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Colt 38 Special Squad
Stylishly directed and well paced by Massimo Dallamano (who helmed the excellent giallo What Have You Done To Solange? and who served as director of photography on A Fistful Of Dollars and its sequel), his last directorial effort, Colt .38 Special Squad brings Ivan Rassimov and Marcel Bozzuffi together for an interesting cinematic game of cat and mouse.
Bozzuffi plays a cop named Vanni who, in the line of duty while busting up a crime ring, shoots and kills a man. Shortly after, the brother of the dead criminal, calling himself the Black Angel (Ivan Rassimov) shows up at Vanni's home and kills his wife in cold blood – a straight up revenge killing that leaves him a widower and a single father.
Wanting to avenge his wife's death and bring the killer to justice, Vanni is given permission by the top brass to form the Colt .38 Special Squad, so named because of their high caliber fire arms. Vanni sees the four men under his supervision through some very specialized training where they learn how to handle their guns and how to ride motorcycles and once their training is over with, they're unleashed to wreak havoc in the criminal population of Rome with one caveat – whenever possible they're supposed to shoot to injure, not to shoot to kill.
While out on town one night the squad members witness a dine and dash and they give chase. One thing leads to another and one of the crooks ends up being shot dead. This brings some hot water down on Vanni who in turn has to ramp up enforcing the rules within his own team, but things don't change fast enough and before you know it, Vanni's boss shuts them down. This makes tracking down The Black Angel tricky, especially when Vanni's boss sees that he has too much personally vested in it and pulls him off of the case for good.
When The Black Angel strikes again, this time with some carefully placed bombs that kill even more innocent civilians, Vanni knows that he has no choice but to secretly reform the squad and deal with this vicious killer on his own level. With their guns loaded and ready, they head off to track him down and put a stop to him before even more people wind up dead.
While this isn't the most ingenious of storylines, it's made completely plausible thanks to the two solid lead performances from Rassimov and Bozzuffi. Completely sinister and believably malicious in his intent, his character is tricky enough and flat out mean enough to make for the perfect chase. Bozzuffi has a rough, surly quality to him that makes him well suited for his own part, but he manages to retain a world-weariness (mostly thanks in part to his facial features), that allows us to understand and sympathize with him. After all, he has just lost his wife and is understandably pissed off at the man who took her from him in the first place.
Some great car and motorcycle chases (there's a car chase in here that rivals the one in The Big Racket - those who have seen that one know it's tough to beat!) keep the action coming along at a good pace, while some gritty and violent shoot outs create a tense and gritty atmosphere that works well in the movie's favor.The DVD
Colt .38 Special Squad looks fantastic on this 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Color reproduction is dead on, black levels are strong and deep, and there's a very surprising level of both foreground and background detail present throughout the image. No Shame have provided some very good transfer in the past, this one just might be their best. Flesh tones are lifelike and natural, there are no problems with edge enhancement, over filtering, or mpeg compression artifacts, and print damage has been all but completely eliminated. Some grain is present in a couple of the darker spots but this is never distracting and simply serves to remind us that, hey, we're watching an old Euro-cult movie here.Sound:
You've got your choice of watching the film in either English or Italian, with optional English subtitles provided, both in Dolby Digital Mono mixes. While the audio presentation isn't quite as impressive as the video, it's still quite good. Expect a little bit of hiss here and there in a scene or two but otherwise things are nice and clean sounding here. Levels are properly balanced and there are no problems with distortion or with the dialogue getting buried in the score or the sound effects. The background music is punchy enough but not overbearing and it fits the movie nicely.Extras:
This is a two disc set and the extras are spread across both discs. On disc one thing start off with a brief introduction to the film from Stelvio Cipriani who did the score for the film. He sits at his piano and speaks in Italian (subs are available in English) to kick things off nicely. He also shows up again for a twenty-five minute video interview entitled Always The Same Seven Notes. Again, sitting at his piano, he talks about his work on the film and plays back some of the more familiar cues used in the score throughout the film for us, breaking to talk about what he thinks about the movie on this disc and some of the many other projects that he has been attached to throughout his lengthy career in the Italian film industry.
