Tickets are still available for see Ennio Morricone and his orchestra and choir in concert at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire this week. This is part of his 60 Years of Music tour. Spaghetti western fans should know that Morricone has added a selection of themes from The Hateful Eight and the 1970s Sean Connery film The Red Tent to his live programme.

GBU2 (2)

The concerts he has played so far (before shows were cancelled due to his on-going back ailment) includes themes from The Best Offer, The Legend of 1900, Baaria, Maddalena, Metti, Una Sera a Cena, A Fistful of Dynamite, Cinema Paradiso, Once Upon a Time in America, The Mission and Burn!

There’s more information at the Nocturne site here:


Announcement from Ennio Morricone’s Facebook page:

One of the world’s greatest film composers, the Maestro Ennio Morricone and his 200+ orchestra will perform live in the beautiful surroundings of Blenheim Palace on 23rd June this summer.

Tickets begin from £25, and are available here:



Barbara Steele, The Woman Who Haunted Herself

Barbara Steele’s face is one of the most beautifully haunting in cinema, her cheekbones catching the light, framed by long rectangles of jet-black hair. Her huge eyes flashing menace or dread. Her mouth, sensual or cruel, promising a kiss, or delivering a sneer of contempt. Her slender wrists and distended fingers soothingly caressing, or offering a chalice of poison. Whether rising from a coffin or the elegance of a four-poster bed, Steele’s grace and menace on screen was unmatched: the horror genre has had no stronger female icon, before or since.

The Mask of Satan

Though Steele made films in all genres, including Fellini’s 8½ (1963), where she famously twisted with her fiancé Mezzabotta (Mario Pizu), the knockabout medieval comedy L’Amata Brancaleone (1966 – which anticipates such scattershot, bloody surrealism as Jabberwocky) and Volker Schlöndorff’s directorial debut Young Torless (1966), an allegorical tale of Nazism set in a boarding school, it is for her 11 gothic horrors from the sixties for which she is best remembered. Steele was born on 29 December 1937 in Birkenhead on the Wirral, Cheshire. She acted in repertory theatre, then was under contract at J. Arthur Rank Studios appearing in several Rank Organisation productions, including bit parts in Bachelor of Hearts (1958), Sapphire (1959), Upstairs and Downstairs and Your Money or Your Wife (both 1960). She then travelled to Rome, where she was cast by Mario Bava in her first horror feature, The Mask of Satan (1960), released in the US by American International Pictures (AIP) in February 1961 as Black Sunday and also known in the UK as Revenge of the Vampire for its belated release, rated ‘X’, by Border Films in June 1968.

In Mask, Steele established her schizophrenic screen persona, playing the dual roles of Asa (a witch put to death in the 17th Century) and Princess Katja, the spitting image of Asa, who two hundred years later is possessed by the resurrected sorceress. As their personalities collide, intertwine and switch, it’s difficult for the hero (John Richardson) to tell which witch is which. Director Bava, who became better known for his astonishing technicolour visuals in his later movies, pioneered a new, gory approach to exquisite monochrome horror, in which style, atmosphere and effect were much more important than plot, which is merely the thin thread by which the film’s narrative hangs. It also featured the famous scene where Asa is executed with an iron, spike-lined demon mask, hammered onto her face in a brutal precursor of her many later screen demises.

The Mask of Satan is one of the cornerstones of Italian horror cinema and the trigger film for the gothic horror craze in Italy in the early sixties. This was in conjunction with the popularity of British Hammer Studios’ bloody brand of revamped vampirism and Roger Corman’s elegant, CinemaScope Edgar Allan Poe adaptations. It was here that Steele surfaced next, acting in the second of Corman’s celebrated Poe adaptations for AIP, Pit and the Pendulum (1961), an immensely popular and influential film in Italy. Steele’s presence is again used to excellent effect, as Elizabeth, the recently deceased wife of Nicholas Medina (Vincent Price), a Spanish don. Steele appears mostly in the flashbacks to her life in Nicholas’ gloomy castle, which precipitates her demise, depressed and obsessed with the castle’s torture chamber, where Nicholas’ father cruelly dismantled his victims during the Spanish Inquisition. An investigation by Elizabeth’s brother Francis Barnard (John Kerr) unearths the castle’s terrible secrets, but Elizabeth is not dead. In league with her lover, DR Leon (Anthony Carbone), she aims to drive Nicholas insane. Made for $200,000 on a 15-day shoot, Pit is one of Corman’s best films, taking $2 million in the US, though Steele’s role is really only a cameo.

