The Heroin Busters
In 1977’s The Heroin Busters, rule-flouting cop Fabio (Testi) goes deep undercover, chasing a globe-trotting ring of drug-smugglers suspected to be operating out of Rome. But can he and Mike Hamilton (David Hemmings, Deep Red), an Interpol agent with a hair-trigger temper, stay one step ahead of the criminals long enough to bring them down from the inside?
The second dual-layer disc in Arrow’s two-film set Rogue Cops and Racketeers presents Enzo G. Castellari’s The Heroin Busters in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. As with the previous film in the set, The Big Racket, the film as been restored in 2K by Arrow Films and L’Immagine Ritrovata, Bologna, and has been sourced from the 35mm original camera negative. The film has been encoded at 1080p/24hz.
The end presentation comes out looking not all that different from The Big Racket's, appearing sharp with a high level of detail and a superb film texture. The film is very grainy, but it’s rendered sharply and retains a clean, natural look throughout, never coming off like noise. The restoration work has yet again cleaned things up wonderfully, only a few minor marks and the occasional pulse being all that remains.
As with the previous film the colours do lean on the warm end, but not to the ridiculous degree that’s common with Ritrovata restorations, and it delivers whites that lean warm and blues that still look blue, not cyan. Black levels also come off clean without ever looking mushy, but darker scenes can look a flat with thanks to limited shadow detail.
Minor hiccups aside it’s an impressive looking image.
Yet again Arrow includes two audio tracks, both in DTS-HD MA: an English one and an Italian one, both obvious dubs. Like the previous film the Italian track may be a little sharper but in the end they’re both flat with limited range. Adequate in the end. Gun shots and Goblin’s score can also sound a little bit edgy, but, at the very least, the track doesn’t contain any notable damage.
Arrow gathers the same participants from the supplements onThe Big Racket back for this edition, starting things off yet again with an audio commentary featuring critics Adrian J. Smith and David Flint. I ended up liking this one a bit more over their track for Racket, with their conversation feeling a little more natural and less forced this time around. On top of discussing the film’s action sequences, their influence on films since, and the common Italian cliches that pop up, they also (as they did with Racket) look at how the film reflects the political climate of the period, specifically around what was seen as a rising drug problem. The two note the film suffers from what they call a serious case of “slippery slope syndrome,” where, for starters, marijuana is presented as a gateway drug that will only lead to heroin abuse, yet they feel it reflects feelings of the period and defend the film against some of the criticisms that have been thrown at it through the years.
Director Castellari, actors Fabio Testi and Massimo Vanni, and editor Gianfranco Amicucci pop up again for new interviews. Testi and Castellari, speaking 16-minutes and 24-minutes respectively, offer up background around the film, the story of which was based on the experiences of an actual undercover officer, Nicola Longo. Interestingly, Castellari wanted to film in actual drug labs and the production team did end up in conversation with real narcotics manufacturers. Unsurprisingly they were turned down. Vanni, who speaks for 21-minutes here, talks a little about his role in the film but spends most of it, as he did in his previous interview, sharing production stories around some of the action sequences and effects, expanding on comments made by Castellari in his interview.
Amicucci's contribution ends up being a bit more disappointing this time around due to him feeling the need to unleash some grievances. After talking about the film and editing some of it's more complicated sequences (like the plane chase near the end) he starts to unleash a bit of a tirade against the current generation of filmgoers and filmmakers that he feels are influenced too heavily by TV and modern technology. Though he at least addresses the fact that the current generation doesn't benefit from the same economic boom his generation did (allowing him more freedom), it ends up coming off a bit cringey. But he doesn't blame the younger generations for what he calls the "death of cinema," reserving all of that instead for former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. This interview runs around 21-minutes.
Lovely Jon also shows up again to talk about the Goblin score for 40-minutes. As he did with his previous interview he provides some background for the group and the members that rotated through over the years, before talking about the score itself, which, at one point, he likens to a "dry-run" of their score for Dawn of the Dead. Jon also gets a little into what distinguishes a band's score from a composer's score. Arrow then brings in retired undercover officer Nicola Longo, the basis for Testi's character, to talk briefly about his career and his involvement with the film. In a coincidence, he had met Testi prior to making the film when the two were both taking pilot lessons. Also worth noting is that Testi had wanted to credit Longo in the film, but that had to be pulled due to it possibly blowing Longo's covers. It's an interesting discussion and I'm impressed Arrow went about tracking the man down.
The disc then closes with the film's trailer and an image gallery broken down into sub-galleries for posters, German and Italian press books, and German and Spanish lobby cards. Interestingly, the German title for the film was/is The Dealer Connection, while the Spanish one is The Drug Trail.
Compared to the previous title the supplements end up being a little stronger in a couple of areas and a bit weaker in others, but they're still a satisfying batch overall.
As with the previous title in the set, The Big Racket, Arrow delivers a satisfying high-def presentation and a strong batch of supplements reflecting on the film's production.