Written by: Michael Den Boer on July 31st, 2013
Theatrical Release Dates: Italy, 1969 (Naked Violence), Italy, 1974 (Shoot First, Die Later), Italy, 1975 (Kidnap Syndicate)
Director: Fernando Di Leo
Cast: Pier Paolo Capponi, Nieves Navarro, Marzio Margine, Renato Lupi, Enzo Liberti, Giuliano Manetti, Danika La Loggia, Gabriella D’Olive, Salvatore Arico, Michel Bardinet (Naked Violence), Luc Merenda, Richard Conte, Delia Boccardo, Raymond Pellegrin, Gianni Santuccio, Vittorio Caprioli, Salvo Randone (Shoot First, Die Later), Luc Merenda, James Mason, Irina Maleeva, Marino Masé, Daniele Dublino, Vittorio Caprioli, Valentina Cortese, Salvatore Billa, Marco Liofredi, Francesco Impeciati (Kidnap Syndicate)
BluRay Released: July 30th, 2013
Approximate Running Times: 96 minutes (Naked Violence), 94 minutes (Shoot First, Die Later), 98 minutes (Kidnap Syndicate)
Aspect Ratios: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive (All Films)
Sound: DTS-HD Mono English, DTS-HD Mono Italian (All Films)
Subtitles: English (All Films)
BluRay Release: Raro Video
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $49.98
Key collaborators on Naked Violence include cinematographer Franco Villa, who worked with Di Leo on every film he directed from Code Name, Red Roses to Italian Sex and composer Silvano Spadaccino (Beatrice Cenci, Slaughter Hotel). Naked Violence would also mark the first of Di Leo’s many adaptations of novels written by Giorgio Scerbanenco.
Though the majority of Fernando Di Leo’s film’s are known for their explosive opening sequences. One would be hard pressed to find an Italian thriller with a more intense opening credits sequence, then the opening credit sequence in Naked Violence. It is during these few opening minutes that the crime for which the remainder of the film hangs on takes place. And from there the film is mostly confined to a handful of locations where suspects are forcefully integrated about said crime. With the most surprising aspect of this film is how firmly it holds your attention with not much more than words the characters saying.
As mentioned before this is a character driven film and though it is not as visually flashy as some of Di Leo’s latter epic crime films. That is not to say that he does not take full advantage of the few moments he does have an opportunity to let the visuals flourish. Most notably the scenes leading up to the finale and the revealing of the killers’ identity.
Performance wise the entire cast are very good, especially the younger actors portraying the delinquent youths. Another performance of note is Nieves Navarro (Death Walks at Midnight) in the role of a social worker who joins the investigation at the request of the lead inspector. Ultimately Naked Violence is yet another exceptional example of Di Leo’s effortlessly ability to make engaging cinema that is entertaining and resonates with you long after its final resolution.
Shoot First, Die Later: A corrupt detective finds himself in too deep with the criminal underworld that’s been paying him off.
Shoot First, Die Later was co-written and directed by Fernando di Leo, arguably the forerunner in the Italian crime thriller genre (Poliziotteschi) from the 1970′s. Key collaborators include screenwriter Sergio Donati (The Big Gundown, Once Upon a Time in the West), cinematographer Franco Villa (Milano Calibro 9, Giallo in Venice) and composer Luis Bacalov (Django, The Grand Duel).
Content wise, Shoot First, Die Later echoes many themes explored in previous Fernando di Leo crime thrillers. The more pronounced violence in Shoot First, Die Later presents an escalation of gruesome moments of carnage that would reach its fever pitch with To Be Twenty
When it comes to gritty action set pieces very few of Fernando di Leo’s contemporaries come close to capturing the ferocity that is evident in all of his crime thrillers. Right from the get go he establishes a brutal tone that lingers throughout with an opening sequence involving torture. And though this is just one of many violent moments in the film, Fernando di Leo also spends an ample amount of time establishing both character and motivation.
From top to bottom this production excels in every area. The visuals are rock solid, pacing is never an issue, and the aforementioned action set pieces are all top notch; especially the obligatory car chase sequence. Performance wise the entire cast are all very good in their respective roles with the most surprising performance coming from Luc Merenda (Torso) as the protagonist; a corrupt police detective named Domenico Malacarne. This performance is far and away the most memorable of his career. Ultimately Shoot First, Die Later is an exceptional Poliziotteschi that achieves a perfect balance between the more violent moments and an underlying subtext about abuse of power.
Key collaborators on Kidnap Syndicate include screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi (The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh, Almost Human), cinematographer Erico Menczer (The Cat O’ Nine Tails) and composer Luis Bacalov (Django, The Grand Duel).
Though Kidnap Syndicate is rooted in the crime genre like the bulk of his filmogrpahy. The end result is something that stands apart from anything else he had made to that point in his career or anything that would follow this film.
By the mid 1970’s two elements that were on the rise in the crime film genre include kidnapping and vigilantes. And this the case of Kidnap Syndicate these too worlds merge flawlessly. And in many ways one could almost propose that each half of the film represent each of these two worlds. The first half is all about the abduction, while the second half is about exacting vengeance.
