Friday, July 23, 2021

The Sergio Martino Collection – Arrow Video (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Dates: Italy, 1971 (The Case of the Scorpion's Tale), Italy, 1972 (Your Vice is a Closed Room and Only I Have a Key), Italy, 1975 (The Suspicious Death of a Minor)
Director: Sergio Martino (All Films)
Cast: George Hilton, Anita Strindberg, iIda Galli, Janine Reynaud, Luigi Pistilli (The Case of the Scorpion's Tale), Edwige Fenech, Anita Strindberg, Luigi Pistilli, Ivan Rassimov (Your Vice is a Closed Room and Only I Have a Key), Claudio Cassinelli, Mel Ferrer, Lia Tanzi, Gianfranco Barra, Patrizia Castaldi, Adolfo Caruso, Jenny Tamburi (The Suspicious Death of a Minor)

Release Date: August 2nd, 2021 (UK), August 3rd, 2021 (USA)
Approximate Running Times: 95 Minutes 12 Seconds (The Case of the Scorpions Tale), 96 Minutes 43 Seconds (Your Vice is a Closed Room and Only I Have a Key), 100 Minutes 24 Seconds (The Suspicious Death of a Minor)
Aspect Ratios: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (The Case of the Scorpion's Tale, The Suspicious Death of a Minor) & 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (Your Vice is a Closed Room and Only I Have a Key)
Rating: 18 (UK), NR (USA)
Sound: LPCM Mono Italian, LPCM Mono English (All Films)
Subtitles: English, English SDH (All Films)
Region Coding: Region A,B
Retail Price: £59.99 (UK), $99.95 (USA)

"In The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail, recently widowed Lisa Baumer is summoned to Athens to collect her husband’s generous life insurance policy, but soon discovers others are willing to kill to get their hands on it.

In the Edgar Allan Poe-inspired Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key, abrasive drunk Oliviero amuses himself by holding drunken orgies and abusing his long-suffering wife… but when a series of grisly murders shakes the local community, Oliviero finds himself in the frame.

Finally, The Suspicious Death of a Minor combines giallo and crime thriller tropes as undercover cop Paolo pursues the Milanese criminal outfit responsible for the brutal murder of an underage prostitute, but finds himself up against a killer-for-hire who’s bumping off witnesses before they have a chance to talk." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4.5/5 (The Case of the Scorpion's Tale), 4.25/5 (Your Vice is a Closed Room and Only I Have a Key, The Suspicious Death of a Minor)

Here’s the information provided about the transfer, "a brand new 4K restoration of the film from the original camera negative."

The Case of the Scorpion's Tale comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 46.1 GB

Feature: 30 GB

The source used for this transfer is in excellent shape, grain looks natural, colors are nicely saturated, details look sharp, black levels look strong throughout and there are no issues with compression. And when compared to previous home video releases for this film, this new transfer is a massive upgrade that is vastly superior in every way.

Here’s the information provided about the transfer, "a brand new 2k restoration from the film’s original camera negative."

Your Vice is a Closed Room and Only I Have a Key comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 42.9 GB

Feature: 21.2 GB

This is yet another solid transfer from Arrow Video that vastly improves upon all earlier releases for this film. It should-be noted that when you choose the English version of the film that it opens with the title Gently before She Dies.

Here’s the information provided about the transfer, "a 2K restoration of the film from the original camera negative produced by Arrow Video exclusively for this release."

The Suspicious Death of a Minor comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 44.1 GB

Feature: 30.3 GB

The source used for this transfer is in great shape and when compared to previous home video releases, it is superior in every way. It should-be noted that there are some very mild instances of source related damaged and depending on the language you choose, this release comes with two titles sequences, one in Italian and the other in English.

Audio: 4/5 (The Case of the Scorpion's Tale, Your Vice is a Closed Room and Only I Have a Key, The Suspicious Death of a Minor)

The Case of the Scorpion's Tale comes with two audio options, a LPCM mono mix in English and a LPCM mono mix in Italian. Both audio mixes sound, clean, clear and balanced throughout. There are two subtitle options for this release. English SDH subtitles for the English language track and English subtitles for the Italian language track.

Your Vice is a Closed Room and Only I Have a Key comes with two audio options, a LPCM mono mix in English and a LPCM mono mix in Italian. Both audio mixes are in great shape as they show good range and when it comes to the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack these moments are well represented. Also dialog always comes through clearly and everything sounds balanced. With the only differences in these audio mixes being one’s preference to English or Italian. Personally I prefer the Italian language track. There are two subtitle options for this release. English SDH subtitles for the English language track and English subtitles for the Italian language track.

The Suspicious Death of a Minor comes with two audio options, a LPCM mono mix in English and a LPCM mono mix in Italian. Both audio mixes are free of background noise and distortion. Range wise out of these two audio mixes; the Italian audio mixes is the more robust of these two audio mixes. With there being a few instances on the English language track where the dialog sounds underwhelming. The film’s score sounds robust on both audio mixes. Included with this release are two subtitle options, English SDH and English for the Italian language track.