The Terrible Secret of Dr Hichcock

Steele returned to Italy to work for director Riccardo Freda for Raptus – The Secret of Dr Hichcock (1962 – also called The Terror of Dr Hichcock) and its sequel The Ghost (1963 – originally Lo Spettro), two delirious, Technicolor gothics which proved popular in the US and further developed Steele’s cult following. In the first she played the victim: Cynthia, the second wife of the title character, Dr Bernard Hichcock (Robert Flemyng). Set in London in 1885 (though Steele is dubbed in an American accent), Hichcock is a necrophiliac, who uses his patented serum (which slows the heart rate) on his first wife Margaretha, to replicate death during their lovemaking. Ever experimenting, Hichcock ups the dose, killing his wife, or so he thinks – they inter her in a coffin in the family crypt anyway. But when the doctor returns to his home after an absence of 12 years, with new wife Cynthia, all is not as it seems. The stylish, atmospheric pacing of these films often feature long silent passages, with Steele as the stalked victim, exploring down dark corridors with a flickering candlestick and no matches, ready for that inopportune gust of wind. In her varied horror incarnations, Steele has played both the haunted and the spectre, occasionally (as in Mask of Satan and The Night of the Doomed) within the same scenario. She falls in with evil schemes, usually a plot to murder her husband in pursuit of an inheritance, in collusion with a lover, as in Freda’s The Ghost, where Margaret Hichcock (Steele) helps her beau kill her wheelchair-bound husband, only to discover that he has left his fortune to the local orphanage.

On a roll, Steele continued to scare audiences with her sensual brand of horror. She made a brace of black and white shockers for Antonio Margheriti, the first of which is probably her best film: the spooky haunted house chiller Castle of Blood (1963 – also released as Castle of Terror and La Danza Macabra), a perfect genre piece, with gothic drapery, cobwebs, candles, misty graveyards, candles, apparitions and sexuality mixed with magic, mysticism and gore – a sort of abracadaver. Here she was Elizabeth, one of several ghosts haunting Blackwood Castle. When Times journalist Alan Foster (George Riviere) wagers he can survive ‘The Night of the Dead’ at the castle, he loses more than he bargained for. The strong cast includes Arturo Dominici (from Mask of Satan), Sergio Leone’s chief stuntman Benito Stefanelli and Steve Reeve’s ex-Hercules stunt double Giovanni Cianfriglia in supporting roles. In her second film for Margheriti, The Long Hair of Death (1964), she again made a spectre of herself, in the dual roles of Helen Karnstein (killed when she’s pushed over a waterfall) and her reincarnation, Mary, the survivor of a coach crash. Temptress Mary vengefully brings down the house of Humbolt, who executed her mother (an accused witch), finally burning alive the chief villain Kurt (George Ardisson) inside a wooden effigy of death.


But through over familiarity and typecasting, Steele’s career had peaked. In the Night of the Doomed (1965 – Nightmare Castle in the US), directed by Mario Caiano (as ‘Alan Grünewald’) she again played two roles: the wicked, dark-haired adulteress Muriel Arrowsmith and her blonde, mentally fragile sister Jenny. Accompanied by a miserable organ fugue from Ennio Morricone and featuring the most shocking, sadomasochistic of torments, involving firebrands and electricity, Doomed has two of Steele’s meatiest parts. It is in this film where she appears with the long cascade of black hair, concealing one side of her face, hideously scarred from torture. The one facet of Steele’s performance that occasionally shatters the illusion in these gothics is her voice. Her lines were post-synchronised in the dubbing studio and she was rarely allowed to use her own voice in the English dub – the substitute vocals are often flat and monotonous, in contrast to her vivid performances. A rare chance to hear her own sensual, and very ‘un-Hollywood’ voice, is her role as Jenny in Doomed.

