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Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Years of Lead: Five Classic Italian Crime Thrillers 1973-1977 (Blu-ray Review)


The Film (Savage Three)
The Film (Like Rabid Dogs)
The Film (Colt 38: Special Squad)
The Film (Highway Racer)
The Film (No, The Case is Happily Resolved)
The Video (Savage Three)
The Video (Like Rabid Dogs)
The Video (Colt 38: Special Squad)
The Video (Highway Racer)
The Video (No, The Case is Happily Resolved)
The Audio (Overall)
The Supplements (Overall)


Hyperviolent, 70s Italian Crime films for fans of 'Bullitt,' 'Dirty Harry,' 'Falling Down,' 'The Fugitive' and 'Romper Stomper' reflect the political violence that gripped the nation from the late 60s through the late 70s.

Years of Lead: Five Classic Italian Crime Thrillers (1973-1977) Cover Art (Arrow Video)Years of Lead: Five Classic Crime Thrillers 1973-1977 brings together five Italian giallo or more precisely poliziotteschi films from the era of great criminal and political violence in Italy that gives the collection its name. This subgenre focuses on police corruption, crime, and in most cases some sort of elite, out of control criminal or group of criminals that it seems like the law cannot handle without an innovation or approach.

The first film, Savage Three (1975) follows three young, well-educated men who work together at a computer analysis firm. Outwardly, they are the kind of respectable young up and comers that no one would glance at, but they devolve into a brutal trio who launch a string of violent crimes during their late-night carousing.

In Like Rabid Dogs (1976) a group of three upper-class Roman friends, led by Tony, prey on, torture, and kill prostitutes.

In Colt 38: Special Squad (1976) a police detective forms a secret rogue crime fighting squad each armed with an unlicensed .38 Colt Diamondback revolver to go after the merciless Marseilles crime lord (Ivan Rassimov) who victimized his wife.

Highway Racer (1977) changes up the formula a bit mixing the crime thriller with a Steve McQueen-esque high octane racer. This one follows a young hot shot cop who drives a newly souped-up undercover car and has a penchant for getting into wild car chases through the streets. This one is a lot less dark than the other films in the collection and offers a good breath of air before heading into the fifth, earliest, and probably the best film in the collection, No, The Case is Happily Resolved.

In this 1973 film a railway worker witnesses a college professor brutally murder a woman in the bushes and when he notices the professor has seen him, he flees. Not trusting that the system will work in his favor, he doesn’t report the crime right away, but the professor turns the tables and fingers the railway worker as the suspect in the crime. The film flips the script on the poliziotteschi genre again by using a dogged veteran reporter to sniff out the facts in the case rather than the inept police.

These films are each gritty, low budget, but crafty in their cinematographic storytelling. For fans of the films of Lucio Fulci, probably one of the most famous of the giallo directors, this collection is a great way to go further into the genre.

Purchase Years of Lead: Five Classic Italian Crime Thrillers 1973-1977 on Amazon.com

The Video

All five films in this collection are restored from the original camera negatives, including a brand new 2K restoration of Colt 38: Special Squad exclusive to this release. Savage Three is in 1.85:1 AVC 1080p, Like Rabid Dogs in 2.35:1 AVC 1080p, Colt 38: Special Squad in 2.35:1 AVC 1080p, Highway Racer in 1.85:1 AVC 1080p, and No, the Case is Happily Resolved in 1.85:1 AVC 1080p. The first two discs couple two films on each disc and disc three has only one film, so it seems the video bitrate is somewhat limited. Despite that, the films look pretty good averaging only around 25Mbps and lower, often hovering around 16Mbps. Film grain looks natural despite some softness, the sources look clean, and colors are in keeping with the 35mm Eastmancolor processes of the era. The final film in the collection and Colt 38: Special Squad come in looking the best overall.

