Thursday, October 12, 2017

FANGO BOLLENTE - BLU-RAY REVIEW

A well-made, thought-provoking social drama, Vittorio Salerno’s FANGO BOLLENTE (1975) is usually regarded as a poliziesco, simply by virtue of its urban “street” setting and the inclusion of Vittorio’s brother Enrico Maria Salerno, a distinguished actor who became inseparable from the genre after his defining performance in Carlo Vanzina’s ground-breaking FROM THE POLICE… WITH THANKS (a.k.a. THE EXECUTION SQUAD, 1971). While the present film was difficult to see for years, genre specialists Camera Obscura have remedied this oversight with their prestigious new Blu-ray edition, which not only looks spectacular, but sheds further light on this entertaining and alarmingly prescient title.

In the city of Torino, Ovidio Mainardi (Joe Dallesandro) and his co-workers Giacomo (Gianfranco De Grassi) and Peppe (Guido De Carli) suffer from the drudgery of the everyday rat-race. Working as a computer technician at a government-run statistics bureau, Ovidio observes a bunch of lab-mice as they tear each other apart when he over-crowds their shit-strewn cage. Wondering whether people would respond in the same way under similar overcrowded conditions, the presiding scientist responds confidently, “There’s always one who starts biting the others.”  In a nicely-measured bit of cutting, the action then shifts to a soccer stadium, packed with enthusiastic fans, where Ovidio and his pals incite a riot, an incident of hooliganism that leaves one participant dead and injures forty more. In the chaotic aftermath, the instigators steal a Ferrari and then side-swipe a motorcycle and speed off on that. Their crime spree soon escalates to murder when, in one of the film’s defining moments – shot in super slow-motion – Ovidio sticks a truck driver with a screwdriver during a motoring altercation.

Meanwhile, inspector and ex-Flying Squad member Santagà (Enrico Maria Salerno) is assigned to the ongoing case, and he firmly believes these ‘incidents’ are not politically motivated, as his superiors would have him believe, but merely a result of ordinary people breaking under the strain and stresses of living in modern society (“We’re always under pressure. It might be the stress, the mistreatment,” he surmises). Under the capable direction of his kid brother Vittorio, E.M. Salerno contributes yet another committed, believable characterization as the run-down but determined Inspector. This middle-aged, game-legged character, still clinging tenaciously to his once honourable profession (“My balls are exploding!”), might almost be seen as an extension of Salerno’s Insp. Bertone from THE EXECUTION SQUAD.

Locandina courtesy of Peter Jilmstad.
A succession of murder and sexual assault continues for much of the film’s running time, with the rogue trio going on to beat and viciously stab a pimp in the groin with his own switchblade, and then – off-screen – rape one of his hookers. The very next day, they kidnap a pair of ‘upper class’ women (Carmen Scarpitta and Ada Pometti) and again have their way with them during a sequence which ends in a particularly gruesome fashion.  It turns out one of the victims was the wife of a highly influential government official, so at the behest of the deputy minister, the apprehensive police commissioner (Luigi Casellato), offers Santagà a deal: clean things up as quickly and quietly as possible!

Punctuated by a terrific progressive rock score from Franco Campanino, who also scored Dallesandro’s first foray into Italian crimeslime, Pasquale Squitieri’s superb THE CLIMBER (1975), Vittorio Salerno’s FANGO BOLLENTE appears to be – on the surface, at least – yet another entry in a short-lived subgenre of mid-’70s Italo ‘youths-run-wild’ films, featuring themes which were further explored in such polizieschi as Romolo Guerrieri’s upscale YOUNG, VIOLENT, DESPERATE (1976), Renato Savino’s bottom-of-the barrel I RAGAZZI DI ROMA VIOLENTA (1976) and Segri & Ferrara’s lowly VIOLENCE FOR KICKS (1976). In spite of their boyish looks, these are not the usual spoiled, bored rich kids with negligent parents unaware what their offspring are up too. Ovidio, Giacomo and Peppe all have regular jobs and ‘normal’ unassuming lives, but are simply bored by it all. Never fully-explained or expanded upon, the jaded trio’s collective boredom may be the main perpetrator of their initial crime spree but, in an interesting turn of events, their inherent sadistic streak is antagonized by the aggressive environment in which they live, just like those desperate lab-mice at the start of the film; the over-crowded cities add further fuel to their fire as everyone tries to defend their ‘space’ or personal ambitions, without even considering the possible consequences of their actions. In a further example of this, Ovidio’s wife Alba (Martine Brochard) will stop at nothing to further her medical career by sleeping with her boss (Claudio Nicastro) without even a moment’s hesitation.

Better known as SAVAGE THREE (its English-language export title) to the few who have actually seen it, FANGO BOLLENTE was barely released on video outside of Italy, but thanks to Camera Obscura, it’s great to finally have this noteworthy film show up in such a fine-looking edition. In what has now become customary, CO’s 1080p Region B Blu-ray features yet another superior transfer, with optimally balanced colours, strong contrasts, excellent black levels and a nice, consistent amount of film grain; it looks just about perfect.  The DTS-HD MA mono audio, which features both German and Italian language tracks, also sounds perfectly balanced and clear throughout. English and German subtitles are provided.

Extras begin with an audio commentary from genre specialists Pelle Felsch and Christian Kessler, wherein they discuss the social climate at the time in Italy and the violence associated with it; the film’s director and its numerous stars and co-stars, Campanino’s unique score and the film’s primary themes. As usual, it’s a thorough, comprehensive listen from a pair of film scholars that really know their stuff. In the first featurette, Rat Eat Rat (39m08s), produced by Freak-O-Rama, director Vittorio Salerno and Martine Brochard discuss how the film came about, as well as the formation of Comma 9, an independent production company which, along with Salerno, comprised directors such as Squitieri, Francesco Barilli and screenwriter Massimo D’Avack to name a few, which unfortunately only ever produced just this one film. Further topics of discussion includes Goffredo Lombardo’s Titanus distribution company; some of the film’s locations in and around Torino; and the casting of Dallesandro (“I like his somewhat weird face”). In The Savage One (40m56s), yet another Freak-O-Rama-produced featurette, Severin’s David Gregory interviews Dallesandro in what is essentially a career overview, beginning with his early years working on Andy Warhol pictures, and just about every other facet of his time working in Europe, including all his poliziotteschi; not afraid to tell it like it is, Dallesandro even refers to his SEASON FOR ASSASSINS (Marcello Andrei, 1975) co-star Martin Balsam as a “knucklehead!” He also discusses the political turmoil in Italy at the time during the proliferation of the “Brigate Rosso”, and that they were (quote) “scary times”. A liner notes booklet with an essay (e.g., “With sticky fingers in hot mud”) from Robert Zion is also included, and it even features a nice reproduction of the misleading artwork that once adorned the now-exceedingly-rare Greek VHS videocassette edition.

A far more incendiary film than your average Italocrime effort, it’s great to finally it back in circulation, and thanks to Camera Obscura’s superb Blu-ray, it’s unquestionably never looked better. Order it from DiabolikDVD.

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