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Blu-Ray Review: Grindhouse Releasing’s The Tough Ones (Limited Edition)

Adam is introduced to the world of Umberto Lenzi with The Tough Ones. Grindhouse Releasing has gone all out for this beautiful stacked Limited Edition.

The Film

Everyone has blind spots.  Sometimes even in your favorite sub genres.  How I’ve gone all my life without seeing a single frame of the work of Umberto Lenzi is beyond me.  That has been corrected with The Tough Ones.  This Polizitecchi is as hard as they come and as good as they get. Armed with a deranged all-time performance by Tomas Milian.

Commissioner Leonardo Tanzi (Maurizio Meril) is disgusted by the violence he sees day to day in Rome.  Rather than be apathetic to the crimes, Tanzi has become Rome’s Answer to Detective Harry Callahan aka the Lone Fascist Super Cop.  He fights violence with violence much to the chagrin of the Corrupt Politicians he answers to, his Boss (Arthur Kennedy, as Deputy-Questor Ruini) who can’t stand him, his girlfriend who is trying to end things with him, and the “I shit you not” Hunchback Villain Psychopath Vincenzo Moretto (the aforementioned Milian, who if you are not familiar with Milian’s work, is not a hunchback).  What transpires is not so much Moretto versus Tanzi, but Tanzi versus the entire criminal underworld.  An underworld that relishes with glee the sexual violence it perpetrates as much as it’s killings.  It is only a matter of time until Tanzi and Moretto will cross paths.

Lenzi legend has it threw out the original script and improvised the entire movie.  Now how much of that is legend and fact remain to be seen.  Though it is worth mentioning because Lenzi’s film feels wildly unruly but not in a bad way.  Its unruliness is more akin to the way that Mike Leigh’s Naked feels unruly. The improvisional episodic nature of the film throws one off balance as much as it does its hero.  Though we see Moretto and Tanzi cross paths it feels less manufactured as Tanzi has to deal with Confidential Informants, Rapists, Bank Robbers and all the citizens that are affected by these crimes.  Lenzi is a strong enough director to be able to do something like this. The way the film’s story lines meld into one another is honestly something more like to a novel rather than a film.

The film ends as most of this specific style of Italian genre films do; in a car chase and shoot out.  To The Tough Ones’ benefit, this is a masterful culmination of Tanzi and Moretto’s cat and mouse game bursting onto the screen in a display of carnage and stunts that truly pushes it beyond just good to Great.  An added kicker Lenzi knows exactly when to end his film.  A feat rarely understood by directors.  It’s fair to say that The Tough Ones is going to be a film that I return to with regularity.

The Transfer

Grindhouse Releasing has put together a masterful 4K Restoration from the Original Negative.  There isn’t a scratch, dust spec, or blemish on this near flawless Transfer.  The Technoscope film (aka 2 perf 35mm) is a tricky medium to transfer to Blu-Ray that Grindhouse has seemed to bypass (too much grain, contrast levels off, et.al.).  Having searched out samples of the various editions over the years, fans of the film will be shocked at how wonderful the film looks.  The image is sharp without compromising the grain structure.  The film’s contrast/black levels are beautifully rendered here.  It is as good a transfer as we have seen all year. This is definitely going to make Top Ten Lists for best transfers.

The Extras

They include the following:

Disc One: 

  • Audio commentary by Mike Malloy, director of EUROCRIME!
  • All Eyes on Lenzi
  • Music for Mayhem
  • Citta’ Frontale: Roma on Location
  • Sybil Danning’s Action Videos Intro
  • International Trailer
  • Home Video Trailer
  • Grindhouse Releasing Trailers

Disc Two: 

  • Umberto
  • The Rebel Within
  • The Merli Connection
  • Back Story
  • Beauty and the Beasts
  • Corrado Armed to the Teeth
  • Brutal City
  • The Rebel and the Bourgeois
  • Vodka Cigarettes and Burroughs
  • The Godfather of Rhythm
  • Promotional Materials

This set collects an amazing amount of bonus material that took this reviewer an extended period of time to review.  There are over 12 hours of bonus material here.  The set taken as a whole is as impressive as a set that has been released in the last few years.  The sheer number of interviews, documentaries, stills, trailers and every piece of ephemera that are included (a poster, the ENTIRE soundtrack on CD and a .30 Caliber Bullet Pen!!!) makes this set worthy of inclusion to any set.  Esepcially if that person is into Italian Genre film.

