Written by: Michael Den Boer on May 26th, 2014
BluRay Released: May 20th, 2014
Approximate running time: 100 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / VC-1 Video
Sound: DTS-HD Mono Italian, DTS-HD Mono English
BluRay Release: Raro Video USA
Region Encoding: Region Free
Retail Price: $29.98
Gang War in Milan was co-written and directed by Umberto Lenzi , a versatile filmmaker who has worked in just about every prominent genre from Italian cinema’s golden age of cinema. A few of his more notable films include A Quiet Place to Kill, Almost Human, Rome Armed to the Teeth and Nightmare City. Key collaborators on Gang War in Milan include cinematographer Lamberto Caimi (Death Occurred Last Night) and composer Carlo Rustichelli (Blood and Black Lace, Kill Baby, Kill).
Where Lucio Fucli is often remembered as ‘The Italian Godfather of Gore’, one could easily argue that Umberto Lenzi is ‘The Italian Godfather of Sadism’. And though many of his contemporaries were know to push the boundaries when it s came too sexually and violent content. Very few of his contemporaries approached violence with the sadistic enthusiasm that run deep throughout Lenzi’s 1970’s and early 1980’s output. With this cycle of films reaching an apex with what it arguably his most violent film Cannibal Ferox.
Also during this era Lenzi primarily worked in two Giallo (Italian thrillers) and Poliziotteschi (Italian police procedurals). And though he had since become more recognized for his work in the latter, he output in the Poliziotteschi genre features some of this genres best films, most notably films like Almost Human, Rome Armed to the Teeth, Violent Naples, From Corleone to Brooklyn and Gang War in Milan.
Content wise where the majority of Italian crime films focus on the struggle between law enforcement and the criminals, this is not the case with Gang War in Milan which shifts the focus towards two rival’s criminal organizations and their impending power struggle. And the police serving as not much more then background fodder. Fortunately for a film filled with unlikable characters the end result is a lot of fun to watch as they try to one up each other.
From a visual stand point Lenzi’s direction is rock solid as he really finds his groove during the more brutal moments. And for a film that is filled with many moments of brutality, this film’s most shining moment in this regard is a torture scene that involves electrocution and genitals. Pacing is never an issue as everything moves along at a break neck pace. Though this film is not as action heavy as most Poliziotteschi films, when action does erupt it is done with great precision. Also the plot has a few weird twists that further spice up this well made dish of exploitative cinema.
From a performance stand point the film puts most of the attention on its two leading men Antonio Sabato (Spasmo) of the Milan crime boss and Philippe Leroy (The Frightened Woman) in the role of French gangster at odds with Sabato’s character. And though both of these actors more then fill the role of being a leading man, it is two lesser characters which ultimately leave the strongest impression. And these two performances are Marissa Mell (Danger: Diabolik) in the role of this film’s femme fatale and Antonio Casagrande (Beatrice Cenci) in the role of Sabato’s characters right hand man. His character also happens to the one whose genitals get electrocuted. Overall with Gang War in Milan, Umberto Lenzi would mark his first foray in the Poliziotteschi genre with an explosive film that is highly entertaining and over flowing with exploitative elements.
Gang War in Milan comes on a 25 GB single layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. When it comes to Italian films and their transfers for Blu-Ray releases there have been a few issues in regards to use of DNR and grain structure. For this transfer Raro delivers one of their better transfers as colors look vibrant, details generally look crisp and black levels fare well throughout. With that being said this transfer still has a few minor issues like some very mild use of DNR is a few scenes. In regards to how Raro’s transfer compares to previous home video releases, it is marked improvement upon, especially when it comes to color saturation.
This release comes with two audio options, a DTS-HD Mono mix in Italian and a DTS-HD Mono mix in English. The differences between the two audio mixes in minimal in terms of quality and range. Though both are limited in range, they are both more than satisfactory mix that always presents dialog clearly, everything sounds balanced and the score sounds appropriately robust. Also there is some mild instances of background noise which never become too intrusive. Also included with this release are removable English subtitles.
Extras for this release include a introduction to the film with Italian crime cinema expert Mike Malloy (5 minutes 51 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen) and a twelve page booklet with a essay about the film written by Mike Malloy and a text bio / filmography for director Umberto Lenzi. Also included with this release is a slip cover that has alternative cover then what is used for the Blu-Ray covert art inside the keep case. Overall Gang War in Milan gets a strong release from Raro Video.
Note: This film is also being released by Raro Video USA on DVD.