It’s getting hard to keep up with all the great discs coming out of Radiance at the moment, and here’s another terrific trio, with a pair of Robert Altman films – O.C. and Stiggs (1987) and Thieves Like Us (1974) – and an Italian mafia thriller, The Iron Prefect (1977).
O.C. and Stiggs features two teenagers of the same name living in the affluent suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona, where they’re surrounded by the bloat of capitalism personified in the Schwabs.
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The Schwabs are a supremely dysfunctional family led by patriarch Randall Schwab, who runs an insurance company and is responsible for O.C.’s grandfather being put into a home, which means O.C. would have to move to live with family in another state. This sets the pair off on a mission of revenge that sees them sabotage a wedding with an Uzi, journey to Mexico to recruit a reggae band and hold a fundraiser for homeless people in the grotesque Schwab mansion.
Thieves Like Us is an adaptation of Edward Anderson’s novel of the same name, which had previously been adapted by director Nicholas Ray as the 1948 noir classic They Live by Night. Amid the Great Depression, a trio of criminals escape from prison and rob banks to finance their lives, but the younger of the three (Keith Carradine) falls for an associate’s daughter (Shelley Duvall). Anyone who’s seen a crime movie knows this is never going to end well, and what follows is a thrilling tale of love, murder, and divided loyalties.
Pasquale Squitieri’s film The Iron Prefect (Il prefetto di ferro) is another classic Italian mafia picture, with genre favourite Giuliano Gemma taking the title role of Prefect Cesare Mori alongside the great Claudia Cardinale. Mori was a real-life prefect famous in Italy for his brutal crusades against the mafia in the 1920s, which gave him the title “the iron prefect.”
The film is based on the biography of Mori with the same name, written by Arrigo Petacco, and was adapted by Ugo Pirro, who wrote the screenplays for several of Elio Petri’s films and follows Mori’s war of a campaign against the heads of the Mafioso, which seems him become a type of boogeyman for the criminals.
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Radiance Films has judiciously applied its usual quality care to each film. Both Altman films have been given high-definition transfers, while The Iron Prefect comes from a new 2K restoration of the film, which you can watch in Italian with English subtitles or dubbed in English. Credit to Radiance (and other labels) for keeping the original mono soundtracks band, instead of remixing them into 5.1, like what happens with studio restorations and often features new sound effects.
As expected, the usual high-quality range of supplemental features from Radiance is here. Interviews, video essays, and even a feature-length documentary. The latter is the star of the show with ‘The Water is Finally Blue – The Untold Story of Robert Altman’s O.C. and Stiggs’, which is a fascinating two-hour oral history of the film using audio interviews from the surviving cast and crew, including actors Daniel Jenkins, Neill Barry, Paul Dooley, and Martin Mull, along with artistic consultant Stephen Altman and National Lampoon expert Josh Karp. There’s also a brand new interview with camera operator Robert Reed Altman.
Thieves Like Us features an archival audio commentary by the man himself, director Robert Altman, along with interviews with actor Keith Carradine and co-writer Joan Tewksbury. There’s a piece by critic Geoff Andrew on the film and a really neat audio feature with two radio plays that are heard in the film – The Shadow and Speed Gibson of the International Secret Police.
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The Iron Prefect has a fine mix of old and new, with an archival interview with director Squitieri and star Gemma, and a new piece with author Domenico Monetti. Also included is an appreciation of The Iron Prefect by filmmaker Alex Cox, who is always great fun, with infectious enthusiasm. It’s finished off with the original trailer. All three have booklet essays included, but they weren’t made available for review.
Radiance has an interesting set of films here. O.C. and Stiggs is an uneven but fun parody of ’80s teen movies, Thieves Like Us is a terrific romantic thriller, and The Iron Prefect is the kind of crime epic only the Italians could make. Recommended.
O.C. and Stiggs, Thieves Like Us, and The Iron Prefect are available now on Limited Edition Blu-ray from Radiance Films.