Written by: Michael Den Boer on March 5th, 2011
Theatrical Release Dates: Italy, February 15th, 1972 (Caliber 9), Italy, September 1st, 1972 (The Italian Connection), February 1st, 1973 (The Boss), Italy, December 3rd, 1976 (Rulers of the City)
Director: Fernando Di Leo
Cast: Gastone Moschin, Barbara Bouchet, Mario Adorf, Frank Wolff, Luigi Pistilli (Caliber 9), Mario Adorf, Henry Silva, Woody Strode, Adolfo Celi, Luciana Paluzzi, Franco Fabrizi, Femi Benussi, Gianni Macchia, Peter Berling, Francesca Romana Coluzzi, Cyril Cusack, Sylva Koscina (The Italian Connection), Henry Silva, Richard Conte, Gianni Garko, Antonia Santilli, Corrado Gaipa, Marino Masé, Howard Ross, Pier Paolo Capponi (The Boss), Jack Palance, Al Cliver, Harry Baer, Gisela Hahn, Enzo Pulcrano, Roberto Reale, Edmund Purdom (Rulers of the City)
DVD Released: March 8th, 2011
Approximate Running Times: 101 minutes (Caliber 9), 96 minutes (The Italian Connection), 109 minutes (The Boss), 96 minutes (Rulers of the City)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen (Caliber 9 / The Italian Connection / The Boss), 1.85:1 Letterboxed Widescreen (Rulers of the City)
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English, Dolby Digital Mono Italian (All Films)
DVD Release: Raro Video
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $39.98
Caliber 9: Just released from prison Ugo Piazza (Gastone Moschin) is abducted by some thugs who work for his former employer Americano. They beat the living hell out of Ugo in hopes that he will tell them where the $300,000 that he stole before going in prison is hidden. After a few beatings Ugo still refuses to tell them anything so the Americano offers him a job to keep him close.
Caliber 9 is the first in a trilogy of films followed by The Italian Connection (Aka Manhunt) and The Boss (Aka Wipeout!). Even though Caliber 9 wasn’t one of the first Italian crime films its lasting impact is undeniable as it the tone and style for all Italian crime films that followed it. The Italians have long been known to borrow from American cinema. There are many instances while watching when one naturally thinks of Francis Ford Coppola The Godfather a film which came out a month after Caliber 9.
The films opening money exchange sequence is breath talking in its execution as the package is handed from one person to the next. This scene like the rest of the film is greatly benefited by Luis Enríquez Bacalov’s score. This film is filled with a superb cast of colorful characters with the character Rocco Musco played by Mario Adorf being the one that stands out the most as he nearly steals the whole show with his maniacal over the top portrayal of a Mafioso. One has to wonder if Martian Scorsese ever saw Caliber 9 because Joe Pesci’s Tommy DeVito performance in Goodfellas bears a strong resemblance to the Rocco Musco in Caliber 9. Casting Gastone Moschin in the role of Ugo Piazza the main character in the film at first appears to be an odd choice. His performance is subtle and it grows on you as the film progresses.
Several other Euro-cult regulars appear in this film including Barbara Bouchet, Frank Wolff, Luigi Pistilli, Philippe Leroy and Lionel Stander. Most of these roles are minor characters in the film with Barbara Bouchet adding her usual eye candy as a stripper. Overall the acting in this film is first rate. The action is fast and furious and the violence is brutal and bloody. Fernando Di Leo’s direction is pitch perfect as every frame and moment unfolds effortlessly into the next. There are a few interesting plot twists along the way that lead up to an ending that is truly unforgettable. Overall Caliber 9 is one the best examples the Italian crime genre has to offer.
The Italian Connection: When a shipment of heroin goes missing. A small time pimp named Luca is set up by the boss of an organized crime syndicate. To stop this from ever happening again. The powers that be send two hit man to take care of Luca. And get the message out that anyone else, who thinks that they can also pull a similar stunt. Will be dealt with in a most deadly way.
