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Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Giallo Essentials (Black Edition) (Blu-ray Review)


The Film (Smile Before Death)
The Film (The Weapon, The Hour, The Motive)
The Film (The Killer Reserved Nine Seats)
The Video
The Audio
The Supplements


Three early 1970s gialli films that explore multiple styles from this popular Italian genre.

Dario Argento looms large of the world of giallo filmmaking with films such as The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and Deep Red, but despite his oversized presence, there are many other films and filmmakers in the genre worth seeing. Arrow have been exploring these “essential” films in a number of collections, the latest being this Giallo Essentials: Black Edition set consisting of three quite different yet all enjoyable gialli.

The first film in the set, Smile Before Death (Silivio Amado, 1972) dives right into the shocking and prurient, familicide and erotic lesbianism as teenager Nancy returns home to find out her mother has committed suicide. She begins to suspect her stepfather and his lover are really to blame for her death. The sleaze continues with The Weapon, The Hour, The Motive (Francesco Mazzei, 1972) but this time it is a philandering priest who is on the chopping block. His murder sparks an investigation. Cue the lesbian-esque, self-flagellating nuns. Finally, the set wraps up with The Killer Reserved Nine Seats (Giuseppe Bennati, 1974) where, in a throwback to the genre’s Gothic origins harkening back to the films of Mario Bava, a group of very unlikeable friends visit a villa and find themselves trapped by a mystery killer.

Three gialli and three different approaches, from straight mystery to prurient erotica, to cliché nude nuns, to a contemporary update of the Italian Gothic horror, each film here as a lot to offer for film lovers who enjoy this genre and its various offshoots and anyone looking to explore them.

The Video

These are new 2K restorations from the original camera negatives of Smile Before Death and The Weapon, the Hour, the Motive and an earlier 2K restoration of The Killer Reserved Nine Seats from the original camera negative. Smile Before Death is framed at 2.35:1 while the other two films are framed at 1.85:1. All three films are encoded in AVC 1080p. There is some film softness that is apparent in all three films, but overall, these are pleasing and organic looking transfers with good color reproduction, especially in the primaries. Reds have excellent ‘pop’ in particular and flesh tones look rather natural. The shadows can tip a little into noisiness, but there is good detail and nuance in the darker areas as well.

The Audio

All films other than The Weapon, The Hour, The Motive have both Italian LPCM 1.0 and English LPCM 1.0. There is no English on The Weapon… The sound is about what one would expect for early 1970s gialli in mono – a little claustrophobic, limited in dynamics, but basically clear and listenable.

The Supplements

There is a boatload of bonus features included in this collection, including the excellent audio commentaries, the standout being the fun Kat Ellinger commentary for The Killer Reserved Nine Seats.

  • Rigid box packaging with original artwork in a windowed Giallo Essentials Collection slipcover
  • Reversible sleeves for each film featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Adam Rabalais, Peter Strain and Haunt Love

Smile Before Death

2.35:1 AVC 1080p

Italian LPCM 1.0

Secondary: English LPCM 1.0

Subs: English

  • Audio Commentary by Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson
  • Smile of the Hyena (1080p; 00:23:25) – A brand new video interview with Stefano Amadio, film journalist and son of Silvio Amadio, recorded exclusively for Arrow Films on April 2022.
  • Extended Nude Scenes (1080p; 00:03:15) – This footage, featuring Jenny Tamburi and Rosalba Neri, was shot but never integrated into the finished film. It is presented here without audio.
  • Image Gallery (1080p)

The Weapon, The Hour, The Motive

1.85:1 AVC 1080p

Italian LPCM 1.0

Subs: English

  • Audio Commentary by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas
  • A Man in Giallo (1080p; 00:13:32) – A brand new video interview with actor Salvatore Puntillo, recorded exclusively for Arrow Films in April 2022.
  • English Front and End Titles (1080p; 00:03:26)
  • Image Gallery (1080p)

The Killer Reserved Nine Seats

Italian LPCM 1.0

Secondary: English LPCM 1.0

Subs: English

  • Audio Commentary by Kat Ellinger
  • Hanging with Howard (1080i; 00:08:23) – Video interview with actor Howard Ross, originally recorded for Camera Obscura in 2013.
  • Writing with Biagio (1080i; 00:28:38) – Video interview with screenwriter Biagio Proietti, originally recorded for Camera Obscura in 2013.
  • Theatrical Trailer (1080p):
    • In Italian
    • In English
  • Image Gallery (1080p)

The Final Assessment

Arrow Video serve up a delicious chunk of gialli beyond Dario Argento in these three ‘essentials’ that look great and come packed with extras.

  • Studios & Distributors: Arrow Video
  • Directors: Silvio Amadio | Francesco Mazzei | Giuseppe Bennati
  • Run Time: 289 Mins.
  • Street Date: 30 August 2022
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 | 2.35:1
  • Video Format: AVC 1080p
  • Primary Audio: Italian LPCM 1.0 | English LPCM 1.0
  • Subtitles: English

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Giallo Essentials (Black Edition) (Blu-ray Review)Three early 1970s gialli films that explore multiple styles from this popular Italian genre.
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