Extras:

Extras for The Case of the Scorpion's Tale include reversible cover art, an image gallery, a trailer for The Case of the Scorpion's Tale (2 minutes 31 seconds, Dolby Digital mono Italian with English subtitles), a video essay by Mikel J. Koven, author of La Dolce Morte: Vernacular Cinema and the Italian Giallo Film titled Jet Set Giallo (20 minutes 5 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an audio essay by Troy Howarth, author of So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films titled The Case of the Screenwriter Auteur (15 minutes 34 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an interview with actor George Hilton titled Under the Sign of the Scorpion (20 minutes 56 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Italian with English subtitles), an interview with director Sergio Martino titled The Scorpion Tales (20 minutes 56 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Italian with English subtitles) and an audio commentary with screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi and moderated by filmmaker Federico Caddeo (in Italian with English subtitles).

Extras not carried over from Arrow Video 2018 The Case of the Scorpion's Tale Blu-ray release is a forty-page booklet with cast & crew information, an essay titled Re-evaluating The Case of The Scorpion's Tale: Sergio Martino’s Hitchcockian Giallo written by Rachael Nisbet, an essay titled Out of the Shadows: The Film Music of Bruno Nicolai written by Howard Hughes, as essay titled Anita Strindberg: Elusive Icon of the Giallo written by Peter Jimstad and information about the restoration/transfer.

Extras for Your Vice is a Closed Room and Only I Have a Key include reversible covert art , two video essays, the first visual essay by Michael Mackenzie is titled Dolls of Flesh and Blood (29 minutes 4 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles) and a visual essay by Justin Harries is titled The Strange Vices of Ms. Fenech (29 minutes 42 seconds Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an interview with filmmaker Eli Roth (9 minutes 17 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an archival documentary titled Unveiling the Vice (23 minutes, Dolby Digital stereo Italian with English subtitles) and an interview with director Sergio Martino titled Through the Keyhole (34 minutes 42 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Italian with English subtitles).

Extras not carried over from Arrow Video’s 2016 Your Vice is a Closed Room and Only I Have a Key Blu-ray release that was part of two movie set titled Edgar Allan Poe's Black Cats: Two Adaptations by Sergio Martino & Lucio Fulci are a DVD that has the same content included on the Blu-Ray and a eighty-page booklet with cast & crew info for Your Vice is a Closed Room and Only I Have a Key, two essays, the first essay tiled Ernesto Gastaldi’s Perversions of Poe written by Christopher Alexander and the second essay titled The Production of Your Vice is a Locked Room written by Andreas Ehrenreich. Content related to Fulci’s The Black Cat includes cast & crew info, an essay about the film titled 9 Lives of the Black Cat written by Mikel Koven, Lucio Fulci –The Final Interview conducted by Howard S. Berger, Edgar Allan Poe’s short story The Black Cat and information about both films transfers.

Extras for The Suspicious Death of a Minor include reversible cover art, a trailer for The Suspicious Death of a Minor (3 minutes 27 seconds, Dolby Digital mono Italian with English subtitles), an interview with director Sergio Martino titled Violent Milan (42 minutes 34 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Italian with English subtitles) and an audio commentary with Troy Howarth, author of So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films.

Extras not carried over from Arrow Video 2017 The Suspicious Death of a Minor Blu-ray release are a DVD that has the same content included on the Blu-Ray and a twenty-page booklet with cast & crew information, an essay titled The Suspicious Death of a Minor written by Barry Forshaw and information about the restoration/transfer.

Summary:

The Case of the Scorpion's Tale: Sergio Martino is a master craftsmen filmmaker who has worked in about every genre of cinema. And in the early 1970’s when the Giallo was at the height of its popularity he would capitalize on the current trend. The 1970’s would be Sergio Martino’s most creative decade as a filmmaker. In this decade he would direct several classic Giallo’s, The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh, The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail, All the Colors of the Dark, Torso, Your Vice is a Closed Room and Only I Have a Key and The Suspicious Death of a Minor. Most of these films starred his brother Luciano Martino’ s girlfriend at that time Edwige Fenech.

The Case of the Scorpion's Tale filmed at several locations Italy, England, Spain and Greece. Visually cinematographers Giancarlo Ferrando and Emilio Foriscot beautifully capture these locations landscapes. And though the special effects during the murders set pieces hold up well. The same cannot be said for the model plane that blows up at the beginning of the film.

The Case of the Scorpion's Tale like most of Sergio Martino’s giallo’s has a solid cast that includes George Hilton (The Case of the Bloody Iris, The Sweet Body of Deborah), Anita Strindberg (A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin, Tropic of Cancer), Janine Reynaud (Succubus) and Luigi Pistilli (Death Rides a Horse, Spirits of Death). The films two lead’s George Hilton and Anita Strindberg make an interesting pair. They have a strong chemistry that reinforces the sexual tension building up between them.

