Released within months of Fellini's La Dolce Vita and Antonioni's La Notte, Elio Petri's dazzling first feature The Assassin (L'Assassino) also stars Marcello Mastroianni, this time as dandyish thirtysomething antiques dealer Alfredo Martelli, arrested on suspicion of murdering his older, far wealthier lover Adalgisa (Micheline Presle). But as the increasingly Kafkaesque police investigation proceeds, it becomes less and less important whether Martelli actually committed the crime as his entire lifestyle is effectively put on trial. Best known for Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion and The Tenth Victim, Petri was one of the finest and yet most underrated Italian directors of the 1960s and 70s. Highly acclaimed on its original release but unjustly neglected since, The Assassin is a remarkably assured debut from one of the cinema's sharpest chroniclers of Italian social and political realities. Petri said that he wanted to reflect the changes wrought by the early sixties, and to examine "a new generation of upstarts who lacked any kind of moral scruple". Arrow Academy is proud to present The Assassin in a gorgeous high-definition restoration created by the Cineteca di Bologna.
Arrow Video’s edition of Elio Petri’s debut feature film The Assassin makes its way over to North America and is presented here on Blu-ray in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on a dual-layer disc. The 1080p/24hz high-definition encode comes from a new 2K restoration of the film. A dual-layer DVD is also included, presenting the film in standard-definition and enhanced for widescreen televisions.
Arrow’s notes point out that this new restoration comes primarily from a new scan of the original 35mm negatives, but due to the fact the first and last reels were missing they had to go to a first generation interpositive for the missing pieces. Pleasingly this actually isn’t too big of an issue, though it’s still not hard to tell where this separation occurs while watching. A majority of the film looks almost faultless, coming off very filmic and clean. The restoration work has been incredibly thorough, with a handful of faint but occasionally noticeable marks (some transitions can get heavier with damage) and some slight flicker, and pulsing. But the image doesn’t present any digital anomalies, retaining a natural look, and film grain looks nice.
Contrast also looks very good most of the time, with excellent tonal shifts and rich blacks that don’t come off too heavy in darker areas of the screen, allowing most of the details to still pop. But it’s the contrast that gives away when we change sources. The opening and closing to the film looks a bit darker, as if the contrast may be off just ever so slightly. The grays can look a little darker and the blacks are a little heavier. Grain also looks less defined and a bit clumpier, but not by a lot, it’s just a noticeable enough difference. Still, the restoration has been very good and very little damage remains, and I still found the image filmic. Despite that slight shift in quality between the prints still looks fairly seamless and I was still impressed by the work.
The audio track presents the film’s original Italian soundtrack in LPCM 1.0 mono. It’s a bit flat but fine enough, dialogue easy to hear and the film’s score and background effects showing some fidelity. The track is quite clean with no obvious pops or drops. It’s not showy but it’s about what I expected and more than fine.
Arrow’s edition isn’t an overly jam-packed edition, only featuring a handful of on-disc supplements. Pasquale Iannone first provides a 10-minute introduction to the film, going briefly over director Elio Petri's early career before offering a few insights into The Assassin, even briefly going over some of its controversies (it had been censored primarily for how it presented authorities in the film). This is a fine run-up to the film but the real meat is in the 51-minute documentary on screenwriter Tonino Guerra entitled Tonino Guerra: A Poet in the Movies. Guerra was a writer for The Assassin but of course was also responsible for a number of classics, including a lot of Michelangelo Antonioni’s and Federico Fellini’s films, even Tarkovsky’s Nostaghia. The documentary is admittedly nothing too special: it goes through the motions of docs of this type, looking at his early life and career, mixed with interviews with the man himself. It is a well put together one, though, and keeps one’s interest.
A theatrical trailer closes the disc. Like just about all of Arrow’s releases we also get a booklet filled with some great stuff. Camilla Zamboni first provides an essay on the film, the time period it came out, and the social commentary found within. This is followed by one of my favourite features found in a lot of Arrow’s booklets: a collection of blurbs from contemporary reviews. They’re all mostly good (one was a bit annoyed by the flashback structure) but some point out the promise of Petri and others look at this promising actor showing up in all of these films as of late, Marcello Mastroianni. The booklet then concludes with a lengthy 1957 piece by Petri about the state of Italian cinema. It’s another wonderful booklet, so since it’s limited to first pressings I would stress picking this up as soon as you can because it’s a great addition.
Like most of Arrow’s releases this also features reversible cover art, featuring new artwork and then the original poster art (and the Italian title L’assassino) on the other side.
Not “stacked” but the supplements are all good and worthwhile, especially the booklet.
Not a big special edition by any means, but the supplements we do get are all good and we also get a sharp look restoration and encode. Arrow does right and gives Petri’s debut film the release it deserves.