Sunday, February 10, 2019

From Arrow Video on Blu-ray, two by Luigi Bazzoni: THE POSSESSED and THE FIFTH CORD

One of the great pleasures of Arrow Video resides in the opportunity to view films transferred to Blu-ray so spectacularly well that even second- or third-rate movies take on a sheen that -- for awhile, at least -- renders them extremely watchable. The company catalog also seems to lean toward the much lesser-known films that can enrich the viewing of folk whose taste runs to genre movies (giallo in particular) and/or the work of filmmakers whose reputations have taken some time to build and/or blossom.

Giallo is front and (maybe-slightly-off) center in the two movies under consideration here that made their home video debut this earlier this week, both directed by a filmmaker new to TrustMovies: Luigi Bazzoni (shown left), an Italian whose half dozen full-length features moved from western to thriller to documentary.

His first, however -- THE POSSESSED (La donna del lago), co-directed by Franco Rossellini -- comes close to an art film/character study via the manner in which it tells a true-life mystery tale from the annals of modern Italian crime history.

Featuring some lip-smackingly good black-and-white cinematography by Leonida Barboni, and a close-to-the-vest, highly interior performance from its leading man (Peter Baldwin, above, right), interestingly set against some nearly over-the-top ones by the excellent supporting cast, which includes Valentina Cortese (below, right), Philippe Leroy, Pia Lindström and Virna Lisi, the movie may not be all that great, but it is consistently interesting and a pleasure to view in its ace transfer from Arrow.

A writer who clearly has a problem committing/connecting to emotional relationships beats a hasty retreat from his current one and takes off for a lakeside hotel at which he evidently spent some previous time, during which he grew smitten with a particular hotel employee (Ms Lisi, below, a beautiful actress who made quite a stir internationally back in the 60's and 70s).

The movie unfolds quietly and rather methodically, and if the plotting does not approach "thriller" status, the movie, along with its cast of oddball characters and some very nice art direction from Luigi Scaccianoce and his assistant (a certain Dante Ferretti) should prove enough to hold your interest.

As usual with Arrow Video, the bonus features, together, comprise a full-length experience in themselves. If you're a fan of black-and-white movies, all this should be enough to easily corral you. The movie, distributed in the USA by MVD Entertainment Group, hit the street this past Tuesday, February 5 -- for purchase and (I would hope) rental.

The original Italian title of THE FIFTH CORD, Giornata nera per l'ariete, translates to "Black Day for the Ram," which would probably have not set the U.S. box-office on fire. However, TrustMovies does not at all understand what "The Fifth Cord" actually signifies. The Fifth Glove would have made a hell of a lot more sense here as the title of this relatively average giallo, in which we hear, via tape recording at the beginning, a killer explaining that he intends to murder five people in pretty quick succession. The movie's 93 minutes are then devoted to those would-be murders -- in which two of the victims actually survive.

The main reason to see this film, too, is its crack cinematography -- by the great Vittorio Storaro -- (in a decent transfer to Blu-ray), whose exteriors and interiors (above and below) are indeed something to see. Other big names associated with the movie are its composer, Ennio Morricone (offering here only a so-so score),

along with a few of its actors: the sexy -- and back then (1971) in his prime--  Franco Nero (shown below) in the leading role,

and the always interesting Rossella Falk (below, and so memorable in Modesty Blaise) playing the killer's second victim, and finally a couple of actors we older Americans remember from their early Hollywood days but might not be so aware of their later Italian careers: Pamela Tiffin and Edmond Purdom.

As so often happened during the giallo craze, repetition did not guarantee worth or success, so The Fifth Cord falls short of anything memorable. The plotting and dialog are mostly standard, if that, and the killings, too, are by-the-book obvious.

Characterization is minimal, with most of the cast playing either victim or suspect. The final unmasking may be a surprise, and that might be a reason for sticking out the film. Only the fun cast and Storaro's fine work rise above the usual.

Still, the Bonus Features on the disc are great fun for fans of Italian mainstream cinema, including a new interview with Franco Nero, a previously unseen deleted sequence, and other interviews and visual essays. From Arrow Video via MVD Entertainment Group, the movie made its Blu-ray debut this past week and is now available for purchase and/or (I hope, somewhere) rental.

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