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Years Of Lead: Five Classic Italian Crim - Years Of Lead( Blu Ray boxset) [Arrow Video - 2021]

Years of Lead is a Blu ray boxset focusing on one of the lesser appreciated/ covered of Italian genre films genre Poliziotteschi- highly masculine focused, and often brutal crime thrillers. Featured on the three-disc set we get five films, with new/ largely great prints of each picture and a good selection of extras. The films here move from the young sociopaths causing chaos and death of The Savage Three and Like Rapid Dogs. The brutal cops ‘n’ robbers of Colt 38 Special Squad, the car case focused Highway Racer, and cat & mouse lo-key psychological thriller of No, the Case is Happily Resolved.

All five film films feature high definition scans restored from the original camera negatives, with a brand new 2K restoration of Colt 38 Special Squad exclusive to this release. The finished boxset comes with a limited edition collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the films by Troy Howarth, Michael Mackenzie, Rachael Nisbet, Kat Ellinger and James Oliver

 

So first up on disc one we have two films- The Savage Three & Like Rapid Dogs. The first of these is The Savage Three (Fango bollente)- this is from 1974, and is a brutal killer youth thriller. It was directed by Milan born director Vittorio Salerno, who had just three other directorial credits to his name. These went from the early/ proto Giallo Libido (1965), the rather clumsily named psychological thriller No, the Case Is Happily Resolved (1973), and supernatural Slasher Notturno con grida (1981). The Savage Three is well enough scoped and at points tense thriller, that’s shot through of moments of nasty, at points decidedly sleazed violence.

The film focuses on three twenty-something male friends who decide to go on a quickly escalating crime spree. All three work in a computer/ tech company, and are led up by psycho-in training Ovidio, Joe Dallesandro- who appeared on a fair few Andy Warhol connected films. He’s joined by the tightly permed and tense Giacomo, Gianfranco De Grass- who was one of the raping thugs in Night Train Murders, and the slightly more timid Pepe played by Guido De Carl. 

After the lengthy credits focusing on footage of old computer tech, we see Ovidio intervening in a mouse experiment at his tech company, throwing them all together so they attack each other- he ponders what would happen if you did the same with humans, and fairly soon he and his buddies kick off a riot at a football match before stealing a car, then a motorcycle. As the days go by the trios criminal escapades amp up, first stabbing a cement mixer driver, next string-up and killing a prostitute and her pimp, killing a taxi driver and stealing his cab, before they work their way up to raping and brutally killing two women- one of whom is the daughter of the local mayor. Investigating the trios spree is wounded in action /walking with a cane policeman Commissario Santagà- played by Enrico Maria Salerno, who also appeared in Night Train Murders. Playing the father of the girl the tugs attack. 
 
On the whole, The Savage Three is a decidedly spiteful-at-points nasty thriller, Dallesandro is good as the smug, devious and uncaring psycho Ovidio. Both De Grass and De Carl make for believable accomplices, as they shift from enjoying the mayhem/chaos, to been scared/ doubtful of the escalation. The film takes in a good blend of crowded street car chases, leering attacks, and a few more bloody/ intense moments- like a screwdriver stabbing, a nude woman rammed through with a forklift, and a few shooting/ stabbings. The film runs at the one hour and twenty-five-minute mark, and it largely speeds along at a pace with driving, if rather repetitive organ tipped 70’s hard rock lead cue. 

Extras wise for this film we get a selection of onscreen interviews, each of these I believe are from 2017, and each runs around forty minutes. Rat Eat Rat, is with writer/director Vittorio Salerno and actress Martine Brochard. And The Savage One, an interview with actor Joe Dallesandro- this is most interesting, as he discusses most of his career( though sadly only touches on Flesh for Frankenstein & Blood for Dracula ). So he talks about when/ how he first met Warhol, working with Paul Morrisey, moving onto his Italian work and of course the film to hand- a most interesting/ rewarding interview
 
 
 
Next, up on the first disc we have 1976’s Like Rapid Dogs(Come cani arrabbiati)- and it features a group of rich twenty-somethings donning balaclavas- to first do robbery, then escalating onto raping and killing hookers. It’s a rather sleazy and at points nasty example of the poliziotteschi genre, though some of these elements power are downplayed by the use of upbeat/ bright scoring at the more tense moments. The film was directed and co-written by Rome born and based Mario Imperoli- he had just seven director credits to his name, and these go from a nymphomaniac focused Giallo My Wife A Body To Love(1973), teen in relationship with her teacher drama La Ragazzina(1974), and his final film Quella strana voglia d'amare(1977) which was incest focused drama. Like Rapid Dogs is a well enough shot and scoped film- and is largely fairly pacy/ eventful, though a few of the set-ups felt a little clunky, and the hour and thirty-seven runtime could have been trimmed by fifteen or so mins.

