Written by: Michael Den Boer on June 10th, 2008
Theatrical Release Date: Spain, 1963
Director: Jesus Franco
Writer: Juan Cobos, Jesus Franco, Gonzalo Sebastián de Erice
Cast: Fernando Fernán Gómez, Jean Servais, Laura Granados, Antonio Prieto, Robert Manuel, Maria Vincent, Dina Loy, Agustín González, Manuel Gas, Luis Marín
DVD released: 2007
Approximate running time: 100 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Letterboxed Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo Castilian
DVD Release: Filmax
Region Coding: Region 2 NTSC (Spain)
Retail Price: 9,95 € (Euro)
Synopsis: Maurice Leprince the head of an organized crime organization has Juan a police informer killed to protect his political campaign. Juan’s contact man Detective Miguel Mora confronts Maurice Leprince who unleashes his thugs on the detective. The beating nearly kills Detective Mora who refuses to give up until he puts Maurice Leprince behind bars. To complicit matters those connected with the killing of Juan the police informer start turning up dead as the killer inches closer to the their ultimate goal killing Maurice Leprince.
Rififí en la ciudad is based on the Charles Exbrayat’s novel “Vous souvenez-vous de Paco?”. The film’s title Rififí en la ciudad only connection to the Jules Dassin film Rififi is that they both feature an actor named Jean Servais. The plot revolves around a hardboiled detective cut in the mold of Sam Spade. Besides the main part of the plot centering on the bringing down of corrupt politician/crime boss Maurice Leprince. The key event that helps drive the main plot center’s around the killer’s motivation for killing Maurice Leprince’s Henchmen. The deaths in the film are done is a giallo like way with the killer wearing black and their indemnity not being revealed until very late in the film. The plot is filled with exciting moment and the pacing of the film is pitch-perfect.
The look and feel of the film is very much in the spirit and style of the Film Noir genre. Visually there are some wonderfully realized compositions and the black & white image is beautifully lit. Despite being a early film from Jess Franco there are many moments that foreshadow stylistic choices that have become so identified with his later films. The action is top notch and some of the fighting scenes are brutal. There are many scenes that center around the nightclub that Maurice Leprince and as usual Franco shows his uncanny knack for combined music and image via stage performances. One of my favorite moments in the film involves the night club singer who during one of her numbers stands in front of a row of mirrors. The films conclusion and that build up too it is very satisfying. Rififí en la ciudad features a wonderful score from Daniel White who at this point had only worked with Jess Franco once before, The Sadistic Baron Von Klaus.
The cast may not feature many names outside of maybe Jean Servais who cult movie fans will recognize. This doesn’t mean that the acting is not up to snuff. In fact it is one of better all around acted films directed by Jess Franco. Fernando Fernán Gómez is convincing in the lead role as Detective Miguel Mora. The most memorable performance is Jean Servais Maurice Leprince. His performance is cold and calculating with his character’s unflinching ability to kill anyone in his way. Making her film debut was an actress named Dina Loy who some Franco fans might recognize from Residence for Spies and Attack of the Robots. All of the female leads Laura Granados, Maria Vincent and Dina Loy are exquisitely photographed by Jess Franco.
Ultimately Jess Franco is a chameleon like filmmaker whose films mostly fall into two categories’ beautifully cuts gems or cubic zirconium. Rififí en la ciudad is one of the diamonds in the ruff.
Rififí en la ciudad is presented in a letterboxed widescreen that preserves the films original 1.66:1 aspect ratio. The black and white image is in fantastic shape with only a few very minor instances of print damage. The black levels look superb throughout and shadow details looks strong throughout. Overall the transfer is on par with Image Entertainment’s transfers’ for The Sadistic Baron Von Klaus, The Awful Dr. Orloff and Dr. Orloff’s Monster.
This release comes with one audio option a Dolby Digital mono mix in Castilian. The audio sounds clean and evenly balanced. There are no problems with distortion or any other audio defects. There are no English audio or subtitles options.
This release is a barebones affair with a plain menu that allows you to either play the film or choose a scene via chapter selection. Filmax’s DVD release for Rififí en la ciudad is by far and away their best Jess Franco DVD release. The only two knocks against this superb release is that the transfer is non anamorphic and that there are no English audio or subtitle options. Oddly enough this transfer does feature some letters that are in English but are narrated in Castilian.
Out of all the Jess Franco films yet to receive a English friendly release Rififí en la Ciudad is one of the best and it also has the best chance of finding an audience beyond its base core of Jess France Fans.