dub's volume would only increase to a certain point and then wouldn't get any louder, regardless of how far you turned it up. Whether this was simply due to my television or something on Raro Video's part, I have no clue, but I would have liked it if the English audio were a little louder so I could pick up what Gastone Mochin's actor was mumbling in some of those scenes of "Milan Caliber 9."
As for the image quality, these movies look great. Compared to that Video Asia release I had, this is like a blessing from Heaven, if Heaven showed Fernando di Leo movies, or any movies at all (I guess we'll know when we get there, huh?). As for the video glitches experienced by some viewers in "Rulers of the City," I had no such issues on my Samsung ST-66 Blu-Ray player. There are certain moments in all four films, however, where it looks like the film went off the reel during the transfer. This is clearly evident in "The Italian Connection," where the image runs almost totally off-screen for a good three to four seconds. It's jarring to say the least, and it looks like the transfer team kept adjusting the image back and forth to clear it up in the ensuing seconds, making for an even more dizzying experience. However, considering the age of the prints and the time these movies were made, I can easily forgive mistakes like this, but other (anal) viewers may not be so forgiving.
So, after watching all four films, how would I rate them?
"Milan Caliber 9" is the best one, as it has everything a good euro-crime thriller should have--mystery, action, drama, romance, and an ending you will never see coming.
"The Italian Connection" fell flat for me because of the strange performances Henry Silva and Woody Strode deliver in it and their lack of effort in searching for Luca while Luca is shooting up half the town trying to get to Don Vito.
"The Boss," as I said, is my favorite, because it's packed with action, double-crosses, shifty gangsters, and Henry Silva being a complete and total bad-ass, as he was meant to be. Richard Conte also turns in a noteworthy performance in "The Boss," and there's some great humor between the chief of police and the commissioner, who is an informant for Don Corasco. The only drawback to "The Boss" is the ending, which leaves you with the Italian phrase for "To Be Continued" on it, and regrettably, it never was.
"Rulers of the City" is very slow to start and kind-of wanders around for a good half-hour, trying to find its way, until Jack Palance comes in and tears up the joint. As one friend put it, "I think the plot just walked into the room." The movie was made in 1976, well after the Milieu trilogy, and Fernando di Leo had moved on to make a series of gangster thrillers that had lighter plots and some comedic elements to them (see his 1975 vehicle "Loaded Guns," with Ursula Andress and Woody Strode, for more evidence of this). "Rulers of the City" suffers from this formula, as it could have been a great bullet-riddled, double-crossing revenge flick. It does, however, deliver in the final twenty minutes, which is nothing but a huge gun battle between Tony, Rick, their friend Napoli, and Scarface's men in an abandoned slaughterhouse. It's wickedly awesome and clearly shows elements that John Woo would later adapt into his Hong Kong gangster thrillers (watch what Tony's shotgun does to cars and you'll see what I mean).
So is this set worth the twenty-some dollars I spent on it? As Sarah Palin once said, "You betcha." If you're a fan of euro-crime thrillers or just want to have a crackling good time flashing back to the 70's, then pick up this box set (which is cheaper than buying the individual discs) and enjoy a time when crime was rampant, crooks were smart AND tough, and old movie stars could relive their glory days as A-listers in a country called Italy.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Unbeatable PriceMarch 26 2012
- Published on Amazon.com
In the past year or so I've really gotten into Italian cult cinema, mainly Giallo, but I've also become a growing fan of actresses such as Barbara Bouchet and Marisa Mell. When I learned a Bouchet film was going to be released on Blu-ray in this four film series I jumped on it, especially at the price point of $23.99 (what I pre-ordered it at). Having seen none of these films before and still being rather new to the Euro-Crime genre I didn't know what to expect. Having watched them all I'm glad I took the plunge.
Transfer wise there's no complaints from me, then again I'm not overly picky about picture and sound like some people are. I've watched and enjoyed enough bad VHS rips that for me it's more about the entertainment value than the quality, quality is just a bonus. But here the quality appears to be top notch to me, definitely better than I'm sure these films have ever looked before.
Film wise my personal favorite out of the four was The Italian Connection, for me it had the best combination of non stop action and story, Mario Adorf is simply awesome, never a dull moment. The other three films are also entertaining in their own rights, although I was a little disappointed in Caliber 9, Bouchet's role was pretty minimal and as one of the more hyped films in the collection I actually found it a little boring at times, Mario Adorf and the limited amount of Bouchet carried that one for me.
Anyone whose a fan of these films or this genre should be more than happy with this set. The current price of $24.99 is simply a steal for these four films on Blu-ray.
3.5 stars for average entertainment value of the films. 5 stars for the value of the set itself. Average 4 stars.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
[Blu-ray] Fernando Di Leo crime collection [Blu-ray]Feb. 4 2012
- Published on Amazon.com
When I first heard these films would hit Blu-Ray, I was pretty excited since these Di Leo films are among his best and are some of my all time favorites. It was going to be great to see these films in definitive home video editions! Sadly, these new transfers don't look very good at all. They are swimming with digital noise and artifacts that may have been film grain at one point but is now a mass of swirling fuzz. The further away from the TV you get, the better the image appears to look.
The major letdown of the set, however, are the weird, split-second video glitches on the Blu-Ray disc of The Italian Connection (that can be seen in this photo I took here [...] ). Another similar glitch can be seen during the lumberyard fight, and then at least 5 more instances are seen during the final junkyard scene. I'm pretty sure this isn't an isolated incident, so if you've encountered these video glitches throughout the disc, please let Raro know that they need to correct this. They seem to not be willing to fix this problem at the moment and replied with this message to me:
"Thanks for pointing out the problem with the Italian Connection blu-ray. Unfortunately, at this point there's not much we can do to correct the disc. If you're dissatisfied with the collection you can return it and we'll issue you a refund. Alternatively we can send you the single DVD of the Italian Connection, so that you have a clean copy. Again, thank you for your feedback and ongoing interest in RaroVideo."
I'll most likely be returning my Blu-Ray set for a refund and sticking with the original Italian Raro DVDs that still look surprisingly great upconverted on my HDTV. It's a bummer. I want to support Raro because they are consistently releasing interesting and desirable Italian films that are English friendly. But, with their track record of quality already down the tubes, it's hard to recommend blind buying anything they release (Before this, they had issues with their DVD versions of The Boss and Dorian Grey). My fingers are crossed that they can overcome this and drastically improve their quality control.