The film centres around Tony Ardenghi(Cesare Barro)- the twenty-something son of a rich and pompous Rome businessman. Tony and his two friends Rico(Luis La Torre), and Silvia (Annarita Grapputo) start off by doing a robbery during a football game, quickly escalating to raping/killing prostitutes. The group wear rather distinctive coloured lycra balaclavas and white sports hoody- with the films poster art been used most effectively for this boxset front cover. Trying to track down and caught the three rich criminals we have Rome police commissioner Paolo Muzi(Piero Grapputo), who helped by flirty female policewoman Germana(Paola Senatore).
 
Barro makes for a good cold-eyed and brutally perverse leader of the gang, La Torre is effective as the amping- up the tense henchman, and Grapputo is a manipulative temptress, who also happens to be a race car driver too. Grapputo is a fairly typical and inappropriate 70’s Italian lead good guy- he openly suggests his colleague enjoyed been nearly raped, lends up sleeping with one of the suspects, and makes flippant misogynistic comments. The hold-ups/ robberies are fairly tense/ pulse bounding, as are the car chases. When we get to sleazy/ nasty stuff this is filmed/ executed well enough- the first instant of this type of thing has a gaged and hand-tied woman trying to escape, and her captors start appearing and leering at her, before stripping, raping, and shoot her over a bath. The scene is well shot, and in theory should be both tense/ shocking, the problem is the use of light-hearted/ bright music, which really removes most of the film's impact. Throughout the film when similar scenes appear- like naked and leering gundowns, rapping struggle- we get the similar use of music. On the whole Like Rapid Dogs certainly fits it’s the title, and on its a pacy/ eventful poliziotteschi fairly high with sleaze, it’s just a bit this part of the film is somewhat diluted by the badly placed music cues.

Extras wise for this film we When a Murderer Dies, an interview with cinematographer Romano Albani and film historian Fabio Melelli on Like Rabid Dogs- this runs fifty minutes. Then It's Not a Time for Tears, an interview with assistant director Claudio Bernabei- which runs thirty-one minutes.
 
 
Moving onto the second disc- and once again we have two films featured here Colt 38 Special Squad and Highway Racer. First up is 1976’s Colt 38 Special Squad ( aka Quelli della calibro 38)- this is very much of a pacy, at points fairly brutal cops ‘n’ robbers caper. It was directed by Milan born Massimo Dallamano, who is probably known more as cinematography for the likes of A Fistfull Of Dollars & For A few Dollars More. Though he also had eleven feature lengthy films directorial credits to his name taking in two respected giallo’s What Have You Done to Solange? and What Have They Done to Your Daughters?, revenge focused spaghetti western Bandidos(1967), euro trashy update of Dorain Gray(1970) set in the 60’s/70’s.

Colt 38 Special Squad is set in Turin- and really focuses on a cat and mouse game between police inspector Vanni(Marcel Bozzuffi), and Marsigliese aka Black Angel (Ivan Rassimov ) and his gang. The film kicks straight into the action with a shoot-up, with one of Marsigliese brothers been gunned down by Vanni- and he carries out quick and brutal revenge, gunning down the inspector's wife in plain view of their son. This triggers understandable Vanni wanting to quit the police- his superior convinces him to stay, by letting him set up a secret/ special squad- who carry you guessed it colt 38’s- the squad is made up of four meant to specially trained men( we see a very brief training session), and they largely ride around the city on motorbikes. Marsigliese next move is to break out Antonio Marsina aka The Blond(Guido Pugliese), and from here they steal a shipment of Dynamite- starting a campaign of bombing in the city. 
 
The film features some great car and motorbike chases, most impressive of these finds a car jumping onto a moving train, then travelling over its top with impressive overhead shots. We also get of course a fair bit of gunplay, and this is often fairly bloody- talking of gore, we get some of that too- with one of the crims getting his fingers chopped off by a car door, bent and bloody limbs of bomb victims, etc. We get a neat over the top fist fight too and on the whole the films very action-packed yet gritty and sweary.
 
 
Ivan Rassimov is a perfect fit for the cold and calculated badie Black Angel- lookingly suavely devilish with dyed black long greased back hair and a moustache. Bozzuffi is good as his counterpart- and you really feel for the guy, having his wife gunned down, then all the tense twists and turns trying to track down the gang. The film features a great score by Stelvio Cipriani- this moves between its taut-yet- grooving bass ‘n’ strummed clear guitar and harmonica honk of the lead theme. Going onto more mellow/ moody fair, as well as disco-like tracks, oh and talking of music Grace Jones appears singing in one of the club scenes. All in all Colt 38 Special Squad is a lot of pulse bound 70’s fun, all done in a very euro-tastic manner.
 
