Years Of Lead: Five Classic Italian Crime Thrillers 1973-1977
Like Rabid Dogs
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.
The second film in Arrow’s Years of Lead box set—and sharing the first dual-layer disc with Savage Three—is Mario Imperoli’s particularly nasty Like Rabid Dogs, presented here in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The high-definition master was supplied to Arrow by Rewind Film and is encoded at 1080p/24hz.
The presentation is a little better than what was offered by Savage Three: it looks decent enough but it has some signs of an older master. Sharpness and detail is fine, and grain is rendered decently enough, better than what the previous film offered, it just has what I'd call a sharpened look in places. The source shows some minor deficits including bits of dirt and such but I don’t recall anything severe ever popping.
Unlike Savage Three, Arrow's notes don't indicate they altered the colour grading, suggesting they're presenting the master more-or-less as-is. The colour scheme for the film is a bit washed and the overall image leans warm, but not to a ridiculous degree like some other restorations for Italian films. Whites still look white and skin tones don’t come off jaundiced. Black levels crush out a bit, leading to weak shadows, but they're pleasing during the film's brighter scenes.
It's fine enough in the end, but open to improvement.
The film comes with a lone monaural Italian soundtrack, presented in 1.0 DTS-HD MA. It has that canned sound thanks to the expected dubbing, sound effects and dialogue all coming off flat, but the music lacks the harshness found in Savage Three and range sounds a bit wider.
Again, like Savage Three, there are only two significant supplements but they’re rather lengthy. Sadly I didn’t enjoy these ones as much as the ones around that film, though I was amused by some aspects of the first 52-minute feature, an interview with Italian film historian Fabio Melelli intercut with footage from an interview with cinematographer Romano Albani. Melelli takes up most of the feature, talking about the obscurity of the film (with this being recorded in 2013 for a previous DVD/Blu-ray edition), only available on a Greek VHS previously, and touching on the political climate of the time. In between spending most of the feature talking about the actors (some of them not too well known apparently), Melelli will amusingly then reference Albani, only to cut to his interview to have him undercut Melelli in some way. What was funny, for me, is that Albani clearly hates the film, finding it nasty and trite, so why Melelli (who clearly put this feature together) thought it was worthwhile interviewing the man about the film (who is also sick) is beyond me, especially since the only scene Albani can recall is the “black face” scene, which he calls “stupid.” Albani, at the very least, also contributes his experiences with the Italian film industry during this time, and those prove to be the more rewarding sections of the feature. This is the academic inclusion for the film and it’s not a terribly good one.
A bit better is an interview with assistant director Claudio Bernabei, running 35-minutes. Bernabei recalls the film a bit better and gets into more technical details around it, explaining his job and recounting a number of scenes in the film, from the opening heist (most of which, as Melelli also points, was filmed during a real football/soccer match) to the final chase sequence, Bernabei throwing in his opinion the ending is "exaggerated." He also touches on some random but interesting topics, like the advertising within the film.
Arrow then includes two full compositions from the film’s original soundtrack, which play over images of the album. The disc also includes the film’s trailer and a small poster gallery, featuring three images to Savage Three’s one.
The Bernabei interview isn’t bad but I probably wouldn’t have missed either if there weren’t here.
The features aren’t as interesting as the ones found with the previous film in the set, while the presentation is basically par for the course.