The Italian Connection (Aka Manhunt) is the second film in a trilogy of films known as The Milieu Trilogy. The other two films in this trilogy are Caliber 9 (Aka Milan Caliber 9) and The Boss (Aka Wipeout!). The Italian Connection was co-written and directed by Fernando Di Leo, who’s other notable films include Naked Violence, Slaughter Hotel and Being Twenty.
Content wise what The Italian Connection lacks in ambition. It more than makes up for with its raw down to basics take on the story at hand. The plot is kept simple. Two hit man and a pimp are on a destined to meet in the film’s finale. In between there is a lot cat and mouse foreplay happening as the two hit man always find themselves. Just one step behind the ever elusive pimp they have been contracted to take care of. Tone wise while there are a few violent sequences. They are more brawls. Then out and out bloodletting.
From a production stand point the pacing is reasonably brisk. With no lulls or moments that brink things to a standstill. The action sequences are all top notch. With the film’s finale in a car junk yard and a scene in which Luca fights with another man while hanging from the hood of a van. Being the most memorable moments in this film. Casting wise this film features a superb cast. With Henry Silva (The Manchurian Candidate) and Woody Strode (Once Upon a Time in the West) in the roles of the two hit man. The film’s standout performance comes from Mario Adorf (The Bird with the Crystal Plumage) in the role of Luca a small time pimp. Other notable cast members include Femi Benussi (The Killer Must Kill Again), Adolfo Celi and Luciana Paluzzi (Thunderball). Overall The Italian Connection is a well made exploitation film that does not miss a beat.
The Boss: Rival fractions of a crime syndicate. Knock each other off one by one. In a bloody power struggle.
The Boss (Aka Wipeout!) is the third and final film. Which makes up a trilogy of films known as The Milieu Trilogy. The other two films are Caliber 9 (Aka Milano Caliber 9) and The Italian Connection (Aka Manhunt). The Boss was co-written and directed by Fernando Di Leo, who’s other notable films include Naked Violence, Slaughter Hotel and Being Twenty.
Even though the film starts off strong. This overly ambitious plot. Eventually tries to take on too much. And the end result is a convoluted plot. That has many interesting avenues that it can explore. And yet many of these avenues are left underdeveloped. Also the film inconsistent pacing presents more than a few problems. The one area in which this film excels the most. Is during it more violent set pieces. And while there is a predictability to the story at hand. To this films credit. Is does go out with a bang.
Performance wise the cast all very good in their respective roles. With the film’s standout performance coming from Henry Silva (Almost Human) in the role of a cold hearted killer. That is willing to do anything his boss asks him to do. Another performance of note is Pier Paolo Capponi (Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion) in the role of Cocchi. A outcast in the criminal world. He wants revenge for his brother, who was murdered by Henry Silva’s character. Overall despite its shortcomings The Boss is a compelling melodrama that is anchored by its unflinching portrayal of the criminal underworld.
Rulers of the City: An ambitious lone collector double crosses a ruthless crime boss.
Rulers of the City (Aka Mr. Scarface) was co-written and directed by Fernando Di Leo, who’s other notable films include Naked Violence, Slaughter Hotel and Being Twenty. The Cinematographer of Rulers of the City was Erico Menczer, who’s other notable credits as a cinematographer include Hired Killer (Tecnica di un omicidio), Emilio Miraglia’s Assassination, Lucio Fulci’s Beatrice Cenci, Machine Gun McCain, The Cat o’ Nine Tails and The Dead are Alive. The score for Rulers of the City was composed by Luis Enríquez Bacalov, who’s other notable scores include A Bullet for the General, The Designated Victim, Summertime Killer, Milano calibro 9 and The Grand Duel.