The She Beast (1966), helmed by future Matthew Hopkins – Witchfinder General director Michael Reeves, was a very low-budget film, with Steele only available for one day’s work – appearing for 17 minutes at the beginning of the film and two minutes at the end, as Veronica, who with her newlywed husband Philip (Ian Ogilvy) is honeymooning in Transylvania. They are involved in a car accident and Veronica is drowned in a lake, whereupon she is possessed by the spirit of Vardalla, a witch put to death in a ducking stool (‘the seat of chastisement’) in 1765. In Terror-Creatures from the Grave (1965 – aka Five Graves for a Medium), she was underused as Cleo Hauff, a widow whose deceased husband (the medium of the title) has summoned plague victims from the dead (heralded by the squeaky wheels of the corpse collectors’ death cart) to avenge his own murder. Fittingly it was presented in the US by Pacemaker Pictures. Her last Italian gothic was An Angel for Satan (1966). Again essaying two roles for the price of one, as heroine Harriet and her possessor Belinda, she co-starred with future spaghetti western star Anthony Steffen in a familiar tale. She was then cast, with Christopher Lee and Boris Karloff, in the gory Curse of the Crimson Altar (1968), her only British horror movie (a Tigon British-AIP co-production). As Lavinia Morley she appeared in perhaps her most famous guise, much used in the film’s publicity, as a green-faced witch, with plumed head-dress and rams horns.


Following a quiet spell, during which Steele reportedly mentioned that she didn’t want ‘to climb out of another fucking coffin again’, she appeared in several cult movies in the seventies, her casting a reflection of young filmmakers’ infatuation with her sexy sixties scream queen image. She was the warden, Superintendent McQueen, in Jonathan Demme’s Caged Heat (1974), Betts in David Cronenberg’s bloody Shivers (1975 – aka They Came from Within) and government agent Dr Mengers in Piranha (1978), Joe Dante’s scary, tongue-in-gill Jaws derivative, made with verve, imagination and a great cult cast. Steele later moved into producing, with The Winds of War (1983) and War and Remembrance (1988) teleseries.

But Steele’s legend is forever branded on cinema history with her sixties horror movies. The Mask of Satan, Pit and the Pendulum, Raptus – The Secret of Dr Hichcock and Castle of Blood are her finest films and are among the best of the genre. Steele stares like no other, with those wide marble eyes, her aquiline features alabaster as she glides across the screen, a spectre of lost souls. Her image is a melding of the dreamily lovelorn and the morto viventi: Kate Bush meets Vampira. A silent, timeless beauty, for Steele the eyes most certainly have it.

This article originally appeared in Issue #11 May 2008 of ‘Cinema Retro’.


Hold your socks on for this trash classic that’s been released on Blu-ray and DVD by Arrow Films.


Umberto Lenzi’s 1980 shocker ‘Nightmare City’ aka ‘City of the Walking Dead’ aka ‘Incubo sulla città contaminata’ (‘Nightmare in the Contaminated City’) is a very lively Italian-Spanish zombie movie. If you’ve never seen it, you’re in for a treat. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s the one where a pilotless Hercules transporter plane lands on the runway of a (Spanish-looking) airport and out rushes a bunch of facially-scarred radiation victims, armed to the teeth and able to run like rabbits. These certainly aren’t the familiar shufflers and stumblers we’ve come to expect from Italian zombie movies, but they can still only be killed by being shot in the head – they feast on their victims’ blood, vampire-like, and are only completely inert when their ‘cerebral apparatus has been destroyed’.

