Written by: Michael Den Boer on December 21st, 2005
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, October 4th, 1973
Director: George P. Cosmatos
Writer: Robert Katz
Cast: Richard Burton, Marcello Mastroianni, Leo McKern, John Steiner, Anthony Steel, Robert Harris, Peter Vaughan
DVD Released: January 31st, 2006
Approximate Running Time: 104 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono Italian, Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: No Shame
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $29.95
The year is 1944 and the Second World War is nearing its end. In March of this year Italy planned to hold a parade in celebration of fascism and when the Nazi’s who are now in control of the country forbid any Italians to publicly celebrate. A group of citizens known as the Roman underground take matters by planting a bomb that is hidden in a trash bin that is set to explode when the Nazi’s march by on their daily inspections of the city. The ambush goes off without a hitch and thirty three German soldiers are killed. The Germans on orders from the high command who want to set an example are ordered to kill ten Italians for every Nazi who died during the ambush.
While most films about war often are action driven and tend to portray certain things larger then life Massacre in Rome takes the less traveled road of telling a story through a humanistic approach similar to the way Roman Polanski did in his film The Pianist. The films main action scene is the tense ambush scene which unfolds slowly as director George P. Cosmatos uses every trick in the book to drag this moment out until it is almost unbearable and then he unleashes the destruction which he shows in its rawest form as bodies lay in pools of blood in the streets.
There is no doubt that war is hell and that is forever changes all those who are involved. One aspect of this film that is not often explored in other films about war is that not all soldiers are cold blood killers and many of them have no choice to but to do what their country has asked them to do or suffer consequences they in most cases are worse then what they are being asked to do. This is expertly shown in the films final moments when all soldiers are forced to participate in the senseless execution of the Italians who have been chosen to serve as the redemption the Nazi high command demands.
This film greatest strength is its amazing cast which features Marcello Mastroianni playing a character that is in direct contrast to the type he normally does. Mastroianni is impressive in this film as he shows just the right amount of emotion and restrain. Richard Burton is also very good even this character feels like something he has played many times before with his moments in the films finale being some of his strongest work of his career. John Steiner has made a career out of playing some of the most sadistic characters in cult cinema and even though he is playing a Nazi his character is one of the more sensible in the film and actually is willing to defy orders when it becomes apparent what he is being asked to do is morally wrong.
The films editing is superb and George P. Cosmatos’s direction is solid as he keeps things simple and never tries to over stylize things. Ennio Morricone provides yet another phenomenal score that is piercing in its tone as it hauntingly compliments the films often brutal images. Massacre in Rome takes a real event out of history and makes a compelling film that succeeds on very level.
No Shame presents Massacre in Rome in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the films original 1.66:1 aspect ratio. Once again No Shame sources their transfer from excellent source material. There are no noticeable problems with artifacts or compression and there is some minor edge enhancement. Details look sharp in the background and foreground. The films color palette looks nicely saturated and black levels look strong through out. Grain is noticeable through out and flesh tones look natural. Overall this is another strong transfer from No Shame.
The release comes with two audio options Italian and English. Both come in a Dolby Digital mono. There are no problems with hiss or distortion. The music and effects sounds balanced and dialog is crisp and easy to understand. Removable English subtitles have been included that are easy to read and follow.
Extras for this release are spread over two DVD’s. The first disc includes the following extras the films English and Italian trailers. The Italian trailer comes with English subtitles. The other extra included on this disc is a poster and still gallery that plays like a featurette as music from the film plays in the background.
Extras for the second disc include a six minute interview with director George P. Cosmatos. This interview is was conducted on the set of Leviathan and it does have some amusing answers despite having little or nothing to do with Massacre in Rome. The second interview titled “Lensing a Massacre” which is a twenty one minute interview with the films Cinematographer Marcello Gatti. This interview is by far and away the most insightful of all the ones included for this release. He also introduces the film and his introduction can be found on disc one as it plays before the main feature. The third interview is titled “Amarcord Marcello” which is a thirteen minute interview with Marcello Mastroianni. This interview like the George P. Cosmatos one was not specifically made for this release and this interview consists mostly of Mastroianni walking around a hotel while he is being interviewed. They discuss many subjects and of course they don’t ever go into any real depth about Massacre in Rome. The remainder of the extras consists of three interviews two with real life Partisan’s and a historian. All three of these interviews while not exactly film related are wonderful inclusions as they offer historical insight into the events in the film was based on.
As is usual by now No Shame has also include with this release a collectable booklet which includes bios for George P. Cosmatos, Richard Burton and Marcello Mastroianni. The booklet also includes liner notes about Massacre in Rome.
No Shame continues to impress me with each new release as they have systematically released films from just about every genre of Italian cinema. I known when I first heard that this title Massacre in Rome and The Desert of the Tartars were first announced I didn’t quite known what to expect. Now that I have a chance to watch Massacre in Rome I have to say that while it is not one of your typical trashy genre films that many fans would prefer this company to release it is a diamond in the ruff that sits nicely with the rest of titles No Shame have released so far.