The Climber, a 1975 directed and written by Pasquale Squitieri, stars Joe Dallesandro as Aldo. He's an ambitious young man who has recently joined up with a local gang after getting in some hot waters in Naples when a smuggling operation went south. His new gig is working in a warehouse run by a group of mobsters who soon find themselves impressed with the new recruit's penchant for violence. They figure he's got what it takes to make it in the crime business and soon enough, he's climbing the ladder and moving up the ranks.
At the same time, Aldo gets involved with a beautiful but self-serving woman named Luciana (Stefana Casini). Things are going great until, predictably, Aldo gets greedy and helps himself to a little bit of the profits. His employers respond in the kind of violence he himself dolls out, causing him to jump ship and start his own gang. As you could probably guess, it doesn't quite work out for him the way that he had hoped it would…
Quick in its pacing and reasonably action packed, The Climber is a gritty, violent ‘rise and fall' tale that, like a lot of great crime films that have come before and since, proven that hubris is the downfall of pretty much every master criminal (at least eventually). Aldo gets too big for his britches and he takes what starts off as a good thing and, through the right balance of greed and pride, basically mucks it all up for himself. The fact that it doesn't end well isn't so much of a spoiler as it is an inevitability. Fate is clearly running its fickle fingers through Aldo's hair throughout the film.
As far as the performances go, Dallesandro is a solid lead here. He's been criticized plenty of times in the past for being cast not for his acting abilities but his looks, but credit where it's due, the guy is pretty strong in this part (though the fact that he's dubbed in both the English and Italian versions of the picture does take away a bit from the film, at least it will for those familiar enough with his work to recognize his actual speaking voice). As most know, he came to fame for the early films he made with Paul Morrissey for Andy Warhol like Trash and Flesh where he often played drug addicts or sex workers. Once he went to Europe to do Blood For Dracula and Flesh For Frankenstein he stuck around for a while where he was offered different roles such as the lead in this particular film. While the films he made in Europe around this period may not be as well remembered as the Morrissey collaborations, they do at least see Dallessandro stretching a bit as an actor and doing a pretty good job of it. It's also fun to see him cast alongside Stefana Casini, probably best known to North American viewers for her work in Dario Agento's Suspiria or Antonio Bido's The Bloodstained Shadow.
Shot seemingly entirely on locations throughout Italy, the movie has an appropriately rough and gritty look and feel to it. This serves the story well as does the score from composer Franco Campanino, a genuinely strong piece of work that you can easily enjoy outside the context that the movie presents it in. The camerawork goes not for overtly flashy style but instead for a more grounded and realistic look. All of this combines to help keep things believable enough that we never feel things get too far-fetched. On top of this the script, which Pasquale Squitieri wrote based on a story from Carlo Rivolta, features enough decent character development to hold our interest not only in the films more intense moments but in the quieter, more dramatic moments as well.The Blu-ray:
Arrow offers up The Climber in a ‘brand new 4K restoration of the film from the original camera negative' in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.66..1 widescreen. It looks, in a word, fantastic. Detail is impressive while texture and color reproduction get appreciable bumps in quality over what standard definition would have been able to provide. There's nice depth here and the black levels are strong. Compression artifacts, edge enhancement and noise reduction are never obvious problems. Yeah, this looks really, really good on Blu-ray. Nice and clean too, no real print damage worth noting.Sound:
Italian and English language options are provided in LPCM Mono with optional newly translated subtitles provided for the Italian option and closed captioning provided for the English option. Both tracks are clean, clear and nicely balanced. No problems with any hiss or distortion, decent range and depth for mono tracks. The subtitles are also clear, easy to read and free of any typos.Extras:
The main extra on this release is an interview with Joe Dallesandro entitled Little Joe's Adventures In Europe. In this twenty-eight minute piece we learn how the former Warhol icon came to Italy to work on Blood For Dracula and Flesh For Frankenstein before then working with Walerian Borowczyk on La Marge and then alongside Serge Gainsbourgh on Je t'aime moi non plus before heading back to Italy to make Season For Assassins and The Climber. Dallesandro is pretty open about what he liked and didn't like so much about this time in his career and he shares some pretty great stories about his travels and some of the people that he worked with over the years. Menus and chapter selection are provided.
As this is a combo pack release the clear Blu-ray sized keepcase also holds a DVD version of the movie. Included inside the case along with the two discs is an insert booklet containing credits for the feature as well as the Blu-ray release along with an essay on the picture by Roberto Curti, author of Italian Crime Filmography, 1968-1980. Arrow have also provided some nice reversible cover sleeve art with a newly commissioned piece by Chris Malbon on one side and the original one sheet art on the reverse.Final Thoughts:
The Climber is a solid piece of Italian cinema that should appeal to fans of crime and gangster movies. Anchored by good production values, a great score and a solid lead performance from Joe Dallesandro, it's an entertaining mix of action and drama. Arrow's Blu-ray release is light on extras compared to other releases from the label but the interview with the film's star is really interesting and the presentation is top notch. Recommended.