Written by: Michael Den Boer on December 27th, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1952
Director: Alberto Lattuada
Writers: Alberto Lattuada, Giorgio Prosperi, Giordano Corsi, Enzo Curreli, Luigi Malerba, Leonardo Sinisgalli, Cesare Zavattini
Cast:Renato Rascel, Yvonne Sanson, Giulio Stival, Ettore Mattia, Giulio Calì
DVD released:January 17th, 2012
Approximate running time: 107 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Full Frame
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono Italian
DVD Release: Raro Video
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $29.98
Synopsis: A poor city clerk is given the chance to buy a new overcoat, because he overhears some information at work that he was not supposed to hear. Not wanting this information to get out, his boss bribes him for his secrecy. Shortly after getting his new overcoat, his confidence rises at a rapid pace and he is invited to a party at the mayor’s home. Unfortunately his moment in the spotlight is short lived, on the way home a mugger steals his new overcoat.
The Overcoat was co-written and directed by Alberto Lattuada, who’s other notable films include Variety Lights (which he co-directed with Federico Fellini), Come Have Coffee with Us, Mafioso and Stay as You Are. The screenplay for The Overcoat was adapted from Nikolai Gogol’s short story also titled ‘The Overcoat’.
Key collaborators on The Overcoat include cinematographer Mario Montuori (A Breath of Scandal, Forgotten Pistolero) and screenwriter Cesare Zavattini, who is most known for his collaborations with Vittorio De Sica, most notably Shoeshine, Bicycle Thieves and Umberto D.
Though the plot does on occasion interject social commentary, it is not these moments which drive the narrative. In fact, it is this film’s protagonist a poor city clerk named Carmine and his need to be accepted by those around him, that makes the story at hand all the more potent. And just like a ‘superhero’ he assumes a new persona once he put on his costume, in this case his new coat.
And while there is a somber tone that engulfs the bulk of the narrative. One should not overlook the importance that the humor plays in this film. After all, comedy and tragedy go hand in hand. It should be noted that the humor that leans more towards satirizing, that it often misses the mark. While the humor that revolves around the film’s protagonist is this film’s more durable asset.
The success of this film lays squarely on the shoulders of its leading man Renato Rascel (The Secret of Santa Vittoria) and fortunately he is up for the task, as he gives a pitch perfect performance. And without a doubt the scenes in which he struts around town in his new coat are this film’s most entertaining moments. One of these stand out moments include a pair of scenes in which he is supposed to writing down what the mayor is saying and in the end he fails to do even this remedial task. On the other hand, he more than handles himself well during the more dramatic moments drenched in melancholy, especially this film’s unforgettable conclusion.
Raro Video presents The Overcoat in a 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio that retains the film’s original aspect ratio. The source used is in very good shape, contrast and black levels look consistently good and details look crisp throughout.
This release comes with one audio option, a Dolby Digital mono in Italian and removable English subtitles have been included with this release. Background noise is minimal, everything sounds balanced and dialog always comes through clearly.
Extras for this release include twenty five minutes of silent rushes from the film, a interview with screenwriter / director Angelo Pasquini (13 minutes 23 seconds – 4:3 full frame, in Italian with English subtitles), who discusses key moments in the film (his comments contain several spoilers about the plot), the fantasy genre (the lack there of) in Italian literature and cinema and other films like Miracle in Milan and The Last Judgment ( both films were directed by Alberto Lattuada). Other extras include a audio commentary with professor of film and film criticism Flavio De Bernardinis and film critic Gabrielle Lucantonio, who discuss, the cast, the book from which the film was adapted, Alberto Lattuada and they also provided critical analysis of the film. This is a detailed that contains a wealth of information about this production and those involved in its making. Also included with this release is slip cover that has different image, then the one used for the front cover art on the DVD and a twenty page collectable that include a text essay about the film, a text essay about its director titled ‘From Gogol to Alberto Lattuada’ that was written by Gabrielle Lucantonio, a text essay about the first version of the story, a text essay that includes comments from Alberto Lattuada about The Overcoat and the story from which the film was adapted, comments from a three film critics, a text bio and selected filmography for director. Overall The Overcoat gets a solid release from Raro Video.