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 cracking under the strain and stresses of living in modern society (“We’re always under pressure. It might be the stress, the mistreatment,” he surmises). A succession of murder and sexual assault continues for much of the film’s running time, culminating with the abduction and rape of a pair of ‘upper class’ women (Carmen Scarpitta and Ada Pometti). It turns out that one of these 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!
Originally released in Italy as FANGO BOLLENTE (trans: “Seething Swamp”), SAVAGE THREE was barely released outside of Italy in the pre-DVD days (an English dubbed VHS tape was released on the Greek NK Video label), but it did finally garner a superb Region B Blu-ray in 2017 thanks to Camera Obscura. Arrow’s new disc features the same superior transfer, with optimally-balanced colours, strong contrasts, excellent black levels and a nice, consistent amount of natural film grain; in fact, it looks just about perfect! The DTS-HD MA mono Italian audio also sounds perfectly-balanced and clear throughout.
The second disc starts things off with the HD debut of Massimo Dallamano’s final film, COLT 38 SPECIAL SQUAD (1976)—he died later that year as the result of a car crash at age 59—an impressive action programmer that provided the template for subsequent imitative ‘Special Squad’ actioners, such as Domenico Paolella’s STUNT SQUAD (1977), which also shared cast members Marcel Bozzuffi and Riccardo Salvino. After so memorably playing Pierre Nicoli, the relentless, cold-hearted hitman in William Friedkin’s THE FRENCH CONENCTION (1971), Bozzuffi made a string of Eurocrime appearances wherein he switched to the ‘right’—make that extreme Right!—side of the law (he eventually slipped back into criminality to play another vicious killer in Lucio Fulci’s ultraviolent CONTRABAND ).
Several well-choreographed, fast-paced action sequences are some of the film’s many highlights (including a car driving atop a moving train!), which proves the Special Squad are a force to be reckoned with. However, they soon begin abusing their new-found power (and the tenets of the Geneva Convention) when they employ deadly ‘dum-dum’ bullets that cause maximum internal damage to their unlucky human targets; it’s shoot first, ask questions later. As the Black Angel, Rassimov’s ice-cold character is also not without a sense of humour, albeit as dark as the wings of his celestial namesake. Using a TNT charge detonated via remote control, he disposes of a stool pigeon (Bernardino Emanueli) while the man takes a piss behind a tree. Elsewhere, one of the Angel’s underlings (Franco Garofalo) gets his fingers chopped-off by the slamming door of an accelerating getaway car.
Several worthwhile extra features are once again re-included from No Shame’s 2006 DVD, including A Special Groove for a Very Special Friend (here retitled as Always the Same Ol’ 7 Notes in the menu [25m48s]), a delightful career-spanning interview wherein late, great maestro Cipriani discusses his time working on Eurocrime films, collaborating with Grace Jones, and how he went about scoring the present title under discussion. In A Tough Guy (9m31s), editor Antonio Siciliano talks about getting his start in the industry and collaborating with much-revered director Dallamano. A video intro with Cipriani which precedes the film, its Italian theatrical trailer and a meagre image gallery round out the extras.
Human performances all-round are solid enough, but not surprisingly of superficial depth and placed strictly secondary behind their non-human (i.e., mechanical) protagonists: the cars! This really is a showcase for the talents of veteran stunt arranger extraordinaire Rémy Julienne (who passed away early into 2021 at the age of 90). At the height of his career as a stunt arranger, Julienne had provided plenty of breakneck metallic mechanized mayhem for such top Eurocrime flicks as Henri Verneuil’s THE BURGLARS (1971), Alberto de Martino’s Canadian-shot-and-set STRANGE SHADOWS IN AN EMPTY ROOM (a.k.a. BLAZING MAGNUMS ) and Maurizio Lucidi’s STREET PEOPLE (1976). In HIGHWAY RACER, frenetic and at times sloppily-executed stunts endow action with a realistic tone, including a logistically-impressive sequence that has Julienne driving (or rather tumbling end over end!) down the Spanish steps outside of Rome’s Trinità dei Monti church.
Outside Italy, Massi’s film probably got its biggest exposure in Japan, where it was released onto Japanese Betamax/VHS videocassette by Pony Canyon as “FERRARI FALCON” (the Anglo translation of its Japanese title). Released in 2020 as part of their long-running Italian Genre Cinema Collection, Camera Obscura’s all-region Blu-ray was yet another absolutely gorgeous release, which is thankfully preserved on Arrow’s new disc. Boasting a beautifully-detailed and colourful image, with no digital enhancement of any sort, Arrow have, unlike the earlier CO disc, seen fit to include both Italian and English LPCM Italian mono audio options. A nice added touch, indeed!
Arrow Video’s exhaustive set finishes off in fine style beginning with Will Webb’s Poliziotteschi: Violence and Justice in the Years of Lead (20m17s), a superb video essay about the differing Eurocrime subgenres, with a particular emphasis on the films included herein, plus a thick 60-page book featuring detailed essays from the likes of Kat Ellinger, Troy Howarth, Michael Mackenzie, Rachael Nisbet and James Oliver. This is a stunning, must-own collection, which comes highly recommended!