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Blue Underground presents
How to Kill a Judge (Perché si uccide un magistrato) (1974)

"Don't you think one has the right to question a public official?"
- Giacomo Solaris (Franco Nero)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: February 28, 2006

Stars: Franco Nero, Marco Guglielmi, Francoise Fabian
Other Stars: Mico Cundari, renzo Palmer, Luciano Catnacci, Eva Czemerys, Giorgio Cerioni, Sergio Valentini
Director: Damiano Damiani

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, gore)
Run Time: 01h:50m:36s
Release Date: February 28, 2006
UPC: 827058109390
Genre: crime

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B+A-C C+

DVD Review

Although there were numerous films about the Mafia starting in the early 1970s when their existence stopped being swept under the rug, many of those familiar to American audiences focused on the influence of organized crime in America. This picture provides an interesting look at the pervasive influence of the Mafia in their native Sicily, with its tendrils into all levels of politics and with a tight-fisted control that Tom DeLay would be proud of.

Crusading film director Giacomo Solaris (Franco Nero) has made a thinly fictionalized film about Sicilian State Prosecutor Alberto Traini (Marco Guglielmi) that exposes his Mafia connections and the corruptions of government that shield him and his works. Things look bad for Solaris, with the film being ordered shut down and himself under threat of indictment for slander of a government official. But when Triani is found murdered in much the same way as the fictional prosecutor was in Solaris' film, ruptures begin to develop between warring factions of the mob and the police soon have other distractions. Meanwhile, Solaris finds himself attracted to Traini's widow Antonia (Françoise Fabian) as he tries to get to the bottom of the crimes.

The terminology that's used isn't entirely clear; at different times Traini is referred to as a prosecutor and others as a judge; the Italian word used is "magistrato," or magistrate, which doesn't really correspond to either. Not knowing the details of the Italian legal system, it's a little hard to get a grasp on exactly what Traini's position is and as a result the influence that he might be able to muster. But I suppose one could just take him as a generic powerful political figure and the film plays well enough. Where it does excel is in overlaying ordinary life, of people working and playing, with the utter corruption of the Mafia through the government of Palermo. Writer/director Damiano Damiani is obviously making a strong political statement about the state of affairs in Sicily at the time, with the people living in a state of nervous and helpless fear as the underworld pulls the strings on everything around them.

Nero seems a bit handsome for a directorial lead, but he does demonstrate a doggedness to the muckraking work that he does as a filmmaker. What the script excels at, and Nero carries across well, is the double meaning of social responsibility: while Solaris (whose name references reportorial sunshine) has a well-developed sense of social responsibility from the beginning, Traini's murder makes him aware of a secondary meaning as he sees what consequences may arise from his work. Guglielmi's portrayal of the corrupt prosecutor carries a confident humanity. While his assistant frets over the slander and calumny in the film, Guglielmi makes light of it and even laughs at the presentation of his misdeeds over the years. Renzo Palmer is entertaining as the low-level mobster who befriends Solaris, and Sergio Valentini brings a desperate rage to kingpin Carmelo Bellolampo, a brutal killer who is stuck hooked to a dialysis machine.

The violence is presented with ferocity, though in sudden and short outbursts in an otherwise fairly quiet picture. Gore is ample at these moments, however. Blue Underground provides an uncut print of the film, with some segments of conversation having only the Italian dub rather than the English since some portions were never released in English-speaking territories. At its heart the film is a whodunit with a vast wrapping of social criticism, which interweave well, making this a thematically well-organized picture that substantially holds up.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic widescreen picture is rendered well, with plenty of fine detail and texture present. Brightly lit sequences display serious ringing that betrays some edge enhancement, but otherwise the film looks fine. There's hardly any frame damage. Colors are a shade subdued but for the period it looks fine.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoItalian, Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: The two audio tracks presented have substantial noise (at reference levels, quiet scenes sound like there's a drum roll in the background) and moderate hiss. Dialogue is clear, however, and the laid-back score by Euro-master Riz Ortolani has decent range, extension, and presence.

Audio Transfer Grade: C


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 00h:57m:15s

Extras Review: The extras are a little thin compared to what Blue Underground has offered on other releases. There are English-language and Italian versions of the theatrical trailer, plus a set of 2005 interviews (14m:55s) with Damiani and Nero. They talk quite a bit about the Sicilian mindset of the government as the enemy of the people, as well as the pervasiveness of the Mafia in Sicilian life. Damiani expresses some frustration with the Italian critics who didn't understand the film's point. Nero also recounts an entertaining anecdote about a real Wild West incident with one of his fans.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

Italian social criticism and crime drama in one, with a good transfer (other than a bit too much edge enhancement) and a solid if short set of interviews.


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