The army mobilise – led by nominal guest star Mel Ferrer – and the ensuing rampage is intermittently bloody, sometimes unintentionally funny, always entertaining. In several moments it plays like a spoof and the gore is over-the-top and poorly done, so the true horror of what you’re witnessing is lessened compared to, for example, Lucio Fulci’s bloodier outings, which are altogether more effective in their graphic bloodletting. Even so, Lenzi throws taste and logic to the four winds, so don’t expect strongly-written female characters and long, meaningful discussions as to how to tackle the infected victims and the epidemic. Female nudity seems of paramount concern to the filmmakers to retain audience interest, coupled with non-stop action and some mind-blowing dialogue. The army’s taking no chances and instigate Emergency Plan H so it can: “Keep Plan B in reserve, in case the situation gets out of hand”.

CLICK HERE FOR THE ORIGINAL TRAILER: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nz42OkD_R-o

Our heroes are a journalist Dean Miller (played by Hugo Stiglitz) and his surgeon wife Anna (Laura Trotter). Despite his name becoming enshrined forever in cult moviedom, when Tarantino christened Til Schweiger’s champion Nazi killer Sergeant Hugo Stiglitz in ‘The Inglourious Basterds’ (2009), Stiglitz himself is a charisma-free zone as the principal protagonist. The story takes him from the airport (where the zombies arrive by plane and wreak havoc on their military reception committee), a TV studio (where the zombies attack a dance extravaganza), a hospital to save his wife (where the zombies swarm through the building in search of plasma) and eventually into the countryside and to an abandoned funfair (where the zombies…well, you get the idea). Euro-cult movie fanatics will be more pleased to note the presence of Eduardo Fajardo (who appears fleetingly, wearing a surgeons mask and hurling a scalpel like a circus knife-thrower), Francisco Rabal (as Major Holmes, who heads up the Plan H fightback), and Manuel Zarzo and Tom Felleghy (as army officers). Stelvio Cipriani’s superb slow-burning theme music ‘L’atessa’ (‘The Wait’) and most of the score is infinitely superior to the images it accompanies.

CIPRIANI’S SOUNDTRACK CLIP ‘L’ATESSA’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qqblaZUS5Ug

So to the zombie-mutants themselves. They’re a pretty horrible-looking bunch, as played by the likes of Italian stuntmen Ottaviano and Roberto Dell’Acqua, Benito Pacifico and Rinaldo Zamperla wearing caked-on make-up. Less pizza-faced, they’re more half-done flame-grilled burger, while some sport a variety of facial conditions that vary from flaky pastry to cowpat. The horde is armed with an assorted arsenal, from knives to sub-machineguns, and are unstoppable – even ‘The End’ doesn’t depict a resolution to the mutant problem. You’ve got to laugh when the impervious mutant zombies, which can only be killed via headshots, scream when their fingers get trapped in a door. The bodycount is high, the Chianti flows and there’s quite enough in here to justify the film’s ‘Nightmare’ title.

Arrow includes two versions of the film – one that’s quite badly damaged in parts, but sharper (with the Italian titles) and another that’s a softer picture but damage-free (with the ‘Nightmare City’ titles sequence). It’s best just to watch the latter version and turn the sharpness on your TV up as high as it will go. Both versions are available in the English dub or the original Italian with English subtitles. The Arrow edition contains two disks – one Blu-ray, one DVD. Among a bunch of extras, there are interviews with Umberto Lenzi, co-star Maria Rosaria Omaggio, and filmmaker Eli Roth, plus an entertaining booklet essay titled ‘Fade Away and Radiate’ by John Martin.


In summary: great score, excellent opening scenes, complete and utter stupidity for the most part. If you like Italian cult sinema, such as ‘Contamination’ or anything featuring the undead Morto Viventi, you’ll love it. But be prepared for your cerebral apparatus to be destroyed.


  • Brand new 2K restoration of the film from the original camera negative
  • Alternative High Definition transfer from the 35mm reversal dupe negative
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
  • Original Italian and English soundtracks in mono audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
  • Newly translated subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
  • Brand new audio commentary by filmmaker, Fangoria editor and Nightmare City fan Chris Alexander
  • Radiation Sickness – a brand new interview with director Umberto Lenzi
  • Sheila of the Dead – a brand new interview with star Maria Rosaria Omaggio
  • Zombies Gone Wild! – director, producer and actor Eli Roth on Nightmare City and the wild cinema of Umberto Lenzi
  • Nightmare City and The Limits of Restoration – featurette looking at the differences between the two transfers included on this release
  • Alternate Opening Titles
  • Original Trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
  • Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by John Martin, author of ‘Seduction of the Gullible: The Truth Behind the Video Nasty Scandal’, illustrated with original archive stills and posters








