Arrow Academy has released the 1961 black and white Italian Crime film The Assassin (L’assassino) on a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack.
I was giddy at getting the chance to see another film from the unheralded master of psychological Italian crime cinema Elio Petri. Very few of his films were released in Region A. Criterion released Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion on Blu-ray in 2013 and the long out of print the 10th Victim from Blue Underground was in 2011. Thankfully within the last month Arrow Academy has doubled that number with releases of Property Is No Longer A Theft and The Assassin on Blu-ray.
The Assassin is a black and white crime thriller in a similar vein to Citizen. Marcello Mastroianni (8 1/2, La Dolce Vita) stars as antique dealer Alfredo Martelli who is caught in a Kafkaesque situation. He is picked up by the police and through their investigation we as the audience find out details about his life and why he is being held. He slowly starts to spiral down into feelings of guilt. Is it because he is a killer or is this doubt a result of the techniques the police are using to question him?
The title of the film lends itself to naturally thinking this is a movie about assassinations, and maybe even political intrigue. Interestingly though, for his directorial debut, Elio Petri decided to make a film about character assassination and the implications of police questioning techniques. It is a very interesting concept and the film leaves much for the viewer to think about. I won’t go into spoilers but I think it takes a very good craftsman to weave a story and characters in such a way to explain certain parts of the story but also keep many things opened ended and yet still have a satisfying experience. Petri is able to do that here with The Assassin.
The film itself is pretty straightforward and it is not as complex as his later works. However it’s a great companion piece to those later films to see Petri playing with ideas that he will later delve more thoroughly into. Marcello Mastroianni does a marvelous job of bringing the lead character to life with just enough charisma tempered with the perfect amount of self doubt and mistakes.
The picture quality is what you would expect out of an Arrow Academy release, which is to say very good. The accompanying booklet has this to say about the transfer:
The digital restoration of L’assassino was made from the original camera negative which was missing the first and last roll, and from a first- generation interpositive. These two elements were scanned at 2K resolution for this restoration. The grading was carried out by referring to the original print version that was held by the production company Titanus in the archives of the Cineteca di Bologna. The sound was extracted from a 35mm negative and digitally remastered. The work was carried out at the L’Immagine Ritrovato laboratory in 2011.
The audio is dialog heavy with a jazzy score, and it sounds exactly like you would expect a 60’s foreign film to sound like. English subtitles are included. I did occasionally notice some subtitles that seemed to be a bit different in color, almost a tan/green tint, but it was only very, very slight. I don’t think it will alter your enjoyment of the film and it is so small that the majority of people might not even notice it, but I figured I should mention it.
Introduction by Writer and Film Lecturer Pasquale Iannone – 9 minute overview on Director Elio Petri and this film.
Tonino Guerra — A Poet in the Movies – 50 minute interview with the legendary Italian writer on this film and many others.
Booklet – 39 pages featuring essays from Petri expert Camilla Zamboni, Petri’s own critical analysis of 1950’s Italian cinema, photos and a selection of contemporary reviews.
The Assassin Final Thoughts:
While not the very top tier of this genre, The Assassin is a fantastic and enjoyable entry into crime drama. Elio Petri deserves more acclaim for his work and I applaud Arrow Films for releasing more of his films. While the special features are not high in number, they are quality material. Plus, they give great insight into the production and overall concepts of the genre. The technical aspects are second to none and fans of the film will really appreciate the hard work that went into presenting them for home viewing. I give this release my highest recommendation. You can purchase your copy here at Amazon.
Note: This Blu-ray was sent to us for review. This has not affected our judgement or editorial process in any way. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this process.