The Facts of Murder [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Radiance Films
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (1st April 2024).
The Film

Silver Ribbon (Best Screenplay): Pietro Germi, Ennio De Concini, and Alfredo Giannetti (won), Best Supporting Actor: Claudio Gora (won), Best Director: Pietro Germi (nominated), and Best Score: Carlo Rustichelli (nominee) - Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists, 1960
Golden Globe (Best Director): Pietro Germi (won) - Golden Globes, 1960

Police inspector Ingravallo (director Pietro Germi) is on the case when retired bachelor Anzaloni (Ildebrando Santafe) is the victim of a robbery who is suspiciously reticent to press charges. Ingravallo finds a new suspect when he questions lonely housewife Liliana Banducci (In the Folds of the Flesh's Eleonora Rossi Drago) and discovers young housemaid Assuntina (The Pink Panther's Claudia Cardinale) has an electrician fiancee Diomedes (Camille 2000's Nino Castelnuovo) who would most certainly know the layout of the apartments in the building. After his arrest, Diomedes reluctantly provides an alibi that could ruin his relationship with Assuntina; after which, Ingravallo turns his attentions to the male hustlers in the bar Anazloni frequents. When Liliana is discovered stabbed to death by her cousin Massimo Valdarena (I vitelloni's Franco Fabrizi), however, Ingravallo wonders if the crime is related to the Anzaloni robbery or if the motive is much more personal. Looking into the dead woman's life, he discovers a strange financial relationship with her cousin, almost obsessive religions convictions through interrogation of her confessor (The Leopard's Rosolino Bua), a tendency to become heavily invested in the lives of her housemaids, and a frosty relationship with her husband (How to Kill a Judge's Claudio Gora) who was frequently away on business and is the only one of them not to benefit from her will (and may be the one most desperately in need of money). The investigation veers back and forth between murder-for-profit and a robbery gone wrong, pulling in various small-time crooks, fencers, and prostitutes as the once "open city" exposes its seedy underbelly.

Based not on a literary giallo but the satirical crime novel by Carlo Emilio Gadda, Pietro Germi's The Facts of Murder feels less like a cinematic proto-giallo than a blending of fifties neo-realism and film noir in a less grim but no less cynical approach to that of Luchino Visconti's Ossessione - an adaptation of James M. Cain's "The Postman Always Rings Twice" filmed during the fascist era and subject to its censorship - with Germi far more interested in a sprawling catalog of human foibles than fatalistic choices. It is not a whodunit that offers clues pointing to the real killer. The viewer is as equally lost as Ingravallo who, unlike the viewer, professionally affects a cynically-detached perspective as the identity of the culprit is less important than the "confounded imbroglio" of the source's literal translation. The film is an observation of post-war Rome from the comfortable middle class to the figurative and literal hustlers, with the not-so-admirable qualities of some of the characters the result of prevailing Italian social attitudes from closeted gay man Anzaloni's reticence to report being the victim of a crime victim, pregnant Assuntina staying with a man who has been unfaithful to her, Liliana turning towards religion and repression to deal with her husband's infidelities. These conservative attitudes are embodied by protagonist we nevertheless follow through the investigation simply because he batters his way through the various smokescreens of respectability, tact, or just criminal bravado, unconcerned with the various dirty laundry he exposes or the repercussions for the suspects with the sole object of catching a murderer. He may take an intense dislike and disgust to some of the suspects like Banducci and Valdarena; but, unlike his bumbling colleagues, he never becomes obsessed with sticking something on them in attempting to find out the truth. The obscurity and specificity of the clue is the only apsect that truly anticipates some of the more puzzle-like and/or ridiculously-contrived giallo films to come. Germi would follow up The Facts of Murder with the Oscar-nominated international hit Divorce Italian Style.
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Video

Not released in the United States until 1965 by pre-Warner Seven Arts but not at all in the U.K., The Facts of Murder has unfortunately been MIA on video stateside since (apart from a likely-unauthorized DVD). The film was so popular in Japan that it was released three times on home video early eighties VHD and laserdisc and a remastered nineties laserdisc and beat the U.S. and U.K. to the Blu-ray format with a 2018 release (which might have been sourced from Mediaset's "Cinema Forever" SD digital restoration). Radiance's U.S. Blu-ray currently only available in the U.K. as part of Radiance's World Noir Vol. 1 set comes from a brand new 4K restoration that wonderfully preserves the Roman urban grit cast in noir light and shadow with a studio gloss that is quite a contrast to the neorealist works of the decade before with nary a sign of archival damage.
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Audio

The sole audio option is an Italian LPCM 2.0 mono audio that is mostly post-dubbed although the bilingual performance of the belligerent American woman seems to be sync-sound and sports clear dialogue over a rather limited effects track, while the score of Carlo Rustichelli is more of a supportive element than his more iconic giallo accompaniment to Mario Bava's Blood and Black Lace. Optional English subtitles are included.
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Extras

Extras start off with an interview with Pietro Germi expert Mario Sesti (46:31) in which he discusses Germi's role in post-war Italian cinema in transforming the cinematic commedia dell'arte and what a change it was to see him tackling a crime film, as well as his "adaptation as critique" approach to the source novel, his visual style and the way his direction of scenes with overlapping dialogues of multiple characters anticipates Robert Altman. He also contends that the classism, bigotry, and homophobia of the detective character was shared by Germi, making him and the film unpopular with reviewer/future filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini (who did adore Cardinale's performance).

The disc also features Sesti's 1997 Germi documentary "The Man With the Cigar In His Mouth" (38:51) featuring interviews with his colleagues and collaborators. Director Mario Monicelli recalls working with Germi as assistant director and writer along with fellow screenwriters Ennio De Concini and Luciano Vincenzoni on writing for and with Germi who would listen to them pitch multiple ideas, sometimes outright reject them or meld several into one concept. Actreses Cardinale and Stefania Sandrelli recall working with Germi as a teaching experience, editor Sergio Montanari recalls working with composer Carlo Rustichelli in the editing room under Germi, while fellow filmmakers Paolo Virzi and Giuseppe Tornatore discuss his influence.

"What's Black and Yellow All Over? All Shades of Italian Film Noir" (18:31) is a visual essay by Paul A. J. Lewis is a look at the "retrospective label" of noir as the intersection of various genres via certain tropes, using as an example three separate film treatments of James M. Cain's "The Postman Always Rings Twice" Hollywood adaptation from 1946, Luchino Visconti's Ossessione from 1943, and Lamberto Bava's supernatural take Hollywood adaptationUntil Death as well as the giallo and poliziotteschi genres, the American erotic thrillers of the eighties and nineties and their Italian counterparts like the output of Joe D'Amato, and Italian detective television shows.
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Packaging

The disc comes housed with a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork and a limited edition booklet featuring writing by Roberto Curti on the hybrid nature of Italian cinema. The limited edition of 3,000 copies comes in a full-height Scanavo case with removable OBI strip leaving packaging free of certificates and markings.
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Overall

Pietro Germi's The Facts of Murder feels less like a cinematic proto-giallo than a blending of fifties neo-realism and film noir far more interested in a sprawling catalog of human foibles than fatalistic choices.

 


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