Following their excellent limited edition DVD of Umberto Lenzi’s The CYNIC, THE RAT AND THE FIST (1976) earlier in the year, German label Film Art have finally released his subsequent crime film BROTHERS TILL WE DIE (1977). This was the second film after ROME ARMED TO THE TEETH (1976) to feature Tomas Milian as Vincenzo “hunchback” Marazzi or “Humpo”, his tasteless, but wholly appropriate nickname. If that weren’t enough, Milian also plays his twin brother Sergio who also goes under the more colourful moniker of “Pigsty”.
Returning to Rome after a lengthy absence, Vince locates his brother Sergio and through his help, strikes up a relationship with Maria (Isa Danieli), a local prostitute that becomes his main squeeze. It doesn’t take too long before he is organizing a meeting with a local stick-up crew led by Perroni (perennial bad guy Luciano Catenacci) that plan to rob an armoured truck outside the Bank of Rome. In a clever move, they use tear gas as a distraction during the heist but, due to his very obvious deformity, Perroni and his men decide to double-cross and shoot Vince during the heist, because it would be too easy for the police to identify him. Of course, Vince escapes into the sewers during the mayhem and, in a standout scene, crawls to his safety through the mud and shit bent on revenge.
For anyone into Italo-crime films, there is plenty to enjoy here despite the lack of an American or prominent Italian “good guy” star in the form of a Maurizio Merli or Luc Merenda. In order to carry the film, Milian truly out-does himself playing both twins, which have typically outlandish hairstyles (both ridiculous looking wigs) and a little too much eyeliner. Along with Giulio Sacchi from ALMOST HUMAN (1974), the hunchback (or il gobbo on Italian prints) is one of Milian’s most memorable characters whose tenacity and ruthless demeanor make for great entertainment. Plus, he also gets to spew out a number of hilarious one-liners long before they became trendy in action films such as this. A couple of great examples include, “Humpo is gettin’ humped” or “When you’re born with a hump, you ain’t got much room for a heart”. How’s that for some thought provoking existentialism? As Pigsty, Milian ups the comedy factor and dons the exact same wig from Lenzi’s FREE HAND FOR A TOUGH COP (1976) and Stelvio Massi’s DIRTY GANG (1977). In a fairly impressive bit of optical work, Milian plays both Humpo and Pigsty in the very same scene quite effectively, but the best is saved for last when Milian as Pigsty actually rises above the material in a rather poignant and bittersweet finale.
As mentioned earlier, Pino Colizzi as Inspector Sarti is no Maurizio Merli, but he does an adequate enough job even as he tries to emulate signor Merli right down to his appearance with the same mustache and haircut. Maybe it’s a coincidence, but it doesn’t seem so. Other notable poliziesco veterans include Guido Leontini as Mario “Coldcuts” di Gennaro, Sal Borgese as Albania and Carlo Gaddi as The Panther, one of Humpo’s right-hand men.
Released on Italian DVD by Federal Video under its original title of La Banda del Gobbo, this was a nice release that offered a great 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer, but unfortunately had no English language or English subtitle options. In what seems to be a continuing series of poliziescos, Film Art’s DVD also includes a superb 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer but they have decked out their edition with Italian, German and English language options along with optional subtitles in German and English as well. Extras include Part 2 of the Franco Micalizzi interview from The CYNIC, THE RAT AND THE FIST DVD, an English language trailer (under the English export title BROTHERS TILL WE DIE) and an attractive booklet, which is in German only. This is a PAL Region 2 disc and limited to 1000 copies, so grab one here while you still can.