Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Academy

Release Date: April 18, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length: 01:38:14

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: Italian Mono Linear PCM Audio (48kHz, 1152 kbps, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English

Ratio: 1.85:1

Bitrate: 34.83 Mbps

Notes: This release includes a DVD edition of the film.

Title

Cinephiles with a fondness for Italian cinema will find themselves immediately absorbed in Elio Petri’s The Assassin (L’Assassino). The film was released within months of Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita and Michelangelo Antonioni’s La Notte and also shares the familiar talents of Marcello Mastroianni, this time as dandyish thirty-something antique dealer Alfredo Martelli—a man arrested on suspicion of murdering his wealthy older lover, Adalgisa (Micheline Presle). The film has often been compared to Petri’s Investigation of a Citizen above Suspicion, but there are also similarities to Orson Welles’ film adaptation of Franz Kafka’s The Trial. There are plenty of Kafkaesque scenes in Petri’s film as it becomes less and less important whether Martelli actually committed the crime as his entire lifestyle is effectively put on trial.

Petri was certainly one of the more underrated Italian directors of his generation and while L’Assassino was highly acclaimed on its original release, it has been unjustly neglected ever since.  The film 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.” Well, we can only say that he got off to a strong start with this film.

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The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow Video houses the Blu-ray and DVD discs in a sturdy clear Blu-ray case with a reversible sleeve featuring the choice of newly commissioned artwork by Jay Shaw and what is presumably the film’s original poster art. There is also an attractive booklet that includes an interesting essay by Camilla Zamboni entitled “Elio Petri’s L’assassino,” an archival analysis of 1950s Italian cinema by Elio Petri himself entitled, “Italian Cinema: A Castrated Elephant,” and a selection of contemporary reviews. These writings are enhanced with a number of production stills.

 [Note: The aforementioned booklet is only included with the first pressing of this particular release.]

Menu

The animated menus utilize footage and music from the film and are reasonably attractive and easy to navigate.

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Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

The following textual information appears in Italian before the film begins:

“The digital restoration of L’assassino was made from the original camera negative which was missing the first and last roll, and from a first-generation interpositive. These two elements were scanned at 2K resolution for this restoration. The grading was carried out by referring to the original print version that was held by the production company Titanus in the archives of the Cineteca di Bologna. The sound was extracted from a 35mm negative and digitally remastered.”

One can certainly see a slight difference in quality when comparing the first and last reels to the rest of the film, but it is nice to report that the differences in quality aren’t radical enough to call attention to itself. Contrast and black levels are extremely pleasing, and the image usually displays a pleasing sharpness despite the organic layer of grain evident throughout the film. Depth and clarity are quite decent throughout most of the duration as well, and the image isn’t marred by the ravages of time. Dirt and debris have been cleared along with any scratches, water damage, or any other unfortunate anomalies. What’s more, the image looks as if it is free of any overzealous digital tampering.

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Sound Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Arrow’s Italian mono linear PCM audio track (with optional English subtitles) is a solid representation of the film’s original mix. Some will lament the lack of a more dynamic surround option, but this would not accurately reflect the film’s original sound. Piero Piccioni’s jazz score sounds great on this lossless track as do some of the effects. Dialogue also seems to be clearly rendered, but not having an ear for the Italian language puts this reviewer at a disadvantage. It is simply impossible to make this statement with any authority. Sonic anomalies such as his, hum, dropouts, or pops never mar one’s enjoyment either.

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Special Features:

3.5 of 5 Stars

Elio Petri and L’Assassino – (09:41)

This interview with Italian cinema expert Pasquale Iannone serves as an introductory overview of Elio Petri’s work, but his authority is somewhat muted by his tendency to glance at his notes. It is worth seeing, but those looking for an in-depth study about the director will no doubt be disappointed.

Tonino Guerra: A Poet in the Movies – (51:15)

This documentary about Tonino Guerra (a great Italian screenwriter) was released in 2008 and focuses on Guerra’s life and prolific career working with some of cinema’s most important auteurs—including Elio Petri, Federico Fellini, Vittorio De Sica, Michelangelo Antonioni, Andrey Tarkovsky, Francesco Rosi, Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, and many others. The program is fueled by archival interview footage of Tonino Guerra himself discussing an incredibly wide variety of subjects that will fascinate anyone with a fondness for world cinema. These interviews are often illustrated with footage from a variety of films—and while the result is a bit one-sided, it really does make for very instructive viewing.

Theatrical Trailer – (03:45)

The original Italian theatrical trailer (with optional English subtitles) rounds out the disc rather nicely.

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Final Words:

Arrow Academy gives devotees of Italian cinema the gift of an extremely strong transfer of this underappreciated classic.

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Review by: Devon Powell

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