Composer Bruno Nicolai most know for his collaborations with Ennio Morricone. His score for The Case of The Scorpion's Tale is nerve-wracking and haunting as his gorgeous melodies give the film more depth. This film’s most memorable moment visually is a death scene where a character presses their face against a window looks contorted and grotesque.

The Case of the Scorpion's Tale is at times a perplexing story that weaves so many red herrings. And you will be genuinely surprise when the killer is finally revealed. Ultimately, The Case of the Scorpion's Tale is one of those films that start’s to grow on you the more you watch.

Your Vice is a Closed Room and Only I Have a Key: In the early 1970’s Sergio Martino directed several Gialli that were extremely successful like Torso, The Case of The Scorpion's Tale, The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh and All The Colors of The Dark. Serigo Martino for Your Vice is a Closed Room and Only I Have a Key would freely craft a script from Edgar Allan Poe’s The Black Cat. Edwige Fenech would star in Your Vice is a Closed Room and Only I Have a Key, she had previously worked with Sergio Martino in two other Giallo’s The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh and All The Colors of The Dark.

This time around Edwige Fenech is the protagonist instead of the victim as she is all too often cast as in other Gialli, still in this film as in most of her films she is more than happy to disrobe. I really enjoyed watching Edwige Fenech playing against type casting as she dug in her claws for what is one of her most devilish roles. The camera loves her and through out the film she's introduced into scenes in a grand fashion whether she is wearing knee-high boots at the train station or lay half dresses writing in bed.

Anita Strindberg performance as the cheated wife who goes over the edge is sincere as she lays her emotions out for all to see and it is one of her best performances. In this role Anita rally lays it on the line as her character is far removed from the glamorous characters she usually plays. There are a few moments like when she takes out her aggression on the cat that has pestered her that are dangerously over the top. Luigi Pistilli gives one of his most fearless performances of his career. His character is sadistic and he totally lacks any kind of sympathy.

Sergio Martino always the master craftsman, Your Vice is a Closed Room and Only I Have a Key's solid cast allows him to be bolder in his choices as he mixes bizarre camera angles with precise editing. There is some really cool compositions in the film most notably the murder scenes, shot from the killer point of view as he chases and finishes off his victims. Like most Giallo’s there are a few red herrings and one of the most important ones that come completely out of left field. The screenplay is the films weakest link it fails to bring something fresh and new to the Poe’s story.

And the vastly underrated composer Bruno Nicolai composes one of his most versatile score’s for Your Vice is a Closed Room and Only I Have a Key. The score has a chamber like music feel to it that perfectly fits the Poe elements of the film. Ultimately Your Vice is a Closed Room and Only I Have a Key cleverly mixes the works of Edgar Allen Poe with the visceral style that we have come to associate with the Giallo genre, highly recommended.

The Suspicious Death of a Minor: Sergio Martino’s rarely seen 1975 thriller The Suspicious Death of a Minor is a Poliziotteschi / Giallo hybrid that leans more towards the Poliziotteschi genre. And outside of the opening murder and a montage of Giallo like murders near the end of the film the rest of the film looks and feels like a Poliziotteschi film. The first murder is the most violent murder of the film and this first victim was killed with a blade, which is one of the genres more familiar weapons of choice.

Sergio Martino as usual delivers stylish set pieces that are offset by quirky moments like, a man nearly getting hit by a car and landing on his head or a bicyclist having his bike chopped in half by a speeding by car and leaving his with a tricycle. In fact, there is more elements of comedy than elements associated with Gialli in this film.

In regards to this film’s use of humor. There is a recurring bit happens with Detective Paolo Germi, who is constantly breaking his glasses. It does not matter if he is dancing or making love, he constantly finds a way to break them.

Standout action sequences include, a scene where a hit man tries to kill Detective Paolo Germi when he's trapped on a roller coaster. And the other standout action sequence is a shoot out on a roller coaster. With Detective Paolo Germi chasing the suspect through the subway.

Actor Claudio Cassinelli is best known for his role is the Massimo Dallamano Giallo What Have They Done to Your Daughters? And The Suspicious Death of a Minor would mark the first of the six films that Claudio Cassinelli has collaborated with Sergio Martino. Performance wise, Claudio Cassinelli is a solid choice as Paolo Germi as he perfectly balances the characters flaws with his more serious side without making the character seem contrived.

The score for The Suspicious Death of a Minor is at times is reminiscent of Goblin’s work on Dario Argento’s Profondo Rosso. The well-constructed narrative is best described as a melting pot of ideas. And this film’s brisk pacing ensures that there is rarely an opportunity to catch one’s breath while watching this film. Ultimately The Suspicious Death of a Minor is a tongue in cheek Poliziotteschi that hits all the right notes.

With The Sergio Martino Collection Arrow Video brings together in one collection three films that they originally released separately. All three films in The Sergio Martino Collection come with solid audio/video presentations and a wealth of extra content. That said, the only content new to this release is the box that houses the three films. Though most fans of Sergio Martino already own Arrow Video’s original releases for these three films. The Sergio Martino Collection is a convenient way for anyone who has not already purchased Arrow Video’s original releases. 

























Written by Michael Den Boer

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