 
Extras wise for this film- we get a selection of interviews/ intros from the 2006 release of the film. So there's a forty-five-second intro from Stelvio Cipriani, where he plays a snippet of the music he wrote for Grace Jones in the film. Next, there’s a twenty-five-minute stand-alone on-screen interview with Mr Cipriani- he starts off talking about scoring the film to hand, moving on to discuss other films in the similar genre he scored, and general chat about how he got into scoring- this is well a play.
 

So the other film is 1977’s Highway Racer( aka Poliziotto sprint)- this is best described as a very car cased based thriller, with slight touches of witty humour. It was directed by Civitanova Marche born Stelvio Massi- who had thirty-two credits to his name, these went from sleazed and grim giallo Five Women For The Killer(1974) and mafioso crime thriller The Last Round( 1976)- though he largely seemed to have focused in on crime thrillers.

The film focuses on Marco(Maurizio Merli) a younger city-based cop who is obsessed with speeding car cases, whenever he can he has one, and these put both his career, partners life, and his own life on the line. The key plot point is a gang of robbers who are carrying out bank raids, then getting away in fast cars with motorcycle helmets on- the car’s drivers are pros- making them impossible to catch. The whole thing plays out rather like a 70’s Italian version of the Fast And Furious films, and if there’s one thing I’ve never been a fan of is largely car chase based films- sure it’s fine a few, in the context of a film, but when that’s basically all there is, it gets tiresome quickly. Also, the character of Marco isn’t very likeable either. The film has a Stelvio Cipriani score, this is ok with some nice tense/ pulse pound moments- though there’s not much memory in it. All in all this for me, was the least enjoyable film on this set.
On the extras side for this film we get just one thing Faster Than a Bullet, this is from 2018 and is a nineteen-minute interview with film historian Roberto Curti on Highway Racer
 
 
Lastly, on the third disc, we have just a single film 1973’s No, the Case is Happily Resolved- this rather clumsily/ awkwardly titled film is a low-key psychological thriller, with a fairly neat/ interesting concept/ story. The film was directed by Vittorio Salerno- who of course helmed the first film in this set The Savage Three, and on the whole, it’s a well enough shot/ executed film- though at points it does get a little repetitive in some of it’s plotting tropes.
The film kicks off in rural Italy, where city-dwelling and moustached family man Fabio(Enzo Cerusico) is fishing at the side of a remote river. In one ear he has an earbud listening to the big soccer game- all of a sudden he hears a woman screaming for help. He throws down his rod and pulls out his earplug- making his way through a mass of tall reeds. Here he sees an old and wild eye man chasing a clearly distressed woman- who is in just her underwear, and her top undone. The man knocks the woman down and proceeds to batter her again and again with a piece. Fabio meets eyes with a killer, then takes off- trying to find the local police to report it, but he has no luck…instead deciding to go back to his city flat that he shares with his young daughter and wife. He rings up the police, about to report what has happened- but faulters after they ask for his name. Meanwhile, the wild-eyed killer goes into the station to report the crime and frames poor Fabio for it instead. From here on we get a cat and mouse game between the witness, the killer and the police. 
Cerusico is good enough as a believable-if- at points making silly decisions everyman. The killer turns out the be a mild-mannered and respected professor- played by Riccardo Cucciolla, and he does a good job shifting between slight sleazed if mild-manner teacher, and twitching ‘n’ sweating mad. The whole this is rather sparsely scored by Riz Ortolani- who offers up just a fairly repetitive organ-based cue, which at points has hints of disco drums added into it. On the whole No, the Case is Happily Resolved is a rewarded enough example of the pared-back thriller form, with a distinctive/ original plot- it doesn’t set the world on fire, but as a one or two watch is most rewarding.


On the extras side of this disc here we get a Poliziotteschi: Violence and Justice in the Years of Lead- this is a new visual essay finding critic Will Webb talking about the genre, focusing in on its themes/ tropes, and doing so relating it to the films on offer on the boxset. It runs twenty-one minutes and is certainly worth a play. Lastly, we get a 2015 interview with writer/director Vittorio Salerno on No, the Case is Happily Resolved- this runs forty minutes.
 

 

In finishing Years of Lead: Five Classic Italian Crime Thrillers 1973–1977 is a great look at the Poliziotteschi genre, with a good selection of largely very worthy films, and some neat extras. I do hope Arrow Video decides to do another Poliziotteschi focused boxset down the line, as apparently they in total around 100 films in the genre.

Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5

Roger Batty
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