Arrow Films in the UK has released Fernando Di Leo’s ‘Milano Calibro 9’ (‘Milan Calibre 9’), a crime classic from 1972 and one of the best examples of the poliziottesco (‘Italian crime movie’) genre. Jailbird Ugo Piazza (Gastone Moschin) is released from San Vittorio prison in Milan after three years behind bars. He’s out for good behaviour, but what follows his release is anything but. Money-laundering Godfather ‘The Mikado’ (Lionel Stander) is convinced Ugo has hidden $300,000 he has stolen from the mob, but despite beatings and harassment, Ugo remains silent. The hoods on his trail – waiting for him to make a mistake and trip up – include greasy, sadistic blabbermouth Rocco Musco (Mario Adorf). As Ugo runs afoul of the mob and the police, he ends up on the Mikado’s payroll again, but eventually finds out that you can’t trust anyone – not even those closest to you.

Fernando Di Leo’s crime thriller masterpiece arrives on blu-ray and DVD in great shape, with superb colour and sound, and a wealth of extras. Also included in the package is a fully illustrated collector’s booklet, featuring an insightful essay ‘Film Noir, Italian-Style: Giorgio Scerbanenco, Fernando Di Leo and Milano Calibro 9’ by Roberto Curti, the author of ‘Italian Crime Filmography, 1968-80’. Arrow Films’ edition contains the English language track most fans of the film will be familiar with (with Lionel Stander dubbing himself and Mario Adorf dubbed with a squeaky, helium whine) and the original Italian edition (with Stander’s crime kingpin called ‘The Americano’, not the Mikado).

‘Calibro 9’ is, with Enzo G. Castellari’s ‘The Marseilles Connection’ (1973 – aka ‘High Crime’), my favourite 1970s Italian crime movie. Both films pack a considerable punch, emotionally and physically, and also have an underlying socio-political agenda amid the action. In Di Leo’s film, which adapted the work of Italian noir novelist Giorgio Scerbanenco, two police commissioners – one from the north of Italy, one from the south – discuss and argue over the north-south/rich-poor divide. The pair is played by actors well known to connoisseurs of Italian genre cinema – Frank Wolff and Luigi Pistilli– and while the scenes don’t drag, their authenticity, especially in the English language dub, is occasionally questionable. For example, would a Milanese commissioner of police ever use a phrase like ‘dangling dingleberries’? The film could do without these scenes, Di Leo reckons in retrospect, but they remained in the original cut of the film. With actors of the calibre of Wolff and Pistilli is supporting roles, writer-director Di Leo obviously fields a very strong cast. Gastone Moschin, the fascist agent from Bertolucci’s ‘The Conformist’ (1970), is superb as the stoic, tough nut Ugo Piazza, an immovable object who the Mikado’s ruffians just can’t break. Ugo ‘had it made’ but couldn’t resist biting the hand that fed him. Now that hand pummels him, in an attempt to find the whereabouts of the missing $300,000.

Compared to taciturn Ugo (an indeed everyone else in the film) Mario Adorf’s performance as Rocco is like a whirlwind. Smashing his way through life with zero regard for the pain, suffering and hatred he generates, he dominates the film. Adorf is one of the great European actors of his generation and the more films of his I watch, the more impressed I am by his skill. He was great in westerns – the crazy bandido in ‘Last Ride to Santa Cruz’ (1964), landgrabbing villain Santer in ‘Winnetou the Warrior’ (1963 – ‘Apache Gold’) and the bandit with a spur instead of an arm in Sergio Corbucci’s ‘The Specialists’ (1969 – ‘Drop Them of I’ll Shoot’) – but was equally at home in comedies, such as the caper ‘The Treasure of San Gennaro’ (1966) or the Oscar-winning drama ‘The Tin Drum’ (1979). Rocco’s two humourless henchmen, Pasquale and Nicola, were played by Mario Novelli and Giuseppe Castellano. Barbara Bouchet was Ugo’s go-go dancing girlfriend Nelly. Bouchet’s psychedelic dance routine (in a nightclub of the type that only ever appear in Italian crime movies) wearing a beaded bikini, is a visual highlight. Philippe Leroy gave a commanding performance as Ugo’s ally Chino, who’s a tough as they come, and Ivo Garrani played aged crime kingpin, Don Vincenzo, a once-important man, now blind and consumed by loneliness. Even the characters at the corners of Di Leo’s drama are given life, through professional performances from familiar faces.

