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Emilio Miraglia's 1967 film Assassination (not to be confused with the Charles Bronson vehicle of the same name from 1987!) stars the late, great Henry Silva as a man named John Chandler. When we first meet John, he's in prison, visited by his lovely wife Barbara (Evelyn Stewart), when they learn that a last minute pardon they were hoping to receive has not been approved and that he's to be put to death in the electric chair. Moments later, that's exactly what happens.
A few day later, Barbara meets up with her lawyer and goes over John's will. She doesn't inherit much in the way of cash and is upset to learn that the home she shared with her late husband has been, quite puzzlingly, left to his brother, Philip, who Barbara didn't even know existed. Even more confusing is the fact that Philip doesn't live anywhere near them and currently resides in Africa.
It turns out that there's a complicated by valid reason for all of this. John isn't dead at all and has actually been recruited by the C.I.A. to take on his brother's identity. He undergoes a procedure to make the transition and, as Philip, he starts working a case wherein he's to help the C.I.A. bring down an international crime ring, a mission that will see him travel from The United States to Europe and put him in all kinds of danger. While all of this is going on, he reconnects with Barbara.
Stylishly shot by Erico Menczer, who worked with Dario Argento on Cat ‘O Nine Tails and who has plenty of other interesting credits, Assassination may be slightly influenced by The Manchurian Candidate which Silva starred in a few years earlier in 1962. Like that earlier film, it tells a fairly layered story where no one is who they seem to be. Loaded with plot twist after plot twist, the picture moves at a deliberate and controlled pace but never feels especially slow, even if it isn't exactly a slam-bang action extravaganza. Making great use of an extremely quirky score from Robby Poitevin that uses everything from fuzzed out and guitar drive sixties garage rock sounds to oddly effective moments of instrumental music that sound like they could have come out of an older horror movie, the movie feels pretty erratic at times, but it's able to hold our attention easily enough thanks to some interesting ideas and strong visuals.
The main draw for this one, however, is Henry Silva. He's perfect in the lead role, bringing his trademark intensity to the role and handling it with ease. We have no trouble buying him as an international man of intrigue and he handles himself just as well in the fight scenes as he does in the film's more dramatic moments. Delivering an effortlessly cool performance, the film is a fantastic showcase for his abilities as an actor and as a natural bad ass. The lovely Evelyn Stewart also gets plenty of screen time in the movie. She, too, is very good here. She looks great and makes for an interesting contrast, visually and performance wise, to Silva's presence in the film, with her fair skin and light hair and calmer demeanor the exact opposite of Silva's look and acting style. They work very well together, and you wind up wishing they'd done more work together.
Kino Lorber brings Assassination to region A Blu-ray on a 50GB disc with the one hundred and one minute feature taking up just under 34GBs of space and framed at 2.20.1 widescreen. Taken from a new 4k restoration, most of the movie looks very strong but there are a few moments where movement look off and rather than seeing things move smoothly, they instead have a slightly jerky quality to them, making you wonder if there's something up with the frame rate. The strange thing is, this isn't noticeable throughout the entire movie, it seems to happen pretty randomly (an example being the restaurant scene around the thirty-nine minute mark or a moment around the forty-three minute mark where it looks like a few frames jump when Silva moves) and while it thankfully isn't super common, it is noticeable here and there. That issue aside, the picture quality here is good. Colors look really nice and there's impressive detail and texture to the image. Skin tones look nice and natural and we get good black levels throughout. The image has a good amount of depth to it as well and there are no problems with compression, noise reduction or edge enhancement.
English and Italian language tracks are provided in 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono with optional subtitles available in English only. Both tracks sounds really good, but the English track gets the edge over the Italian track as it does feature Silva's real voice (like most Italian movies from this era, this seems to have been shot without live sound but Silva seems to have done his own dubbing for the English track). Quality is good, with properly balanced levels and a fair amount of depth and range, particularly where it comes to the score. There are no problems to note with any hiss or distortion.
The main extra on the disc is an audio commentary from Howard Berger, Steve Mitchell, and Nathaniel Thompson. There's lots of talk here about the film's score and Robby Poitevin's work in the industry, Emilio Miraglia surprisingly short career as a director, plenty of thoughts on the cast members and their work in front of the camera with a lot of focus on Silva's work, some of the New York City locations that are used in the film, some of the quirkier elements of decor on display in certain scenes, some of the themes that the movie explores, the way that the movie toys with the idea of illusion, the quality of the cinematography and framing in the movie, how the movie cashes in on the globe hopping trends that were popular in the cinema of the late sixties and inspired by movies like the Bond pictures and lots more. It's an interesting, well-paced talk that does a solid job of peeling back the layers of the film and exploring its history.
Aside from that, we get a trailer for the feature as well as bonus trailers for The Hills Run Red, Code Of Silence, Arabesque, Diabolically Yours, Grand Slam, The Champagne Murders, The Sicilian Clan, The Night Of The Following Day and Impasse. Menus and chapter selection are also provided.
Assassination is stylish, suspenseful and intriguing and it turns out to be a great showcase for both Henry Silva and Evelyn Stewart. Kino's presentation is mostly solid, though there are some minor quirks with the transfer, and the commentary is interesting and adds value to the package overall. Recommended.
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.