Revolver [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - Eureka
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (23rd May 2022).
The Film

Former Milan cop and newly-appointed deputy prison warden Vito Cirpiani (Women in Love's Oliver Reed) comes home to a phone call from a person unknown telling him that he must find a way to spring small-time crook Milo Ruiz (What Have You Done to Solange's Fabio Testi) – awaiting trial for a botched robbery that claimed the life of his partner Jean-Daniel (Ludwig's Gunnar Warner) – if he ever wants to see his young wife Anna (Night of the Devils' Agostina Belli) alive again. Ruiz swears that he has no idea who would want him out of jail. His cellmate DeGregori (Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Ke's Marco Mariani) points him in the direction of Ruiz's only known associate Grappa (Aguirre, the Wrath of God's Peter Berling) but even he claims that Ruiz has no regular connections and is just a freelancer in on a heist one day and holding up a bar the next. Cipriani roughs Ruiz up, but only to put in him in the infirmary to engineer his own escape. No sooner does Ruiz escape than he is in Cipriani's custody and they are both still at a loss as to who wants him.

An initial exchange is aborted when Cipriani refuses to relinquish Ruiz to mysterious men who do not have Anna with them, and a botched attempt to trail them costs Cipriani's trusted former sergeant-turned-guard Fantuzzi (Four Flies on Grey Velvet's Calisto Calisti) his life while mastermind Granier (The French Connection's Frédéric de Pasquale) dismisses his hired Sicilian kidnappers and spirits Anna away before Cipriani can get the drop on them. A cryptic clue leads Cipriani and Ruiz to Milanese informant "Corisca Joe" (Beatrice Cenci's Steffen Zacharias) who directs Ruiz to French former hood-turned-hippie folk singer Niko (Faceless' Daniel Beretta). Although Ruiz is instructed to get rid of Cipriani now that he has the upper hand, but Cipriani realizes that the younger man "born to be a criminal" has never killed before and makes him a deal instead; and Ruiz may need Cipriani's help when he learns that Niko identified the unrecognizable corpse of the hitman behind the assassination of industrialist Harmakolas (The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie's Jean Degrave) as Jean-Daniel who was already dead before the killing.

Revolver was the ninth feature directorial effort of Sergio Sollima who had cycled through the Eurospy genre rather anonymously before a hit trio of westerns The Big Gundown, Run, Man, Run, and Face to Face followed by the well-received Charles Bronson vehicle Violent City and the high-profile but undeservedly obscure Devil in the Brain. What looks and sounds initially like a higher-budgeted but run-of-the-mill poliziotteschi along the lines of the post-giallo cycle output of Umberto Lenzi (The Tough Ones) and Sergio Martino (Gambling City) - or even a few higher-tier vehicles also featuring Testi like The Big Racket and Gang War in Naples – however, beneath the Italian/French/German quota casting, production value globe-trotting, modest if efficiently-staged action sequences, and the window dressings of assassination of a "class traitor", hippie-sellouts, and government corruption is a more pointedly political commentary in which even a person with firm convictions (in this case an authoritarian representative) can be just as expendable as a crook with no principles if what they think is right runs counter to the interests of those in power. The righteous anger that such injustice provokes has the effect in the end of breaking Cipriani and making formerly self-interested Ruiz – after being castigated by criminal cohort love interest Carlotta (Fists in the Pocket's Paola Pitagora) – want to bring it all tumbling down by taking it public without regard to who gets hurt. Book-ending scenes in which two characters lie to the police about the identity of a corpse on a morgue slab are actually clever since the viewer learns the reasons behind the first one late in the film and comes to understand and identify with the motivations behind the second.

Although Reed was reportedly as out of control behind the scenes as his reputation has lead one to expect, his actual performance is compelling even if his attempted American accent on the English dub feels out of place in a film explicitly set in Milan and Paris. A somewhat limited actor, especially early in his career, chiseled stuntman-turned-star Testi – who was also appearing in high-profile art films like Vittorio de Sica's The Garden of the Finzi-Contini, Mauro Bolognini's The Inheritance, and Giuseppe Patroni Griffi's 'Tis Pity She's a Whore at the same time as his exploitation output in which he would better find his footing – gets by a long way on his looks since he is dubbed on both English and Italian tracks but he manages to convey a sense of naiveté underlying his brash cynicism and exuberance. Belli has less to do but look good and act terrified, and even Pitagora is underutilized as a character more knowing but less cynical than the film's villains. The photography of Aldo Scavarda (L'avventura) is functional but slick while the scoring of Ennio Morricone – including the French-language theme song performed by Beretta – does some of the emotional heavy-lifting in underlining the themes of loyalty and friendship that blind certain characters to signs of betrayal. Revolver was the last major theatrical work of Solimma who moved to television as film production slowed in the mid-seventies, only occasionally returning to the big screen with the pirate film The Black Corsair and the WWII erotic drama Berlin '39 (the product of a brief period in the early nineties when longtime distributor P.A.C. Produzioni Atlas Consorziate had a brief production boom of films by former theatrical directors consigned-to-television like Bolognini,Lamberto Bava, Aldo Lado, and Stelvio Massi that went mostly direct-to-video in other territories). The supporting cast also includes Marc Mazza (Joy House) as a sinister French detective, Sal Borghese (The Savage Three) as a drunk and violent inmate, and future porn star and senator Ilona Staller (The Face with Two Left Feet) as a hooker.


