Review: Arrow's 'Years Of Lead: Five Classic Italian Crime Thrillers 1973-1977' is Worthy of Your Attention

by Sam Cohen

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday June 22, 2021

Review: Arrow's 'Years Of Lead: Five Classic Italian Crime Thrillers 1973-1977' is Worthy of Your Attention

To understand the poliziotteschi genre, one categorized by Italian crime and action films produced in the '60s, '70s and '80s, you must also take into consideration the political climate in Italy at the time. Amidst the sociopolitical turmoil caused by distrust of the government and bolstered by acts of terrorism on both sides of the political spectrum, the so-called "Years of Lead" spurred some of the most violent works to ever come out of Italy. Usually showcasing the kind of radical violence that plagued society at the time, films in poliziotteschi genre met that turmoil in morally ambiguous ways.

That's not to say that a lot of the films made during that period should be considered high art, but their uniqueness with shocking violence and even more shocking, uneasy ambiguity make for a potent combination. Arrow Video brings five of the hard-hitting Eurocrime films from that period to Blu-ray with "Years of Lead: Five Classic Italian Crime Thrillers 1973-1977," a truly breathless limited-edition release that gives some underseen works incredible new video transfers and backs them with special features newcomers to the genre and lifelong fans can both enjoy.

There's also a terrific collector's booklet included with the set, including essays by Troy Howarth, Michael Mackenzie, Rachael Nisbet, Kat Ellinger, and James Oliver that all provide great context and depth to these brutal thrillers. In particular, Kat Ellinger's essay on "Like Rabid Dogs" does a great job at drawing the line between the Circeo Massacre and how that indirectly informed the film in question.

The bleakest of the five films in the set is probably Mario Imperioli's "Like Rabid Dogs." The story follows three wealthy kids getting their rocks off by committing theft and murder, while a cop bumbles to stop them. A female cop goes undercover as a prostitute in the film in one sequence, resulting in an incredibly upsetting act of sexual violence. But Imperioli adds another layer to the proceedings by studying how that act of violence informs the cop's further mental and social detachment; as if the violence during the "Years of Lead" had both a sexual and anti-social reaction on those who got up close and personal to violence during the time.

All of the films included in the set have something to say about what was happening in the outside world in Italy, although the prevalence of that social commentary varies from picture to picture. But if there's one film that's more direct than the rest, it's probably "Colt 38 Special Squad." It follows a criminal mastermind that everyone wants dead and the cop with a dogged determination to stop him. Neither of the two main players are given any sort of moral superiority, but the film takes great pleasure in watching the collateral damage pile up along the way. In the world of poliziotteschi, the cycle of violence is endless and vast. Plus, Arrow has provided a new 1080p presentation from a new 2K restoration of the film that's exclusive to this release.

If you're at all curious about the Italian crime thrillers made during years of great social and political upheaval in Italy, "Years of Lead" will do much more than satisfy your interest. It's a damn pleasure to see such an underrated pocket of Italian film history get its due from a company like Arrow. This release comes highly recommended.

Other special features include:

• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentations of all five films, restored from the original camera negatives, including a brand new 2K restoration of "Colt 38 Special Squad" exclusive to this release
• Original lossless mono Italian audio
• Original lossless mono English audio on "Colt 38 Special Squad"
• English subtitles for the Italian soundtracks
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack on "Colt 38 Special Squad"
• New visual essay by critic Will Webb
• Interview with director Vittorio Salerno and actress Martine Brochard on "Savage Three"
• Interview with actor Joe Dallesandro on "Savage Three"
• Interview with cinematographer Romano Albani and historian Fabio Melelli on "Like Rabid Dogs"
• Interview with assistant director Claudio Bernabei on "Like Rabid Dogs"
• "Like Rabid Dogs" music sampler
• Interview and introduction by composer Stelvio Cipriani on "Colt 38 Special Squad"
• Interview with editor Antonio Siciliano on "Colt 38 Special Squad"
• Interview with historian Roberto Curti on "Highway Racer"
• Interview with director Vittorio Salerno on "No, the Case is Happily Resolved"
• "No, the Case is Happily Resolved" alternate ending
• Trailers
• Poster galleries

"Years of Lead: Five Classic Italian Crime Thrillers 1973-1977" is now available on Blu-ray from Arrow Video.