L'ASSASSINO (1961) Blu-ray/DVD combo
Director: Elio Petri
Arrow Academy

Marcello Mastroianni took a "stab" at shedding his Latin lover image in Elio Petri's debut THE ASSASSIN, on Blu-ray/DVD combo from Arrow Academy.

Playboy antiques dealer Alfredo Martelli (Mastroianni) returns home late one night and grabs a nap before planning to rendezvous in Tuscany with his heiress fiancée Nicoletta (Cristina Gaioni, LOVE AT TWENTY). He wakes up to a visit from the police and Inspector Palumbo (Salvo Randone, FELLINI SATYRICON) who arrests him for the murder of Adalgisa De Matteis (Micheline Presle, DONKEY SKIN), a wealthy middle-aged former lover to whom he still owed debts from the startup of his shop. Taken back to the scene of the crime, a seaside hotel Adalgisa was restoring, Alfredo finds the evidence stacked against him with testimony from people who have something against him – among them the victim's husband Morello (BLACK SUNDAY's Andrea Cecchi) – while Nicoletta has also mysteriously vanished. Returning to the city and locked in a cell, Alfredo finds that his name and picture has been splashed across the papers and that even his cellmates (THE LAST DESPERATE HOURS' Toni Ucci and ROCCO AND HIS BROTHERS' Max Cartier) hold him up as an instant celebrity.

The film cuts back and forth across time as Alfredo counters Palumbo's accusations and paints himself as a sincere individual who fell into a relationship with an older woman and out of it (with Adalgisa's apparent approval and consent) when he met young Nicoletta. Mastroianni is just sympathetic enough while also revealing that Alfredo is ultimately a cold and unfeeling individual who feels victimized by those who call him out and has little use for people from which he cannot in some way benefit (including his own mother in a sequence in which he rushes her through food and a walk and hustles her onto a bus back home). Even a childhood vignette recollected when his grandfather's anti-fascist stance is questioned reveals a streak of sadism on the young Alfedo's part. While the viewer does sympathize with the rush to justice and the police department's collaboration with the sensationalistic press, Alfredo ultimately does not turn a new leaf in the aftermath and even finds notoriety as "L'assassino" (which finds double meaning in the American release title THE LADY KILLER OF ROME). Production credits are top-notch with editing by Mastroianni's brother Ruggero (Visconti's cutter of choice) and photography by Carlo Di Palma (BLOW-UP) assisted by his son Dario (DEATH LAID AN EGG) and future DP Alberto Spagnoli (BEYOND THE DOOR II) while the script was the work of Petri, Tonino Guerra (more about him below), novelist-turned-director Pasquale Festa Campanile (HITCH HIKE) and his partner Massimo Franciosa (SPASMO). The jazzy score is the work of musician Piero Piccioni (CAMILLE 2000) who himself had been implicated in a 1953 scandal that started with the apparent murder of a young woman whose body washed up near a shooting estate.

Little seen in English-speaking countries after their UK and US theatrical releases – apparently in an English-dubbed version – L'ASSASSINO comes to Arrow Academy Blu-ray/DVD combo from a new 2K restoration of the original camera negative apart from the first and last reels for which the restorers had to utilize an interpostive. The opticals during the opening are slightly grainier, but the overall look of the film has that glossy sixties monochrome look of many French and Italian productions of the period. The LPCM 1.0 Italian mono track is clean and the optional English subtitles free of any glaring errors.

Extras include the new "Elio Petri and L'ASSASSINO" (9:41), an introduction by Italian cinema expert Pasquale Iannone who chart's Petri's beginnings as a published poet whose work reached the attention of Giuseppe De Santis and their first collaboration on ROME 11:00 which dramatized the true story of a staircase collapse that injured over two hundred women who crowded into a tower block for a job interview. In discussing L'ASSASSINO, Iannone mentions that it was not Petri's intended debut which turn out to be his second film HIS DAYS ARE NUMBERED. The disc also includes the television documentary "Tonino Guerra: A Poet in the Movies" (51:15) from Nicola Tranquillino (one of the contributing writers to Abel Ferrera's recent PASOLINI biopic) which intersperses the eighty-eight year old writer's brief remarks about his collaborations with de Santis, Petri, Michelangelo Antonioni, Andrei Tarkovsky, the Taviani brothers, Francesco Rosi, and Federico Fellini with his more recent paintings, drawings, and sculpture (some of which influenced his collaboration with Antonioni on his short for EROS). The disc also includes the film's theatrical trailer (3:45). Not provided for review were the reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jay Shaw and the booklet featuring new writing on the film by Elio Petri expert Camilla Zamboni and a selection of contemporary reviews. (Eric Cotenas)