A second interview is included in the form of a ten minute sit down chat with Antonio Siciliano, the film's editor. Entitled A Tough Guy, this segment allows Siciliano to wax nostalgic about his work with Massimo Dallamano on this film as well as how he feels about the movie and the actors used for the lead performances. It's a pretty interesting discussion, though not as thorough as it could have been.
Rounding out the extras on the first disc is the original theatrical trailer for Colt .38 Special Squad as well as a nice, if rather brief, still gallery of promotional materials.
Disc two is where the coolest of the extra features can be found in the form of a full length second feature, The Big Rip Off. Yep, that's right, one of the most obscure Euro-crime films of all time is being included in this set as a second feature. While not the best that the genre has to offer, in fact it's not particularly good when it's all said and done, this has some value as a curiosity item thanks to its rather strange history. After Luciano Ercoli finished this film, which would prove to be his final effort as a director, it was all ready to go when the producer of the film was kidnapped and the film was shelved. It's never been given an official release until now, thanks to this DVD.
Also known as La Bidonata, this 1977 production follows a small time crook named Renato who has a taste for streetwalkers. While spending some quality time with his preferred lady of the evening, he happens to overhear a conversation taking place not quite out of earshot wherein the participants discuss a combined robbery and kidnapping.
Renato might be small time, but he's know fool – he knows he can use this information to his advantage and so he gets a couple of cohorts together and the three of them start raising some money by pulling a few quick jobs here and there, small ones that won't draw too much attention to them. They then use the cash they've made by pulling off the smaller jobs to move in on the larger plot that he heard about earlier, letting those mobsters take care of the kidnapping so that he and his pals can move in on the loot and swipe it out from under them.
While this isn't a classic polizia film by any stretch, it certainly is an interesting curiosity item. Ercoli's movie tries to mix some rather goofy slapstick comedy with the type of gritty action we usually associate with films of this genre but it doesn't always work so well as it does in other cop/comedy hybrids of the era like A Cop In Blue Jeans. The humor isn't as clever or as sarcastic and instead it feels a little forced. Thankfully the action scenes definitely fare a little better, as there are a couple of solid car chases and some great shoot outs in here to keep things interesting – it's just unfortunate that these scenes are few and far between. Adding to the plus side is the sexy and sultry screen presence of Nieves Navarro, also known as Susan Scott, starlet of such popular Euro-cult films as Joe D'Amato's Emanuelle And The Last Cannibals and Ercoli's earlier giallo, Death Walks At Midnight. While her performance here won't blow you away, the fact that she dresses up in fetish gear to 'punish' one of her john's certainly leaves a lasting impression.
More action and more tough talk would have probably helped The Big Rip Off or at least insured that it came closer to meeting typical expectations held by polizia fans, but the film is better viewed as a comedy, even a parody of the genre. It's entertaining and it's nice to see it finally released, but it's doubtful this one is going to 'wow' fans.
Presented in a 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer taken from the original 35mm negative, The Big Rip Off doesn't look quite as nice as Colt .38 Special Squad but is still of very nice quality on this DVD. There's heavier grain here and a bit of print damage evident in the form of the odd speck or two but aside from that, things hold up well. More often than not there's a strong level of both foreground and background detail, though some of this does get a little muddy in the darker scenes. The audio is presented in an Italian language Dolby Digital Mono soundtrack with optional English subtitles and while it's not going to melt your ears it does get the job done well without any serious problems to complain about save for the limited range usually inherent in old mono tracks.
Included along with the feature on this disc are a quick interview video introduction from Sergio D'Offizi who worked a the director of photography on the movie, and a decent nine minute interview with him. He talks about some of the locations used in the movie as well as the strange history of the film and how it ended up basically being put in a vault and left for three decades until now.
Aside from the digital content, No Shame has also supplied some liner notes from Video Watchdog contributor Richard Harland Smith who gives some interesting background details on both movies in the set. Both discs include animated menus and chapter stops.Final Thoughts:
Colt .38 Special Squad is a fast paced, violent and gritty cop film with some explosive scenes of action and just enough drama to make it all work. Rassimov and Bozzuffi are great together in the film and No Shame's presentation looks and sounds fantastic. Add to that the wealth of extra features and the inclusion of a curious second feature and you've got a package that fans of Italian seventies cop movies are sure to find hard to resist.
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.