Also though there is some subtext that underlines this film like all of Di Leo’s films. It is not as pronounced here in this film. And this is another reason why this film stands apart from the majority of Di Leo’s cinematic cannon.
Content wise, there are richly detailed characters, never a shortage of brutally onscreen and a handful of jaw dropping chase sequences to top things off. The visuals are first rate and a brisk pacing ensures that getting from point A to Z is never an issue.
Performance wise the entire cast all good in their respective roles. With most of the focus being on this film’s leading man Luc Merenda (Gambling City) giving one of the more well rounded performances of his career. On the other hand James Mason (North by Northwest, Lolita) gives a wonderfully flamboyant performance that offers up a nice contrast to Merenda’s aforementioned performance. Overall despite its bleak subject matter Kidnap Syndicate is riveting crime drama that ultimately succeeds due to its strong payoff.
Naked Violence, Shoot First, Die Later and Kidnap Syndicate are presented in a 1080 progressive anamorphic widescreen. Also each film that is included as part of this collection come on a 25 GB single layer BluRay. Content wise Shoot First, Die Later is the exact same disc that Raro USA released a few months earlier. The transfer for Kidnap Syndicate look very good as colors are nicely saturated and details look crisp throughout. It should be noted that this transfer also exhibits some minor instances of print debris. Though the transfer for Naked Violence is the weakest of the lot. The end result is still a marked improvement upon previous releases of this film.
Each films comes with two audio options, a DTS-HD Mono mix in English and a DTS-HD Mono mix in Italian. Also included with this release are English subtitles that are easy to follow and error free. As noted before content wise Shoot First, Die Later is the exact same disc that Raro USA released a few months earlier. All of the audio mixes sound clear and balanced throughout. Range wise these films tend to be limited, but then that is to be expected considering the limitations of these films mono sources.
Then there is a differences in the quality of the performances of the Italian verse English audio mixes, with the obvious edge in every instance going to the Italian language track. As is often the case with foreign films the English ‘dubbed’ audio mixes tend to drastically change the vibe of the film.
Extras for Naked Violence include a a segment titled ‘Fernando Di Leo at the Cinematheque Francaise’ (15 minutes 13 seconds – 4:3 full frame, in French with English subtitles) and a featurette titled ‘Those Goodfellas’ (18 minutes 49 seconds – 4:3 full frame, in Italian with English subtitles). Topics discussed in ‘Fernando Di Leo at the Cinematheque Francaise’ include a well rounded critical overview of Di Leo’s films . The comments from this segment come from Jean-François Rauger and Oliver Pere who both work at Cinematheque Francaise located in Paris, France. Topics discussed in ‘Those Goodfellas’ include the differences between the source novel / story and the film, difficulties that arose during filming, casting and the use of handheld camera’s during the film’s pivotal rape sequence. The last five minutes of this featurette are devoted to actor Pier Paolo Capponi who discusses the character he portrayed in the film and the actor he worked with. This featurette includes comments from Fernando Di Leo, Pier Paolo Capponi, assistant director Franco Lo Cascio and critics Maurizio Colombo and Luca Crovi.
Extras for this release include a trailer for the film that can be watched in Italian with English subtitles or in English (3 minutes 20 seconds – anamorphic widescreen) and two featurette’s, the first on with director Fernando di Leo titled ‘Master of the Game’ (24 minutes 58 seconds – anamorphic widescreen, in Italian with English subtitles) and the second one titled ‘The Second Round of the Game’ (21 minutes 20 seconds – anamorphic widescreen, in Italian with English subtitles) and it includes comments from assistant director Franco Lo Cascio, actor Luc Merenda and editor Amedeo Giomini. Both featurette’s not only do a superb job covering the various production aspects of Shoot First, Die Later. They both also give a well rounded view of its director, not only in his own words, but comments from a handful of people who worked with him.
Extras for Kidnap Syndicate include a featurette titled ‘Violent Cities: The Other Fernando Di Leo’s Trilogy’ (28 minutes 17 seconds – 4:3 full frame, in Italian with English subtitles). Topics discussed in this featurette primarily revolve around three films that Luc Merenda with Frenando Di Leo. These three films are Shoot First, Die Later, Kidnap Syndicate and Nick the Sting. Comments in this featurette from actor Luc Merenda, producer Armando Novelli, actress Dagmar Lassander, editor Amedeo Giomini and Fernando Di Leo.
Also included with this release is a twenty four page collectible booklet that contains essay for each, text essays about the production, the cast, the score, a essay about a proposed collaboration between Fernando Di Leo and director Jean Pierre Melville, a text bio for Fernando Di Leo and a essay titled ‘The Director of the action – Gilberto Galimberti’. Overall this is yet another exceptional release from Raro USA who continue to be the forerunners of Italian cinema on home video, highly recommended.
Note: This films are also being released by Raro USA on DVD.