Director: Sergio Martino
Arrow Video USA

"Cops suck" so an outsider decides to investigate THE SUSPICIOUS DEATH OF A MINOR in Sergio Martino's lesser-seen giallo-poliziotteschi hybrid on Blu-ray/DVD combo from Arrow Video on both sides of the pond.

Paolo Germi (Claudio Cassinelli, MURDERROCK) tries to pick up young Marisa (Patrizia Castaldi) at a dance hall only to wind up with a pair of broken spectacles ("Boy, I'd like to kick her in the crotch") when she flees a man in mirrored sunglasses (Roberto Posse, LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE). When she turns up dead in a low-rent boarding house and the investigating officers – Lieutenant Listri (Aldo Massasso, SLEEPLESS) and Inspector Teti (Gianfranco Barra, THE SCORPION WITH TWO TAILS) – seem more interested in the football and lottery results than the brutal murder of an unidentifiable girl, Paolo takes it upon himself to investigate and learns from the landlady (Fiammetta Baralla, CITY OF WOMEN) of a prostitution ring trafficking in minors. Recruiting scooter-riding pickpocket Giannino (Adolfo Caruso, INHIBITIONS) to snatch the datebooks of prostitutes, Paolo discovers that their contact is a man named Menga (Franco Alpestre) who uses a babysitting agency as a front. He is sent Carmela (Lia Tanzi, THE VIOLENT PROFESSIONALS) who he fools into procuring underage Floriana (Barbara Magnolfi, SUSPIRIA) for a rich client and follows her back to Menga only to be stumped by the puzzling link between the sex trafficking ring, a string of high-profile kidnappings, an influential banker (Massimo Girotti, BARON BLOOD), and a trio of schoolgirls of which young Gloria (Jenny Tamburi, THE PSYCHIC) is now the only surviving member.

Although Dario Argento has reinvigorated the giallo genre just a few months before with DEEP RED, Sergio Martino's sixth giallo seems as much influenced by the comic asides of the Italian cut of the Argento film and the poliziotteschi genre which Martino and screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi (THE WHIP AND THE BODY) had moved onto following TORSO which reduced the formula to the basic body count anticipating the later American slashers; indeed, SUSPICIOUS DEATH OF A MINOR is so scattershot in its tone shifts and loose narrative trajectory that the score of composer Luciano Michelini (ISLAND OF THE FISHMEN) seems to switch tracks mid-scene throughout between DEEP RED-influenced Goblin and Stelvio Cipriani-esque lounge and pop. Despite the Italian title, the film bare only surface resemblance to the "schoolgirls in peril" gialli of Massimo Dallamano (WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO OUR DAUGHTERS?) with characters to cynical that the idea of minors engaged in sex privately and "professionally" provokes little surprise of shock for the investigators (or anyone else for that matter). In some ways, the film seems almost parodic of the giallo and crime film with the police hopelessly incompetent and corseted by bureaucracy and businessmen so blatantly corrupt as to be comic book villains. There are a handful of bloody slashings, but victims are just as likely to be gunned down or run over. A third act turn towards tragedy seems almost mechanical to contrive the downbeat ending. While no patch on Martino's other gialli and crime films, THE SUSPICIOUS DEATH OF A MINOR remains entertaining and even funny in the company of lesser genre efforts. Martino regular Carlo Alighiero (CAT O'NINE TAILS) also appears along with Franca Scagnetti (the Romanian cook from SUSPIRIA) appears as Giannino's mother.

Although an English export version was produced under the title TOO YOUNG TO DIE, THE SUSPICIOUS DEATH OF A MINOR was unreleased in the U.S. or the U.K. (understandable as the sales agents probably had a hard time selling it as either a giallo or a crime film) or even on foreign-subtitled videotape as far as we know and made its debut on DVD courtesy of Austrian company Sazuma (with the Italian title on the front cover and the puzzling translation SUSPECTED DEATH OF A MINOR) in an anamorphic widescreen transfer with English, German, and Dutch subtitles for the Italian mono track (Sazuma stated at the time that the licensors were unable to find the English dub) as well as an English-subtitled commentary from film critics Christian Kessler and Robert Zion and a featurette with Martino. Arrow Video's dual-territory 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.35:1 widescreen Blu-ray reveals more information on all four sides of the frame along with an uptick in detail while the color correction sometimes varies widely from the DVD with skintones looking warmer in many scenes and paler in others (presumably issues with the source materials). Standing out here more than ever is stock footage from generic car chases French stunt driver Remy Julien shot during THE VIOLENT PROFESSIONALS that popped up in a couple Martino crime films as well as those from other directors' efforts produced by his brother Luciano Martino. Seamless branching allows for the presentation of English or Italian opening and closing credits depending on the audio track selected. Audio options include Italian and English LPCM 1.0 mono dubs, and the recovered English track features some familiar voice casting while also revealing a couple poor and stilted performances that may also have been a reason why the film was not picked up. Optional English subtitles for the Italian track and SDH subtitles for the English track are selectable based on the chosen audio track without ability to toggle between the audio tracks and subtitle tracks as on earlier Arrow releases that included branching.

Arrow has foregone porting over the Camera Obscura commentary in favor of a new track by "So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films" author Troy Howarth who couches the film within the short trend of giallo/police hybrids alongside CALLING ALL POLICE CARS and BLAZING MAGNUMS (which could also include WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO OUR DAUGHTERS?) during the waning days of the giallo genre (noting that Martino originally wanted to call the film VIOLENT MILAN but the distributors insisted on a thriller title). He notes the influence of DEEP RED not only in the thriller and scoring aspects but also the comedy, and the way the film's schizophrenic tone is embodied in the score. He also admits that most of the humor is grating but finds some of it amusing. "Violent Milan" (42:55) is a new interview with Martino in which he recalls his annoyance that his intended title went to a more successful film that also featured Cassinelli. He describes the film as his intention to return to thrillers after a few crime films and comedies and cannot recall what he added to Gastaldi's script, although he notes that his films favor Milanese settings over the usual Roman ones. He recalls incidents during shooting include an actress being run over during the car chase (the driver could not be found so he was held solely liable for her medical expenses), and that he wanted to hire Alfredo Pea (CRY OF A PROSTITUTE) for the role that eventually went to Caruso. He also covers more career-wide topics like the job security of making roughly eighty-percent of his films under his brother, his friendship with Cassinelli and the actor's death in a helicopter crash during the shooting of HANDS OF STEEL, as well as actors from the film he used repeatedly including Posse and Alighiero (the latter he describes as his "good luck charm"). The film's theatrical trailer (3:27) is also included. Not provided for review was the reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Chris Malbon, while the first pressing includes an illustrated collector s booklet featuring new writing by Barry Forshaw. (Eric Cotenas)