Written by: Michael Den Boer on July 6th, 2005
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, January 23rd, 1975
Director: Sergio Martino
Writers: Ernesto Gastaldi, Sergio Martino
Cast: Luc Merenda, Dayle Haddon, Corrado Pani, Enrico Maria Salerno
DVD released: July 26th, 2005
Approximate running time: 101 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English, Dolby Digital Mono Italian
DVD Release: No Shame
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.95
Synopsis: Luca Altieri (Luc Merenda) is a card shark whose favorite game is poker. After getting caught cheating one night while playing poker Luca is approached by a crime boss named the president. He wants Luca to work for him scamming other players with his expert card playing skills. Luca is distracted one evening while playing cards when he notices a beautiful woman named Maria Luisa (Dayle Haddon) who also happens to be the bosses’ son Corrado’s girlfriend. Luca and Maria quickly fall for each other which leads too some trouble when her boyfriend Corrado becomes insanely jealous. The two men’s feud forces the president to choose between Corrado his own flesh & blood and Luca who has been making him a lot of money.
Like a chameleon Sergio Martino has made a career following the current trend that is popular and adjusting his cinematic style to fit seamlessly into each genre he works in. To this day he continues to work while many of his contemporaries have all but vanished. It is his willingness to accept change and try something different that sets him apart from a auteur director like Dario Argento who is unwilling to compromise his vision. It has been said by many on countless occasions that Sergio Martino’s films lack substance and at best they are entertaining with little or no artistic merit something which I completely disagree with since many of his films like his giallo The Strange vice of Mrs. Wardh not raised the bar when it came to gialli it set many standards that became staples in the genre. One thing that I appreciate most as a fan of genre films is Sergio Martino’s ability to perfectly capture the genre in which his in working.
Gambling City has all the style one would come to expect from a movie from Hollywood’s golden era of the 1940’s. Despite the films modern film that clothing worn in the film looks vintage which adds class to the characters. Luca Altieri played by Luc Merenda in many ways is just an updated version of the type of characters Humphrey Bogart made famous. Merenda is believable as the lead character even if at times as an actor he lacked in his expressions that kind of depth that one would have needed to truly sell this part. His co-star Dayle Haddon fares much better as Maria Luisa as she effortlessly gains sympathy for her character that spends most of the film playing the victim.
Sergio Martino’s direction is solid once again as his eye for detail is impeccable. Several moments in the film are most likely references to other films like when Luca’s hands are broken in a similar fashion to the way Eddie Felson’s hands are broken in the hustler. I have to wonder if Martin Scorsese ever saw since his films Casino like Gambling City feature scenes in which characters caught cheating while playing cards have their hands broken. Despite one of the main plot points being about poker Gambling City really never excels or capitalizes on the card playing angle as it feels like it is more a back-story to the love affair between Luca and Maria Luisa. The film like most action films of the 1970’s features the obligatory car chase and even though it is not as long as most of these are it is another well executed sequence by Sergio Martino. Gambling City is an action filled adventure that has a nice story arch that doesn’t let until the final moments of the film.
No Shame presents Gambling City in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. This high definition transfer has been sourced from the restored original 2p negative and it is available for the first time ever in America. The colors are strong and black levels remain constant through out as there is an exceptional amount of detail present in every frame. There are no problems with compression or edge enhancement. This DVD transfer is interlaced. Overall the print is in amazing shape and on par with the quality of No Shame’s other Sergio Martino DVD releases.
This DVD comes with two audio options the films original Italian language track and an English dubbed track both are presented in a Dolby Digital mono. Both audio sources are clean for the most part with the English dub feature a couple minor audio drop outs that are so brief they never become distracting. The dialog is always easy to understand and the music and & effects sound evenly balanced. The inclusion of multiple audio options is always welcomed and I wished more companies offer this option. English subtitles have been included that are easy to follow and understand.
No Shame rolls out the red carpet for this release that includes that following extras the films original Italian trailer and a photo gallery. A collectable booklet has been included that includes bio/filmography for Sergio Martino written by Mathew Weisman and a bio/filmography for Luc Merenda as well as a piece that Richard Harland Smith about the film Gambling City. Other extras include a documentary titled “Chatting with the Cheaters” that includes interviews with Sergio Martino, Giancarlo Ferrando and Luc Merenda. This documentary runs about twenty minutes in length as each of the participants offer witty and insightful information about making Gambling City. Rounding out the extras is an audio commentary with Luc Merenda and it is moderated by film critic Riccardo Trombetta. The conversation is evenly balanced with the bulk of the comments coming from Luc Merenda.
No Shame has built up a solid reputation in such a short time due in part to the exceptional quality of their releases and choosing interesting titles that cult fans have waited for many years. Gambling City is another gem from director Sergio Martino that playfully pays homage to the Hollywood films that loosely inspired it.