Torre Branca

[Torre Branca, Sempione Park, Milan]

The powerful score was composed by Luis Enriquez Bacalov. It’s partly traditional orchestral arrangements, but Bacalov also collaborated with Italian prog-rock band Osanna on the soundtrack. Bacalov had worked with the band The New Trolls to great success on Maurizio Lucidi’s thriller ‘The Designated Victim’ (1971) and in fact the song ‘My Shadow in the Dark’ from Lucidi’s film accompanies a scene between Ugo and Nelly in ‘Calibro 9’. ‘Milano Calibro 9’ was photographed by Franco Villa in an autumnal, inhospitable Milan, with interiors at DEAR Studios. Di Leo shot on the streets of Milan and also in such authentic locations as the Milano Centrale railway station on Piazza Duca d’Aosta and on the canals and bridges of the Navigli district (both of which have now been renovated since the film was made). The pre-titles sequence, the greatest opening scene of any Italian crime movie, introduces twitchy hood Omero Cappana walking through Sempione Park in Milan, towards a cash drop-off. The hood is revealed in the opening shot of the film, as the camera pans down Torre Branca (Branca Tower), an iron panoramic tower in Sempione Park. The top of the tower is a viewing point – did De Leo film some of the title sequence’s cityscape panoramas across Milan from the top of here? The scene is accompanied by a mellow flute motif, not unlike one deployed by Bacalov in Sergio Corbucci’s ‘Django’ (1966) where it too is a prelude to a savage burst of violence. The action then proceeds to Piazza Del Duomo (Duomo Square) in Milan where the cash handover, a strange game of pass-the-parcel, begins. The music develops from the flute melody, to staccato piano, relentless strings and eventually explodes into a full-throttle prog-rock jam, as violence explodes on the screen. When the hoods find out they have been duped in this cash exchange, they take horrific revenge on the double-crossers. Be aware, Di Leo’s film is very violent, and just as it begins with an act of extreme savagery, it ends with one too, in a scene that’ll pin you back in your chair.

TRAILER: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JXLL560XjOE

‘Milano Calibro 9’ was the first of three crime films from Di Leo, sometimes referred to as the ‘Milieu Trilogy’, and was followed by ‘Manhunt’ (1972) and ‘The Boss’ (1973). In ‘Manhunt’, two New York hitmen (Henry Silva and Woody Strode) arrive in Milan to rub out a small-time pimp, Luca Canali (Adorf again). Canali’s wife (Sylva Koscina) and daughter are deliberately run down in the street and during the incredible chase that ensues, Canali head-butts the windscreen of a speeding van, smashing through the glass and attacking the driver. Adolfo Celi played the sinister crime boss behind the carnage. In ‘The Boss’, which is set in Sicily, Henry Silva played Lanzetta, a mafia hit man who in the film’s opening scene obliterates a rival don and his crew in a cinema with a grenade launcher. In retribution, Lanzetta’s boss’s daughter is kidnapped by hoods disguised as student radicals, which escalates the gang war. Both films are worth checking out, but aren’t quite up to the calibre of the first in the trilogy, which remains the high-watermark for Italian crime cinema.


