Director: Elio Petri
Arrow Academy

A capitalist is bedeviled by a very peculiar kind of Marxist in Elio Petri's wickedly funny PROPERTY IS NO LONGER A THEFT, on Blu-ray/DVD combo from Arrow Academy.

Having succeeded his now retired father (Salvo Randone, L'ASSASSINO) as an accountant for a large local bank, Total (Flavio Bucci, A SPIRAL OF MIST) has developed an extreme allergy to handling money. After witnessing a bungled robbery, Total questions his father's philosophy that property is what distinguishes people from one another and that stealing confuses things, and that they possess no property is as it should be. When Total appeals to his boss (Julien Guiomar, Chabrol's Z) for a personal loan to "live better" and finds out that he only qualifies for 300,000 lire while the town's butcher (Ugo Tognazzi, LA GRANDE BOUFFE) – who ingratiates himself to the bank personnel with gifts of prime meat cuts – can bully his way into the billions, Total adopts the philosophy of "Mandrakian Marxism" in which he stills what only what he needs to live (cigarettes included) while endeavoring to reduce the butcher to poverty. Robbing the man's apartment and his mistress Anita (Daria Nicolodi, DEEP RED) of jewelry, the only clues Total leaves behind are the butcher's own knife and hat which he had previously stolen from him. The butcher takes advantage of the situation to pad the insurance claim for the stolen amount while publicly playing the victim. When the butcher installs new anti-theft devices, Total employs a seasoned thief Albertone (Mario Scaccia, THE PERFUME OF A LADY IN BLACK) to help him, but his own undoing could come through Anita, another piece of the butcher's property.

Unreleased in the United States despite Petri's Oscar win for INVESTIGATION OF A CITIZEN ABOVE SUSPICION, PROPERTY IS NO LONGER A THEFT posits that property is born of egoism which provokes envy and engenders class hatred, and that the struggle (both legal and illegal) to obtain what one does not have causes people to "fall ill with shameful diseases."
Implicated in the robbery himself, Tognazzi's butcher frustrate the investigation of the Brigadier (Orazio Orlando, SPEED DRIVER) – who confesses to the camera that he consoles himself over his inability to achieve and maintain order by abusing his privileges – and is less interested in Total's capture than in buying him off, which Total rightfully interprets as an attempt to "infect" him with ownership. Singer Luigi Proietti (Tinto Brass' THE HOWL) has a special appearance as "Paco the Argentine" who eulogizes Albertone and proposes to his fellow thieves that they should go on strike so that all those whose positions are dependent on their crimes from the police to security guards to anti-theft device inventors (a sequence in which the butcher and Anita look at such devices turns the display of the product into fetishistic entertainment) and insurance adjusters. Primarily known to English-speaking audiences as SUSPIRIA's blind pianist and one of the rapists of Aldo Lado's NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS, stage actor Bucci gives a very physical performance of twitching mannerisms and bug-eyed expressions, countered by Randone as his father who plays it stoic until he actually gets to handle Total's stolen cash. Tognazzi is predictably lusty while encompassing a full range of emotions from paranoid to desperate while Nicolodi gives a more ambiguous performance in a mercurial role that is not without its comic highlights. The photography of Petri regular Luigi Kuveiller (BLOOD FOR DRACULA) makes frequent use of invasive close-ups and setups in which a character's furtive expressions close to the camera usually trigger the appearance of another inquiring face over their shoulder (particularly the Brigadier) while the score of Ennio Morricone includes an unsettling opening theme which vocalizations of the various conjugations of "avere" (to have).

Largely unavailable until a 2013 Italian DVD from RAI Cinema (not English-friendly), Arrow Academy's dual-territory Blu-ray of PROPERTY IS NO LONGER A THEFT is derived from a 2K restoration of the film's original negative. The image is well-detailed in close-ups but it often seems as if foreground objects or people are not always the point of focus. The color palette is dominated largely by blacks and greys with the occasional saturated blue in wardrobe and a pop of red in Nicolodi's lipstick. The LPCM 1.0 mono audio vividly renders Morricone's score, and the optional English subtitles ably convey Tognazzi's rapid dialogue.

The disc includes three brand new interviews. In "My Name is Total" (19:46), seventy-year-old Bucci reflects on film, his second for Petri after a smaller role in THE WORKING CLASS GO TO HEAVEN opposite Gian Maria Volante (A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS) and what he learned from the older actor. He discusses his relationships with Petri, Nicolodi, Tognazzi, Scaccia, and Randone as well as producer Claudio Mancini (DUCK YOU SUCKER) who he recalls did a cameo as one of the robbers in the opening. In "The Middle-Class Communist" (23:33), producer Mancini recalls how family man Petri was ahead of his time in his leftist leanings (the title of the film originates from one of Petri's phrase that so mystified Mancini), and the producer provides an overview of his collaborations with Petri along with his own work for Sergio Leone as production manager and then producer. In "The Best Man" (23:04), make-up artist Pierantonio Mecacci (LA CAGE AUX FOLLES) recalls first working with Petri on some television commercials before being contacted by him to work on WE STILL KILL THE OLD WAY and A QUIET PLACE IN THE COUNTRY. Of the film, he discusses the make-up and hair design of the characters, including Tognazzi's hairstyle – a wig designed by the Rocchetti firm – which was based on that of plastic surgeon Lionello Ponti who was so amused that he fixed the nose of Mecacci's daughter that had been broken on a merry-go-round. Comes with a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Nathanael Marsh, as well as (FIRST PRESSING ONLY) illustrated collector’s booklet containing new writing on the film by Camilla Zamboni. (Eric Cotenas)