Lucio Marcaccini's only film, Hallucination Strip made in 1975, starts off as a fairly typical Italian cop picture but soon segues into something more unusual than that. The film follows a university student named Massimo Monaldi (Bud Cort) who is a politically minded type prone to attending protests and generally just getting into trouble. He's not the type that warms to cops or establishment figures of any kind and he's also a petty thief, using the proceeds from his exploits to finance his love for narcotics. During one such exploit, Massimo, with some help from his pretty girlfriend Cinzia (Annarita Grapputo), lifts a tobacco box. Oops. This turns out to be ridiculously valuable and the cops by (led by an inspector played by Marcel Bozzuffi) start closing in on him in hopes of retrieving it for its rightful owner. Complicating matters further is the involvement of the mob as well. This is going to get a whole lot worse for Massimo before it starts to get better… that is, if he doesn't wind up a corpse because of his own lifestyle.
Shot by Gino Santini (who fantastic camerawork graced Django The Bastard and plenty of other Spaghetti Westerns in the 1960s) and set to a soundtrack by Albert Verrecchia (who scored Riot In A Woman's Prison), the movie typically looks and sounds very good. The camera work is flashy and colorful and does a great job relaying some of Mossimo's more experimental actions with the score complimenting the visuals when and where it should. All of this comes to a boil towards the finale where our lead finds himself at a drug party, a scene that takes up a good twenty-minutes or so of the film and things get exceedingly trippy as Mossimo and company indulge. It's literally the payoff of the film visually and structurally, as it's not really a movie ripe with murder set pieces or really intense action scenes (and thankfully it doesn't really ever feel like it needs them).
Although this one starts off as a fairly straight laced cop film but takes a pretty sharp left turn around the half way mark where Massimo's use of hallucinogenic drugs becomes a focal point not just of the film's narrative, but of its visual style as well. The movie also makes some interesting jabs at not only the counter culture movement of the day (represented by Massimo) but also at the establishment (represented by the cops) and Italy's high ranking mobsters (represented by the mobsters, obviously) and the way in which these three completely different societal groups correlate to one another and co-mingle. Not surprisingly, they don't always get along.
While Marcaccini's is sometimes erratic, sloppy even, the performances are pretty strong. Marcel Bozzuffi, recognizable from his appearance in William Friedkin's The French Connection, is strong as the lead cop on the case but Bud Cort is the one who really excels here. The first film he made after his star making turn in Harold And Maude three years prior, he's got some great range here and is convincing both as the thieving drug fiend and as the man growing increasingly concerned about his own wellbeing and state of mind. As he and his friends rage against the middle class we can at least understand their resentment towards the wealthy socialites that have spawned them and their materialist obsessions, even if he and his crew really wind up falling into some of the same traps as those that came before them. No one is perfect in this movie, least of all Mossimo, and Cort's believable performance here helps to anchor the film, even when it gets exceedingly trippy in the party and drug use scenes.
If the film's message and politics get easily lost in the visuals and meandering plot line, making this a fairly flawed film, Hallucination Strip is nothing if not interesting and entertaining.
Hallucination Strip arrives on Blu-ray form Raro Video in a 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen. Like some of Raro's other recent transfers (Death Occurred Last Night being an exception this transfer has its pros and cons. Colors do look very nice and the image is, with some exceptions, pretty clean outside of some very minor print damage that shows up in the form of some small white specks here and there. That's the good. The bad? There is some obvious haloing in spot, and detail is pretty soft and sometimes smeary. It once again appears that some seriously overzealous noise reduction has been applied here, so don't expect the faces of the various characters to have pores. Things look a little fuzzy sometimes in the background too, that weird issue where ‘grain' tends to have a bit of a wiggle to it and clump up around background objects occurs frequently. Black levels look very good and there aren't any major compression issues to note on the 25GB disc, but once again Raro have processed to elements used for this transfer the point where it isn't as film-like as some are going to have hoped for.
Audio options are provided in both English and Italian language lossless tracks in LPCM Mono with optional subtitles in English only. While the range is understandably limited by the older source material, both tracks are quite clean, clear and well balanced. The score in the film really stands out here too, it has some good depth. There are no noticeable problems with any hiss or distortion outside of a few minor spots that most won't likely notice while the levels are set properly throughout. The subtitles are free of any obvious typos and easy to read. There are no problems here, both tracks sound fine.
There aren't a ton of extras on the disc but we do get an interview with Giulio Berruti, who worked as editor on the film. Berruti speaks about his working relationship with director Marcaccini, his techniques, what it was like working on this picture and more. At just over nineteen minutes it's a reasonably thorough piece and worth checking out. The disc also includes a theatrical trailer for the movie, menus and chapter selection. Inside the keepcase is a booklet of liner notes with an essay on director Lucio Marcaccini and a second essay about the psychedelic era and the drugs that played such a big part in it. All of this comes housed inside a slick cardboard slipcover featuring some nice alternate artwork from that featured on the insert sleeve.
Raro's Blu-ray release of Hallucination Strip suffers from a smeary transfer, and that's a shame as the noise reduction sucks out a lot of the film's detail. If you can look past that not insignificant issue, however, this is an interesting picture. Part crime story and part counter culture time capsule, it's nicely shot and it features some really solid work from Cort. It's a strange film, but for those with an interest in the wild side of Italian cult cinema, one worth seeing and comes recommended for that reason despite the technical quirks.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.