Within the Limited Edition (2,500) along with the disc, you get the Bonus Soundtrack on CD, a Poster, and the cool .30 Caliber Bullet Pen.

Just saying this is one of the most fitting piece of bonus items given in a Blu-Ray

Disc One:

The commentary by Mike Malloy begins with the multiple names this film was known as and goes into a discussion of the Italian Crime Genre (aka the poliziottesco) and the cliched credits sequence of driving through the city it only gets better from there.

All Eyes on Lenzi is an 84-minute documentary about the infamous director’s career. With comments by Calum Walters, Rachel Nesbit, Mikel Koven, John Martin, Scooter McCrae, and others. Lenzi even comments on his career. Lenzi’s beginnings with his contemporaries (Sergio Martino, Mario Bava, Fernando DiLeo) and where he lines up with them. His relationship with Carroll Baker. His contentious relationship with Dario Argento (who Lenzi feels stole from him). Lenzi brought in the Religious aspects to Giallo. The documentary tracks Lenzi’s film career from Giallo to Poliziottesco to Cannibal films. The Lenzi vs. Deodato specifically Cannibal Ferroxvs Cannibal HolocaustIronmasterversus The Barbarians. No stone is left unturned in this comprehensive documentary.  Italian with English Subtitles.

Music for Mayhem is a 33-minute interview between composer Franco Micalizzi and Director Umberto Lenzi. The interview is basically a great conversation between the two old friends recounting stories from long ago. The topics they cover range from Tomas Milian, the score, the film itself, and a lot of tangential stories too good to ruin here. Italian with English Subtitles.

Citta’ Frontale: Roma on Location is a 22-minute featurette exploring the locations used in The Tough Ones. This is an artful review of the history of Italian Cinema’s use of locations as a whole, not just The Tough Ones. Italian with English Subtitles.

Sybil Danning’s Action Videos Intro is a 90-second intro from the Queen of the B-Action Films.  This direct from the VHS-era intro though adds nothing to the film itself, it’s a great piece of nostalgia.

Rounding out the first disc is an International Trailer that runs 3.5-minutes, Home Video Trailer that runs 33-second that’s from the same Action Video the Sybil Danning intro is from (she even makes a quick appearance), and a whopping 16 trailers for other Grindhouse releasing (some of which are Lenzi’s films) a great added bonus.

Disc Two:

Umberto is a 55-minute interview with the director. The interview is not just about The Tough Ones rather a long form interview about his career. The main focus does remain The Tough Ones. They’ve done a great job here adding in old photos of the director and some great little seen footage from the director’s early career. Some of the information we learn from Lenzi is that he went to school for documentaries, working as an AD on big Hollywood films that came to Italy, how he met his wife, he discusses his Combat films (Ones that Tarantino adore).  Italian with English Subtitles.

The Rebel Within is an 88-minute with the legendary actor Tom Milian. Beginning with an honest assessment of his childhood Milian gives an amazing interview with discussions with the harrowing time in Cuba moving to how the actor got into the Actor’s Studio to his time working jobs in Maimi and New York before getting into The Actor’s Studo. The interview is unfiltered as unfiltered gets, with Milian being as cantankerous and insightful as one could never imagine.  If one only has a passing interest in the actor owe it to themselves to watch this long-form interview.  Italian with English Subtitles.

The Merli Connection is a 44-minute featurette/tribute to actor Maurizio Merli that stars the likes of Enzo G. Castellari, Maurizio Amati, Roggero Deodato, Antonio Tentor and others. Beginning with the stories about Merli striking resemblance to Franco Nero the documentary covers most of Merli’s career including some very entertaining stories about the man himself. They discuss in detail how Nero and Merli was a real thing with major differences between the two’s films like Merli was not an international star like Nero was.  Italian with English Subtitles.

