Written by: Michael Den Boer on November 15th, 2006
Theatrical Release Dates: Italy, 1974
Director: Carlo Lizzani
Cast: Rod Steiger, Henry Fonda, Franco Nero
DVD released: November 14th, 2006
Approximate running time: 129 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono Italian
DVD Release: No Shame
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.95
Synopsis: The year in 1945 and World War 2 is in its final stages. Mussolini is now a man on the run as his has now become the hunted. The citizens of Italy want justice for the atrocities he committed through out the war and the allied forces are also interested in capturing him. His former allies the German’s now watch his every move like a hawk making an escape from Italy near impossible. Mussolini has become a desperate man whose only chance for survival is an escape across the Italy’s border into Switzerland.
The Last Days of Mussolini recreates the final fours days of Mussolini’s life with the utmost realism. Director Carlo Lizzani use real locations to their fullest and the screenplay benefits greatly by staying close to the facts of this story. His direction perfectly captures Mussolini’s paranoia. The plot remains interesting through out despite the films two hour plus length. One other aspect of this film that stands out is that even though this film is about war there are no battles scenes and even when gun fire erupts it is brief.
The acting in this film is superb with a virtual cast of who’s who. Cast as the films lead Benito Mussolini is academy award winning actor Rod Steiger who totally immerse himself in the character and by the end of the film you start to believe he is Mussolini. Not only does he physically resemble Mussolini he also effortlessly recreates many of Mussolini’s mannerisms. Two minor roles played by well known veteran actors are Henry Fonda as Cardinal Schuster and Franco Nero as Colonel Valerio. Henry Fonda has had better roles and he at times looks like he is just going through the motions. Franco Nero who has played his fare share of intense characters’ does an admirable job as Colonel Valerio. It is just too bad he is under used and has very little screen time. The acting all around is more then adequate with the standout performance being Rod Steiger as Benito Mussolini.
Ennio Morricone’s score pierces the heart with its menacing and haunting melodies. The film also makes good use of stock footage from the war. It is too bad that during some of these scenes that the blue screen effects used is not only obvious but looks very cheap. Many times when bio pictures are made those involved try to romanticize their subject and it is refreshing how actor Rod Steiger and director Carlo Lizzani humanize Mussolini. Ultimately The Last Days of Mussolini is a compelling film about the final days of one of World War 2’s most enigmatic figures.
The Last Days of Mussolini is presented in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the films original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The image remains stable and detailed through out. Colors look nicely saturated and accurately reproduced. There is some noticeable grain that is more present in some scenes then others and it is most likely inherent to the source material. There are no problems with compression, artifacts or edge enhancement.
Even though this release states on the box art that is comes with an English audio track is does not (at least the copy I received does not come with an English audio track). The only audio option included with this release is a Dolby Digital mono mix in Italian. There are no problems with distortion or any other sound defects and dialog is clear and easy to follow. The movie starts with a disclaimer from No Shame who say that previous English language versions don’t faithfully translate what is really being said and that the Italian audio track is the only way to watch this film. They have also created English subtitles for this release that more accurately translate what is being said.
Extras for this release include the films original trailer in Italian with English subtitles and a brief photo gallery that is about a minute long. The main extra for this release is a sixteen minute interview with director Carlo Lizzani titled “The Long Way to Freedom”. He discusses how the film was based mostly on facts and how real locations where used. He also talks about the critical response to the film and working with actors like Rod Steiger, Henry Fonda and Franco Nero. Overall a lot of ground is cover in a mere sixteen minutes.
This release also comes with a collectible booklet that comes with liners notes about Italian sex comedies and bios for Rod Steiger and Henry Fonda.
The Last Days of Mussolini is an extraordinary film that gets an exceptional release from No Shame that is on par with their usual high standards of quality and substance.