The Audio

All five films in the collection are presented with the original Italian mono mixes, while Colt 38: Special Squad also as an English mono dub. Oddly, Savage Three and Like Rabid Dogs have DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 while the rest of the films have LPCM 1.0, which I found strange, but it really doesn’t shift the quality of the audio much. The sound for all the films are somewhat limited in their range, a little boxy sounding, and louder sounds and music sounds slightly harsh or clipped, but dialogue does sound clean enough.

The Supplements

  • Reversible sleeves featuring original artwork for all five films
  • Booklet featuring new writing by Troy Howarth, Michael Mackenzie, Rachael Nisbet, Kat Ellinger and James Oliver

Disc 1

Savage Three

  • Rat Eat Rat (1080p; 00:40:49)– Interview with writer/director Vittorio Salerno and actress Martine Brochard, originally produced for Camera Obscura in 2017
  • The Savage One (1080p; 00:40:56) – Interview with actor Joe Dallesandro, originally produced for Camera Obscura in 2017.
  • Poster (Image Courtesy of Peter Jilmstad)

Like Rabid Dogs

  • When a Murderer Dies (1080p; 00:51:57) – Interview with cinematographer Romano Albani and film historian Fabio Melelli, originally produced for Camera Obscura in 2013.
  • It’s Not Time for Tears (1080p; 00:32:55) – Interview with assistant director Claudio Bernabei, originally produced for Camera Obscura in 2014.
  • Theatrical Trailer (1080p)
  • Music Sampler – Two tracks from the original soundtrack by Mario Molino. Music and images courtesy of Christian Ostermeier.
  • Poster Gallery – Images courtesy of Peter Jilmstad and Christian Ostermeier.

Disc 2

Colt 38: Special Squad

  • Introduction by Stelvio Cipriani (1080i; 00:00:45) – Introduction by the film’s composer, originally produced for NoShame Film’s in 2006.
  • Always the Same Ol’ Notes (1080i; 00:25:48) – Interview with composer Stelvio Cipriani, originally produced for NoShame Films in 2006.
  • A Tough Guy (1080i; 00:09:31) – Interview with editor Antonio Siciliano, originally produced for NoShame Films in 2006.
  • Theatrical Trailer (1080p)
  • Poster Gallery (1080p) – Images courtesy of Peter Jilmstad and Christian Ostermeier.

Highway Racer

  • Faster Than a Bullet (1080p; 00:19:42) — Interview with film historian Roberto Curti, originally produced for Camera Obscura in 2019.
  • Poster Gallery (1080p) – Images courtesy of Peter Jilmstad.

Disc 3

No, the Case is Happily Resolved

  • Poliziotteschi: Violence and Justice in the Years of Lead (1080p; 00:20:17) – In this new visual essay, produced exclusively for Arrow Video in 2021, critic Will Webb explores recurring traits and themes of the genre.
  • Mother Justice (1080i; 00:40:36) – Interview with writer/director Vittorio Salerno, originally produced for Camera Obscura in 2015.
  • Alternate Ending (1080p; 00:04:02) – This alternate ending was deemed too pessimistic by the film’s distributors and was replaced prior to its release.
  • Theatrical Trailer (1080p)
  • Poster Gallery (1080p) – Images courtesy of Peter Jilmstad

The Final Assessment

An excellent collection of these gritty crime dramas look great, provide hours of entertainment, and as always with Arrow, a good bit of bonus features.

Years of Lead: Five Classic Italian Crime Thrillers 1973-1977 is out on Blu-ray June 22, 2021.

Purchase Years of Lead: Five Classic Italian Crime Thrillers 1973-1977 on Amazon.com

  • Directors: Massimo Dallamano, Stelvio Massi, Carlo Lizzani, Vittorio Salerno
  • Street Date: 22 June 2021
  • Video Format: AVC 1080p
  • Primary Audio: Italian DTS-HD MA 1.0 | Italian LPCM 1.0
  • Secondary Audio: English LPCM 1.0
  • Subs: English | English SDH

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