WEEKEND MURDERS (1970) Blu-ray
Director: Michele Lupo
Code Red DVD

Released theatrically in the U.S. in 1972 by MGM on the top of a double bill with THE BLACK BELLY OF THE TARANTULA (which was finally given a proper DVD release by Blue Underground some years ago), WEEKEND MURDERS (Concerto per pistola solista) has been virtually impossible to see for the longest time, that is unless you possessed a sixth-generation bootleg tape. One of a number of early 1970s Italian thrillers to be lensed in England (LIZARD IN A WOMAN’S SKIN, THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE are other examples), the film takes full advantage of the green, green grass of home and the enormous, gothic manors to bring it closer to the works of Agatha Christie than your typical giallo. Code Red now upgrades their previous (and out-of-print) 2009 DVD with this welcomed Blu-ray release.

During a golf outing, the hand of an unidentified person is uncovered in a sandpit as a club takes a revealing swing. This ghastly discovery turns out to be a flash forward to a series of murders which occur after some disappointing news that affects a sorted group of individuals. When various and dubious family members gather for the reading of their late relative’s last will and testimony, they are appalled to learn that none of them are to inherit any of his vast monetary wealth. In fact, it’s all going to Barbara (American opera singer Anna Moffo), a beautiful brunette and distant relative who looked after the deceased estate owner during his declining years. Naturally, greed gives way to a series of murders, with the butler being the first to go, prompting one character to jokingly retort, “For once nobody can say the butler did it.”

As you can see, WEEKEND MURDERS (or “The Weekend Murders” as the title card and theatrical trailer dictate) is more or less a spoof of the Agatha Christie-type murder mysteries, as well as the modern giallo – at the height of popularity when this was shot in 1970. The initial killings are actually gags meant to throw off the audience, and most of the characters are not to be taken too seriously. Diehard fans of violent, overly stylish giallos of the period might be disappointed here (it’s for the most part void of any blood, and all the killings are basically committed with one weapon), but WEEKEND MURDERS, with all its flaws, can still be an entertaining, colorful effort and is frequently humorous in the genres it’s lampooning. There are some interesting camera set-ups, sharp editing, constant use of the zoom lens, and again, the English landscapes and interiors work well in the film’s favor. The police are represented by a Scotland Yard inspector (British comic actor Lance Percival, MRS. BROWN, YOU’VE GOT A LOVELY DAUGHTER) and his somewhat bumbling sidekick, an awkward bicycle-riding bobby constable (Gastone Moschin, CALIBER 9) with enormous front teeth and a chinstrap that's always resting under his lower lip (for comic effect). Moschin, a familiar heavy in Italian crime pictures (he practically steals the show here), is best known to American audiences as the New York neighborhood tyrant who is rubbed out by young Vito Corleone (Robert DeNiro) in THE GODFATHER PART II (1974).

Also in the cast, portraying the various snobs, servants and cheating spouses, are American actor Peter Baldwin, Ida Galli (aka Eveline Stewart, THE CASE OF THE SCORPION’S TAIL, THE NIGHT CHILD), Marisa Fabbri (FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET), Giacomo Rossi-Stuart (THE LAST MAN ON EARTH), Robert Hundar (aka Claudio Undari, SABATA, CUT-THROATS NINE), Quinto Parmeggiani and Beryl Cunningham (CURSE OF THE VOODOO). British actor Chris Chittell (THE BEAST IN THE CELLAR) plays a perverted young fellow with a mommy complex and he possesses sadistic tendencies – an exposed red herring whose character is an obvious nod, or should I say send-up, of typical giallo perpetrators. Orchidea de Santis is on hand as a sexy blonde maid, and you’ll recognize veteran thesp Ballard Berkeley (as the aforementioned doomed butler) as Major Gowen on the ultimate Britcom, “Fawlty Towers.” An energetic score by the prolific Francesco De Masi (THE INGLORIOUS BASTARDS, NEW YORK RIPPER) is a mix of classical music and more modern jazzy techniques.

Code Red did a superb job in presenting THE WEEKEND MURDERS in its U.S. home video debut on DVD a few years ago, with this surprise Blu-ray obviously showing even more room for improvement. Presented in 1080p from a brand new 2K scan HD master and preserving the film’s original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, this is the complete 98-minute version theatrical version. The print source boasts the original MGM beginning and end titles and is in excellent condition, except for a few scant (and I mean scant) blemishes. Colors are indeed rich and bold, with skin tones looking natural, film grain is tidy, and detail is sharp. The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 option offers the international English language track (most of the Italian, British and American actors look to be speaking in English, all post synched with expected exaggerated cockney accents) which comes off well and clear, with occasional pops and hiss due to the age of the elements. No subtitle options are on the disc.

The main extras produced for the previous DVD release have been carried over for the Blu-ray and include a commentary with star Peter Baldwin, with HOSTEL producer Scott Spiegel and moderator Lee Christian. The commentary only occasionally focuses on the film itself, but Baldwin is full of great stories, sharing a number of anecdotes about his long-time career as a television director (one of the busiest in the business) as well as his early acting tenure with Paramount Pictures (he actually had small parts in I MARRIED A MONSTER FROM OUTER SPACE and SPACE CHILDREN, among others). Baldwin is also present for a featurette which is just short of 20 minutes. Here, he talks about WEEKEND MURDERS, acting with Barbara Steele in THE GHOST and more. MGM’s original enticing theatrical trailer is also included. (George R. Reis)