Special Features:

  • Brand New 2k restoration from the original camera negative
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
  • Original Italian and English soundtracks in mono audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
  • Newly-translated subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
  • ‘Calibro 9’ 2004 making-of documentary with interviews with director Fernando Di Leo, stars Barbara Bouchet, Philippe Leroy, composer Luis Enriquez Bacalov and others
  • ‘Fernando Di Leo: The Genesis of the Genre’ documentary charting the filmmaking career of the director
  • ‘Scerbanenco Noir’: a look at the work of Italian crime writer Giorgio Scerbanenco, author of the original ‘Milano Calibro 9’ novel
  • Gastone Moschin audio interview
  • ‘Italia Violenta’: Matthew Holness, writer and star of cult television series ‘Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace’ offers an appreciation of ‘Milano Calibro 9’ and the Italian poliziottesco sub-genre
  • US and Italian trailers (which feature alternate takes and unused footage)
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Reinhard Kleist
  • Fully-illustrated collectors’ booklet featuring ‘Film Noir, Italian-Style’ by Roberto Curti (author of ‘Italian Crime Filmography, 1968-80’).

The Blu-ray/DVD edition of ‘Milano Calibro 9’ is available now, in Region B/2 format, rated certificate 18







The BFI has released a three-disk Blu-ray set of Robert Rossellini’s celebrated ‘War Trilogy’. The three films, Rome, Open City (1945), Paisà (1946) and Germany Year Zero (1948) are among the jewels in neorealism’s crown. Set in Italy during the German Occupation and its aftermath, the first two films depict Italy wartorn and almost on the brink of capitulation, while the third looks at a post-war Germany shattered by the conflict. Rossellini had made three fascist propaganda films during the war: The White Navy (1941 – detailing hospital ships), A Pilot Returns (1942 – the air force) and Man of the Cross (1943 – the Eastern Front). But in the immediate post-war period his War Trilogy told a very different story of the war, often from a civilian perspective. The Allies invaded Italy, first in Sicily in July 1943 and later the mainland in September of that year. As the liberators fought their way northward, the Germans exacted terrible revenge on their one-time allies.


ROME OPEN CITY Set in the winter of 1943-44, Rome, Open City depicts the hunt for Giorgio Manfredi (Marcell Pagliero), a resistance leader in Rome. Another member of the resistance, Francesco (Francesco Grandjacquet), is due to marry widow Pina (Anna Magnani), but on their wedding day the Gestapo and Italian fascists raid their apartment block. Later SS Major Bergmann (Harry Feist) captures Manfredi and also orders the execution of a priest, Don Pietro Pellegrini (Aldo Fabrizi), who has aided the resistance. Rome, Open City is a powerful film about the German occupation, made on location and with a strong sense of authenticity. The ‘Open City’ epithet is a reference to Rome being declared an ‘open city’ on 14 August 1943, meaning that the defenders had abandoned all efforts to protect the city. This tactic was intended to safeguard the civilian population and the historical landmarks from street fighting and aerial bombing (Paris had made the same declaration in 1940, as did Brussels and Oslo). Rome, Open City headlines Anna Magnani’s star-making role and established Rossellini on the international stage as a leading light of the neorealist movement. Mangani’s death scene, outside her house in Via Raimondo Montecuccoli in Rome, is among the most famous moments in international cinema. The BFI’s release is a newly-remastered presentation of the film. Also included on the disk is Children of Open City (2005, 51 mins) a documentary about the making of the film with Vito Annicchiarico (who played Pina’s son in the film), and an illustrated booklet by Jonathan Rosenbaum and Paul Fairclough.


