Film Reviews

Revolver (1973) – Blu-ray Review

Poliziotteschi films have long been a niche within a niche to film fans, and like a lot of giallo and Italian horror pictures, it’s been difficult to obtain them, especially in decent quality. However, companies like Eureka and Arrow have made a significant effort in bringing them over here with some great restorations. And one of the best is finally here from Eureka, 1973’s Revolver, starring Oliver Reed and Fabio Testi.

Revolver is an earlier example of a subgenre that has been popular in Hollywood since the 80s: the buddy cop film. Interestingly, the American film that people have seen as the progenitor of the buddy cop, Freebie and the Bean with James Caan and Alan Arkin, came out a year later in 1974. Revolver begins with the kidnapping of the wife of prison warden Vito Cipriani (Reed), with the ransom being the release of prisoner Milo Ruiz (Testi). Vito breaks Milo out but realises he’ll never see his wife again so decides to keep Milo so he can negotiate with the kidnappers himself. However, Milo is but a pawn and soon the both of them find themselves working together to rescue Vito’s wife and break the entire twisted case,

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Revolver is a rollicking picture, full of anger and wit and expertly staged action scenes, but with a great masculine bond at its core. Reed and Testi are so good together, with Reed the violent straight man against Testi’s lighter petty thief, who has no idea about violence and has certainly never killed anyone. Both are full of charisma, as is the bulk of the cast, including Daniel Baretta as corrupted hippy rock star Niko and the ravishing Agostina Belli as Anna, Vito’s wife.

What’s interesting is that Revolver is a violent film for sure, it doesn’t approach violence as many other poliziotteschi films do, as well as Hollywood action movies do. There are fights and there are shootouts but the body count is kept fairly low and we’re not privy to the squib-happy sequence we perhaps have expectations for, which itself adds to the impact of the absolute kicker of an ending. It’s a harsh film that goes out of its way to illustrate that actions have consequences but also that the wrong people often get away with horrendous things.

Revolver is also a road movie of sorts. While Vito works in Italy, he has to take Milo to Paris, where he had previously plied his trade, which sees the pair taking a trip over the snowy alps, with Vito driving a rickety van across some truly treacherous terrain. It also reveals itself to be a subtle but nifty political thriller, and there are moments when you have no idea which characters are to be trusted, as anyone and everyone is seemingly ready to stab each other in the back at a moment’s notice for their hidden agenda.

Eureka’s new edition of Revolver is fantastic, beginning with a wonderful restoration of the film coming from a 4K scan. I’ve seen the film several times on different formats, including a German Blu-ray, and this is easily the best it’s ever looked and sounded. Revolver also features an incredible score from Ennio Morricone which at times sounds like an early run for his music for Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables. You might also recognise its theme “Un Amico”, which was used by Quentin Tarantino in his film Inglorious Basterds.

The release also comes with some excellent supplemental features, with the main attraction being a fantastic audio commentary by Kim Newman and Barry Forshaw. The pair have great chemistry and have many interesting tidbits about the film and its connections, including its relation to the poliziotteschi genre as a whole, the difference in French and Italian attitudes and the political aspect, and even mentioning that Baretta is the official French dubbing voice for Arnold Schwarzeneggar in all of his films.

There’s also a great interview with critic and author Stephen Thrower, who has written books on Italian genre pictures, particularly the works of gore maestro Lucio Fulci. An archival interview with Testi is also included, along with promotional materials including trailers, and there is a booklet featuring new writing on the film, although this was not included for review.

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Revolver is a fantastic film in its own right, not just in its own genre, and it fully deserves to be much more appreciated and seen outside of genre circles. Eureka’s new edition is excellent, particularly with the new restoration, and comes highly recommended. I only wish it would have come in a slipcase patterned after the fur coat Testi wears in the film.

Revolver is out on Blu-ray on 16th May from Eureka Entertainment.

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