Written by: John White on April 4th, 2006
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1988
Director: Tinto Brass
Cast: Giancarlo Giannini, Philippe Léotard, François Négret, Raffaella Baracchi
DVD released: April 17th 2006
Approximate running time: 103 mins
Aspect Ratio: Letterboxed Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono Italian
DVD Release: Arrow Films
Region Coding: Region 0 PAL (UK)
Retail Price: £15.99
Synopsis: The Lawyer is a bag man for a gangster who has to take Milena, his lover, for an abortion in a seaside town. Once there he meets a whizkid gangster, Molecola, with great ideas for the future of the town and the Lawyer agrees to work for him. Molecola has arranged a huge party for a returning sports hero, Faffo, and the Lawyer enjoys the festivities with Molecola’s army of prostitutes until they realize that Faffo has not turned up . Molecola asks the Lawyer to put the squeeze on the owners of a guest house and he agrees. Once he gets there the lawyer recognizes an immigrant family that he felt sorry for and threw a trial for and loses his temper at one of Molecola’s men killing him. When Molecola finds out his gang surround the guest house and a final confrontation is needed between the young boss and the aging crooked Lawyer.
Snack Bar Budapest is very much a Tinto Brass film but is also aiming for a kind of noirish feel. The opening shots of a hospital involve nurses in suspenders, Tinto turns up as a judge, nurses answer the door to strangers wearing little but panties, all of the prostitutes are gorgeous and the camera is entranced by their backsides. There is even a siege scene with the army of prostitutes wearing varieties of lingerie whilst shooting at the Lawyer, a bit like an Ann Summer firing squad!
Where this film is very different to later Brass films like Cheeky, Frivolous Lola or PO Box is that it’s primary goal is not to arouse but to tell a story of a man gone bad learning to be good again. This the film does brilliantly. Giancarlo Giannini (Black Belly of the Tarantula) has a kind of crumpled sleazy Mastroianni like charm and there are several scenes in Snack Bar Budapest which reminded me of Fellini’s Eight and a Half with Giannini almost draped in the unfeasibly beautiful prostitutes like Guido and his Harem. The dark atmosphere of this film gives it a great noir feel and the Lawyer’s eventual redemption is tempered by the loss of his love.
There is one particularly fun scene where Molecola’s gang take the Lawyer to see a porn film, as they call it, and the cinema is trashed whilst Brass’s own The Key plays. This wit to one side, Snack Bar Budapest is surprisingly effective and involving as a thriller whilst being sexy and silly when it wants to be. I felt it was the best of Brass’s films that I have seen and definitely worth seeking out.
Arrow films are the first DVD company to release this neglected goodie. The source materials do show a bit of wear with the odd scratch to the celluloid and the overall contrast being a little too severe but this is a good print. The transfer is excellent with little noise or grain and presented in letterboxed widescreen.
The sound does have the odd bit of damage so there are hisses and pops at times but very rarely, and there is no distortion I can hear. The English subtitles are excellent.
Snack Bar Budapest has been long awaited on DVD. Whilst nearly all of Tinto Brass’s back catalogue has been released, this is the first time it has been released on DVD and Arrow have done an excellent job. If you like Gialli or Brass’s usual oeuvre then this is for you.