PAISÀ My personal favourite of the trilogy, Paisa is perhaps Rossellini’s greatest film. Here the grit and sorrow of neorealism combines with newsreel combat footage to moving effect. The six-episode film is set during the Allied campaign to liberate Italy. It begins in Sicily in 1943 and concludes in the Po Delta in the winter of 1944. In the first episode, Carmela (Carmela Sazio), a young Sicilian woman, acts as a guide to a GI patrol on a nighttime patrol. When GI Joe (Robert Van Loon) attempts to show her a photo of his sister, he strikes a light and a German sniper kills him. Later the GI’s think Carmela is responsible for Joe’s death. Episode two is set in Naples. Orphaned street urchin Pasquale (Alfonso Pasca) steals the boots off drunken American military policeman Joe (Dots Johnson). Later the MP meets Pasquale again and when he sees Pasquale’s squalid living conditions and those of other Neapolitan civilians, he realises why the orphan needs to steal boots. In Rome following the Anzio landings, Sherman tank crewman Fred (Gar Moore) hitches up with a prostitute. He drunkenly remembers that six months ago, on his first arrival in Rome, he met a wonderful Roman girl called Francesca. He is too drunk to realise that the woman he is with is Francesca, who has been compelled to become a ‘working girl’ to avoid starvation. The film continues with an episode set during the German retreat north through Tuscan. In Florence, British nurse Harriet (Harriet White) and Massimo (Enzo Tarascio) attempt to cross the River Arno: she to contact her lover, Guido Lombardi who is now heroic partisan leader Lupo (Wolf), he to see his wife and child whose house is caught up in the fighting. Traversing rooftops and rubble, and avoiding fascist snipers and patrols, they make contact with partisans in the German occupied zone. In the next story, at the Gothic Line three US chaplains – Captain Bill Martin (William Tubbs), Captain Feldman (Elmer Feldman) and Captain Jones (Newell Jones) – seek shelter in a Franciscan monastery in the Apennines. The chaplains give the monks Hershey bars and their supplies of tinned food, but the monks’ attitudes change when they discover that two of the chaplains are not of the ‘true faith’, but are Jewish and Protestant. In the final episode, anti-fascist partisans and American OSS operatives fight the Germans in the Po Delta, south of Venice. This episode is the most actionful and climaxes with a battle between the partisans and German gunboats on the delta. Paisà depicts the stark reality of war and its wider impact on society in a way that makes Hollywood and British war films of the period look inauthentic in comparison. The BFI’s presentation of Paisà includes Into the Future (2009), a 30-minute visual essay on the War Trilogy by film scholar Tag Gallagher, and an illustrated booklet written by Gallagher.


GERMANY YEAR ZERO Set and filmed in Berlin in the immediate aftermath of Germany’s defeat, Germany Year Zero (1948) follows a German family, the Köhlers. The father (Ernst Pittschau), a widower, is infirm: the victim of a weak heart and poor diet. His daughter Eva (Ingetraud Hinze) works at night as a prostitute and his eldest son Karl-Heinz, an ex-soldier, is in hiding and fears being carted off to a prison camp. The film’s principal protagonists, the Köhlers’ youngest son Edmund (Edmund Meschke), falls in with gangs of petty thieves and street kid urchins, and hawks wares on the street for his old schoolteacher, Mr Henning (Erich Gühne). Rossellini’s documentary-like style and good performances ensure the degradation of post-war life in ruined Berlin is palpable. Piles of real Berlin masonry, as photographed by Robert Juillard, are the haunting backdrop to the story. The BFI edition is a restored print and includes a booklet with writing on Rossellini by Geoffrey Nowell-Smith, Jonathan Rosenbaum and Paul Fairclough. The disk also features Rossellini’s 1948 film, L’amore: Due storie d’amore, a two-part film starring Anna Magnani, which runs 77 minutes. The first part, A Human Voice, is a screen adaptation of Jean Cocteau’s La Voix humaine while the second, The Miracle, was based on a story by Federico Fellini, who was also the film’s assistant director and appears in the film as a shepherd. The three films are available on Blu-ray as a limited edition numbered boxed set or as individual DVDs. The extras are comprehensive and enlightening. These are superb presentations of three key Italian films and as a set are essential purchases for anyone interested in post-war world cinema.

Blu-ray product details: RRP: £49.99 / Cat. no. BFIB1193 Certificate 12 Variously in Italian, German and English language, with optional English subtitles/ 301 mins / BD50 x3 / 1080p / 24 fps / PCM mono audio (48k/24-bit) / Region B/2 All three films are in 1.33:1 screen ratio Individual DVD releases RRP £19.99 Region 2

ORDER THE BLU-RAY SET HERE: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dvd/dp/B00P6OOFJW/ref=sr_1_1?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1439209772&sr=1-1&keywords=rossellini