Even though Rulers of the City is not part of the aforementioned The Milieu Trilogy. Content wise is bears many similarities to the three films which make up The Milieu Trilogy. There are two storylines which drive this film. And while they don’t appear related at first. The intersect in the film’s bloody finale. The bulk of the film revolves around the exploits of a lone collector named Tony. After several failed attempts to get the guys in the crew he runs with. To treat him as an equal. He offers to do the job that no one else has the guts to take on. Collect money from a sadistic crime boss named Manzari. He also is known by a nickname ‘Scarface’. To help put his plan in motion. Tony befriends Rick, who has recently been kicked out of Manzari’s gang. They quickly concoct a scheme. And what should have been the perfect con. Quickly turns sourer. When Tony gets too cocky. The bulk of the film is spent with Manzari’s men trying to track down Tony and Rick. Who bravely stick around and antagonize Manzari. And while this may seem like a stupid thing to do. This also plays into the films other main storyline. Which involves Rick’s back-story and his quest for vengeance against the man, who murdered his father.
The plot keeps things fairly basic. With the bulk of the film built up around the film’s violent set pieces. The film’s two standout moments visually are its atmospheric opening and its carnage filled finale. Performance wise the cast are more than adequate in their respective roles. With the majority of the performances coming off way over the top. Especially Jack Palance (The Mercenary) in the role of Manzari. He gives a effectively sinister and cold hearted performance. Also he dominates very scene that he is in. While on the flip side. The most disappointing performance comes from Al Cliver (Cannibals) in the role of Rick. so much of the film’s conclusion relies on his performance. And unfortunately his pretty much gives a one note performance. That is underwhelming. Overall Rulers of the City would be dead on arrival. If it were not for the charismatic performance from the ever reliable Jack Palance.
Caliber 9, The Italian Connection and The Boss are all presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Rulers of the City is presented in a 1.85:1 letterboxed widescreen. In all these fours transfers boast nicely saturated colors, accurate looking flesh tones and black levels fare well. Details look crisp, the sources used for these transfers are in great shape and there are no problems with edge enhancement.
All four films come with two audio options, a Dolby Digital Mono mix in English and a Dolby Digital Mono mix in Italian. Also included with this release are English subtitles that are easy to follow and error free. All four audio mixes sound clean, clear and balanced throughout. It should be noted that there is one scene during The Boss that is in Italian only and English subtitles will need to activated for this sequence when watching the film in English.
Extras for Caliber 9 include a text based biography and filmography for Fernando Di Leo, a audio interview with actor Gastone Moschin that has images from the film in the background and three documentaries, ‘Documentary: Caliber 9′ (29 minutes 40 seconds – 4:3 full frame, in Italian with English subtitles), ‘Fernando Di Leo: The Genius of the Genre’ (38 minutes 31 seconds – 4:3 full frame, in Italian with English subtitles) and ‘Documentary: Scerbanenco Noir’ (26 minutes 8 seconds – 4:3 full frame, in Italian with English subtitles).
Extras for The Italian Connection include a text based biography and filmography for Fernando Di Leo, a photo gallery and a documentary titled ‘Documentary: The Roots of the Mafia’ (20 minutes 36 seconds – 4:3 full frame, in Italian with English subtitles).
Extras for The Boss include a text based biography and filmography for Fernando Di Leo and a documentary titled ‘Documentary: Stories About the Mafia’ (23 minutes 19 seconds – 4:3 full frame, in Italian with English subtitles).
Extras for Rulers of the City include a text based biography and filmography for Fernando Di Leo and a documentary titled ‘Documentary: Violent City’ (15 minutes 32 seconds – 4:3 full frame, in Italian with English subtitles).
All the documentaries included with this set are well rounded discussions. That contain comments and insight from the majority of the cast and crew. The documentary ‘Fernando Di Leo: The Genius of the Genre’ is the strongest of these documentaries. With its overview of Fernando Di Leo career not only as a director, but his work as a screenwriter. It should be noted that there is some information in this documentary that is repeated in the other documentaries. The documentary titled ‘Documentary: Scerbanenco Noir’ focuses on the writings of author Giorgio Scerbanenco. Who Fernando Di Leo based many of his crime themed films on.
Also included with this release is a twenty page collectible booklet that has a interview with Fernando Di Leo and a bookmark that looks like a filmstrip. Overall Raro Video have assembled a solid collection of films at a more than affordable price point.