Released stateside by Sam Sherman's Independent-International in 1975 as "Blood in the Streets" and apparently not at all in the UK, Revolver was available in English-friendly form on VHS from Sherman's Super Video in the early eighties in a clamshell case and as a slipcover in the late eighties, Revolver got its first digital treatment in Japan as a non-anamorphic letterboxed disc with the English and Italian tracks followed quickly by an anamorphic DVD from Blue Underground. The film made its Blu-ray bow in Germany from filmArt including English audio; however, Eureka's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 widescreen Blu-ray comes from a brand new 4K restoration that is stunning throughout. Blacks are deep, reds pop, and the production design now seems more considered with contrasts between the gray and dirty jail and abandoned warehouse settings, the domestic comfiness of the Cipriani apartment, Niko's Parisian hippie pad, and the bright white snow of the Alpine sequence. An instance of deep focus framing is also more striking than before with some heretofore unnoticed gobo shadow sculpting of light on the background that lends equal dramatic emphasis to the two characters in the frame.


Audio options include original mono English – in which Reed post-synchs his own performance – and Italian LPCM 2.0, both of which are cleaned up and sport clear dialogue and scoring (the theme song is heard as a French-language vocal on the Italian track during the credits and an instrumental on the English but the song is heard later on in both without translation on the latter). Optional English subtitles are available for the Italian track – which also translates the French instances of dialogue and lyrics – and an HoH track is included for the English dub (presumably because of Reed's voice on the track).


The film is accompanied by an audio commentary by author/critic Kim Newman and Barry Forshaw in which they note thematic similarities with Sollima's Face to Face and The Big Gundown – indeed, the plot of Revolver could probably have been rewritten as a western with some minor changes – and liken it less to the more popular examples of the poliziotteschi genre than loftier art film thrillers like Elio Petri's Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion and Francesco Rosi's Illustrious Corpses. They also note that while the stories about Reed's behavior on film sets are entirely true, his performance of restrained rage is actually quite fitting here. "Stephen Thrower on Revolver" (22:00) is an interview with the author of "Nightmare USA" who notes that Sollima's film school education and early career overlapped with the Fascist control of the CSC and the post-war Open City neorealist period, that the recurring themes of his filmography suggest that he is anti-authoritarian but not an ideologue, and also gives a positive assessment of Reed's performance.

"Tough Girl" (10:21) is a new interview with actress Pitagora who recalls being attracted to the role of Carlotta because her career had thus far been overshadowed by her "icon of purity" role in I promessi sposi, a 1967 TV miniseries adaptation of Alessandro Manzoni's novel and the injury she suffered during production that lead to her performance being visually-diminished with large dark glasses and wide shots over close-ups, as well as her memories of Sollima, Testi – with whom she previously appeared in Un amore così fragile, così violento, and Reed who she admired while admitting he was disruptive on the set. "Action Man" (17:08) is an interview with Testi ported from the 2015 German DVD (and also present on the aforementioned filmArt Blu-ray) in which he recalls doing stunt work to pay for college, agreeing to play the lead in art director-turned-director Demofilo Fidani's And Now... Make Your Peace with God in which he also did stuntwork for his character and several other supporting characters; after which, he quit college and enrolled in drama school. He briefly discusses the film and Sollima before also giving his impressions of Enzo G. Castellari and Lucio Fulci.

The disc also includes the English Export "Revolver" Opening and Closing Credits (6:23), the Italian theatrical trailer (3:40), the U.S. "Blood in the Streets" theatrical trailer (1:55) – mislabeled as an "international trailer" – which cites Reed's performance as making "Charles Bronson's Death Wish look like… wishful thinking," and two "Blood in the Streets" radio spots (1:33).


The first pressing of 2,000 copies comes with a limited edition O-card slipcover and a collector's booklet featuring two new essays by author Howard Hughes; one covering the background to the making of Revolver, and an extensive piece on Ennio Morricone’s “Eurocrime” soundtracks (neither of which have been supplied for review).


Revolver looks and sounds on paper like a run-of-the-mill poliziotteschi, but its commentary on authoritarianism and correuption cuts to the bone.


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