Back Story is a new 6-minute interview with Milian discussing The Hunchback role and his preparation for the role including some really painful and interesting ways he got the hump and his gait more believable. The actor discusses the costume choices, the method acting he got into, how he worked with Lenzi, his backstory that he invented for the character, and a Fulci tidbit. Italian with English Subtitles.

Beauty and the Beasts is a 29-minute interview with Maria Rosaria Omaggio who plays Anna. Beginning with an honest assessment of herself in the role (she feels she’s too young by half, she was 18 at the time) Omaggio is a wonderful interview. She discusses how she was found by William Morris, the work in The Tough Ones, how she turned down the role of Mary in Rossellini’s Il Messia, her relationship with Lenzi, Merli, and Milian.  Italian with English Subtitles.

Corrado Armed to the Teeth is a 45-minute interview with character actor Corrado Solari who played Albino.  The actor discusses not just his work in The Tough Ones but other films that he co-starred in at the time.  Reconnecting with Milian via email correspondence, his work with Rod Steiger, the difference between Milian’s working habits as an actor as opposed to Merli’s process, the war between Milian and Merli and how Lenzi really kept the peace. It’s a great unfiltered interview.  Italian with English Subtitles.

Brutal City is a 14-minute interview with actor Maria Rosaria Riuzzi. Beginning with a story about losing a part that required nudity and her not being able to do it because she was underage the interview gets even kookier from there talking about working with infamous director Tito Brass and the Italian sex comedies before working with Lenzi. The best moment is in a moment of honesty she tells of looking st how many views the trailers for her old movies get.  Italian with English Subtitles.

The Rebel and the Bourgeois is a 19-minute interview with actor and costume designer Sandra Cardini. The famous costume designer (she did the wardrobe for the amazing Gomorrah) discusses how meeting Milian in a club that led to getting cast in the film. She describes Lenzi as an anarchist and Milian as bourgeois (hence the title). The interview is as much about Cardini as it is about Milian and her very contentious relationship with the actor. The most amazing part of the interview is her discussion about Milian’s obsession with the person that would dub him and how the dubbing of an actor was a huge deal in Italy.  Italian with English Subtitles.

Vodka, Cigarettes and Burroughs is a 40-minute interview with screenwriting legend and screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti. The screenwriter is very open and honest about how Lenzi is the one he has to thank for his career as the director had hired him for most of his films. There are some great bits of information like Lenzi comparing himself to John Ford. A lot of the work ethics that Lenzi had producing his work and how he was able to survive so long and go through so many genres. It’s a beautiful interview especially towards the end with Sacchetti waxing poetic about the ending of an era with the passing of many of the greats, including Lenzi, and how hard it is to him.  Italian with English Subtitles.

The Godfather of Rhythm is a 37-minute interview with composer Franco Micalizzi. A newly produced interview with Micalizzi discussing the beginnings of his musical education starting with his mother who would sing to him not just lullabies but classical music.  From that point, Micalizzi goes through almost the entirety of his career as a composer. The interview is as much a visual essay as it is a traditional interview as they have included photos provided by Micalizzi from his life.  Italian with English Subtitles.

Rounding out the second disc is a Still Gallery that is divided into five sections; Italy, Spain, Germany, US, and Miscellaneous.  It’s 55 stills in total that you navigate yourself that range from Production Photos, Movie Posters, Behind the Scenes Stills, VHS covers, and DVD Covers.

The Final Thought

The Tough Ones is badass Crime Cinema at its brutal finest.  Grindhouse Releasing has produced a stacked edition with a beautiful transfer, and (literally) hours and hours of bonus features. This is Top Ten Blu-Ray material. Highest Possible Recommendations!!!!!!

Grindhouse Releasing Blu-Ray of The Tough Ones is currently in release

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