Years Of Lead: Five Classic Italian Crime Thrillers 1973-1977
Colt 38 Special Squad
The 1970s were a time of intense uncertainty and instability in Italy. Political corruption and widespread acts of left and right-wing terrorism, alongside a breakdown in social cohesion and a loss of trust in public institutions such as the government and police, created a febrile atmosphere of cynicism, paranoia and unexploded rage. Throughout this period, these sentiments found expression in a series of brutal, often morally ambiguous crime thrillers which tapped into the atmosphere of violence and instability that defined the so-called Years of Lead.
This box set gathers five films from the heyday of the “poliziotteschi” – the umbrella term used to describe this diverse body of films. In Vittorio Salerno’s Savage Three (1975) and Mario Imperoli’s Like Rabid Dogs (1976), random acts of violence committed by vicious young sociopaths threaten the fragile fabric of respectable society. In Massimo Dallamano’s Colt 38 Special Squad (1976) and Stelvio Massi’s Highway Racer (1977), renegade cops battling against red tape and political corruption turn to new and morally dubious methods to dispense justice. Finally, class dynamics are explored in Salerno’s No, the Case is Happily Resolved (1973) as an innocent man finds himself under suspicion for a savage crime committed by a highly respected member of society.
Decried by critics for their supposedly fascistic overtones, the poliziotteschi were in fact more ideologically varied and often considerably more nuanced than such superficial readings would suggest, and proved a huge hit with theatergoers, who responded to their articulation of present-day social concerns.
Massimo Dallamano’s Colt 38 Special Squad comes to Blu-ray as the third film in Arrows Years of Lead box set, which presents five Italian crime films. The film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.39:1 with a 1080p/24hz high-definition encode. Where Arrow is using older masters supplied by their respective studios for the other films, Colt 38 is sourced from an all-new 2K restoration performed by L’Immagine Ritrovata, scanned from the 35mm original camera negative. The film shares the same dual-layer disc with Highway Racer.
Though it still has a couple of things holding it back, this is one of the stronger presentations in the set. It has a very nice film-like texture, the digital presentation doing an excellent job in rendering the film’s fine grain structure. The image is sharp and highly detailed, rarely looking fuzzy outside of a few shots that look a little dupier with a thicker grain (there are a couple also out of focus). The colours, like the other films, lean warmer, not heavily yellow, but I suspect Arrow may have adjusted the grading a bit: the blacks can look little off, details being eaten up or mildly crushed out. The colours never really pop all that much, but reds and violets (along with some blues) can have a nice vibrancy to them.
Restoration wise the image is very clean. There are a couple of specs here and there but nothing heavy. Overall, it's a sharp look image.
Arrow includes two soundtracks, both in DTS-HD MA 1.0 mono: one in Italian and one English. As with most Italian productions of the time, the dialogue was dubbed in post-production, even for the Italian soundtrack, so what track one goes with is just going to come down to preference. The Italian track does sound a little sharper and shows better fidelity and range (and voices fit with the actors a little more), but there can still be an overall harshness there, especially when things get louder. By comparison, the English track is a little flatter, even in the music and sound effects. Both tracks are clean, no heavy damage present.
The supplements in the set are broken out by film. Colt 38, outside of the original trailer and a small poster gallery presenting four posters, only features a couple of interviews for its set of supplements, both from 2006. The first interview is with composer Stelvio Cipriani (who also provides a short 45-second introduction where he plays a sample of the score) and the second is with editor Antonio Sicilliano, running 26-minutes and 9-minutes respectively. The Cipriani interview is more of a career overview, with a bit of focus on this film, the composer explaining how he worked his way into the profession and then how he developed the appropriate sound for the film and its characters, changing things up a bit. He also talks a little about his other work. Sicilliano’s contribution is more focused on the film, explaining that the story for Colt 38 wasn’t all that clear-cut initially, kind of all over the place since Dallamano was trying to throw in so much in reflection of the time, and it sounds as though the plot wasn’t really worked out until the film hit the editing room.
The interviews are okay, though the material specific to the film itself is pretty slim. There’s the mention of a sequel, so it’s disappointing there isn’t anything about that here.
The film receives one of the slimmer selection of supplements in the set, yet offers one of the stronger presentations.