Written by: Michael Den Boer on July 29th, 2014
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1961
Director: Elio Petri
Writers: Pasquale Festa Campanile, Massimo Franciosa, Tonino Guerra, Elio Petri
Cast: Marcello Mastroianni, Micheline Presle, Cristina Gaioni, Salvo Randone, Andrea Checchi, Francesco Grandjacquet, Marco Mariani, Franco Ressel
BluRay released: July 21st, 2014
Approximate running time: 97 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 12 (UK)
Sound: LPCM Mono Italian
BluRay Release: Arrow Academy
Region Coding: Region B / Region 2 PAL
Retail Price: £19.99
L’Assassino was co-written and directed by Elio Petri whose other notable films include The 10th Victim, A Quiet Place in the Country and Investigation of a Citizen above Suspicion. Key collaborators on L’Assassino include screenwriters Tonino Guerra (L’Avventura, La Notte, L’Eclisse) and Pasquale Festa Campanile (Hitch Hike), cinematographer Carlo Di Palma (Blow-Up, Identification of a Woman), composer Piero Piccioni (Contempt, Camille 2000) and editor Ruggero Mastroianni a frequent collaborator of Federico Fellini and Luciano Visconti. L’Assassino Is also known under the alternative title The Ladykiller of Rome.
L’Assassino is a different kind of Italian thriller that owes more to the literary works of Franz Kafka, then to black gloved killers that were about to become synonymous with the Italian thriller that would reach their peak by the mid-1970’s.
At the core of this film is murder mystery where the police are quick to rush to judgment and in the process they forever change an innocent man’s life. The bulk of this film is told via its protagonist who a few minutes into the film is brought to the police station and spends the majority of the film there. Once in custody the protagonist is put through a series of usual interrogations in hope of breaking him and ultimately forcing him to confess. Along the away most of the back-story is filled in as flashbacks retrace the events as the protagonist remembers them. Fortunately for the protagonist the police take him to the scene of the crime in hope of jarring his memory and this inadvertently leads law enforcement to the truth they were so desperate to fabricate.
Content wise this film would deal with themes that would run rampant throughout Elio Petri’s other films, most notably isolation and corruption. In the grander scheme of things he was doing more than simply creating cinema, he was using cinema to explore how society was changing around him.
Without a doubt the most striking aspect of this film is its stunning cinematography. Every frame is exquisitely composed for maximum effect. So not only does said visuals create a tremendous amount of atmosphere, they offer up additional subtext to what the characters are saying. A few standout moments visually include a scene where police commissioner interrogates the protagonist and the hotel manager at the bottom of a spiral staircase at the place where the murder happened. Another standout visual moment is the scene where the protagonist is put in room by himself after arriving at the police station and on the other side of a one way mirror is the police commissioner watching his very nervous move.
Marcello Mastroianni (8 1/2, 10th Victim) has been cast in the role of this film’s protagonist a man named Nello Poletti and he turns in yet another remarkable performance. He effortlessly conveys all the rights emotions as his character tries to maintain his sanity as his world crumbles around him. Another performance of note is Salvo Randone in the role of the police commissioner. And the remaining cast are all more than adequate in their respective roles. Ultimately L’Assassino is a first rate thriller that does a superb job walking that delicate line between what is real and what is fiction?
L’Assassino comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. Before the main feature and in the booklet included with this release there is a detailed explanation about the restoration that was used as the source for this releases transfer. The bulk of the transfer was sourced from the original camera negative, while the opening and closing reels which had to be sourced from a first generation inter-positive. Contrast and black levels for the majority of time look very good. Though grain structure looks natural it tends to vary in thickness from scene to scene. And outside of few minor moment where the image looks a tad too soft, the image generally looks crisp throughout. Of course the opening and closing reels are the sections that look the weakest.
This release comes with one audio option, a LPCM Mono mix in Italian and removable English subtitles have been included with this release. Range wise things are limited, dialog comes through clearly, everything sounds balanced and the score sounds appropriately robust. Also there are no issues with distortion or background noise.
Extras for this release include a trailer for the film (3 minutes 45 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen, in Italian with English subtitles), a featurette with Italian cinema expert Pasquale Iannone titled ‘Elio Petri and L’Assassino’ (9 minutes 41 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen, in Italian with English subtitles) and a documentary titled ‘Tonino Guerra: A Poet in the Movies’ (51 minutes 15 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen, in Italian with English subtitles).
The interview with Pasquale Iannone serves as a well-rounded introduction to the cinema of Elio Petri, while the documentary about Tonino Guerra is a detailed and insightful overview of his career as a screenwriter.
Rounding out the extras is a DVD counterpart to the Blu-Ray included as part of this combo, reversible covert art and forty page booklet with an essay about the film, there is also a collection of contemporary reviews for the film and an essay about Italian cinema titled ‘Italian Cinema: a Castrated Elephant’. Overall L’Assassino gets a first rate from Arrow Academy.