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  • Writer's pictureGabe Powers

Goodbye & Amen Blu-ray Review




Radiance Films

Blu-ray Release: February 13, 2024

Video: 1.85:1/1080p/Color

Audio: Italian and English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono

Subtitles: English, English SDH

Run Time: 109:33 (Italian Cut), 102:17 (English Cut)

Director: Damiano Damiani


John Dannahay (Tony Musante), a CIA agent stationed in Rome, is planning to overthrow an African government. But his plan goes wrong when a corrupt colleague starts shooting people from the roof of a hotel, taking an innocent couple hostage. (From Radiance’s official synopsis)




Comic book artist, screenwriter, and documentarian Damiano Damiani made his feature film debut in 1960 with the true crime drama Lipstick (Italian: Il rossetto), followed by a series of beloved character dramas and the dreamy Gothic romance The Witch (Italian: La strega in amore; aka: Strange Obsession, 1966). Soon after (also in 1966), Damiani’s complicated left-wing politics informed one of his greatest contribution to Italian cinema, Bullet for the General (Italian: El Chuncho, Quien Sabe?), kicking off a string of westerns that used the Mexican Revolution as a framing device for modern political metaphors, known as Zapata westerns (named for Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata).


Crime stories were always in Damiani’s blood, though, going back to the comics he made with the associated Group of Venice (Gruppo di Venezia), Lipstick was also a glimpse into the poliziotteschi future that awaited Damiani. The year after Bullet for the General, Damiani teamed with actor Franco Nero for The Day of the Owl (Italian: Il giorno della civetta; aka: Mafia, 1968), leading to three more collaborations – Confessions of a Police Captain (Italian: Confessione di un commissario di polizia al procuratore della repubblica, 1971), The Case is Closed, Forget It (Italian: L'istruttoria è chiusa: dimentichi, 1972), and How to Kill a Judge (Italian: Perché si uccide un magistrato, 1974). These establish both the actor and director as important genre figures. Unlike the bulk of poliziotteschi, which are often remembered for their ultra-violence, dangerous stunts, and sleaze, Damiani’s films were designed as prestige titles and won major awards. 



Riding high on a superb reputation and following final western, A Genius, Two Partners and a Dupe (a for-hire comedy gig under Sergio Leone, who co-wrote and co-directed some scenes; Italian: Un genio, due compari, un pollo, 1975), Damiani broadened his Eurocrime portfolio with two polizio-adjacent projects released within a few months of each other in 1977. The first was a Gian Maria Volonté vehicle, I Am Afraid (Italian: Io ho paura), and the second was a thriller/hostage drama called Goodbye & Amen (Italian: Goodbye e amen). Retrospectively and despite their similarities, the two films ended up on different ends of the critical spectrum from each other, with I Am Afraid often being remembered as one of Damiani’s masterpieces and regularly compared to Elio Petri’s Oscar-winning Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (Italian: Indagine su un cittadino al di sopra di ogni sospetto, 1970). Meanwhile, Goodbye & Amen sort of disappeared outside of Italy and was even dismissed by the director, himself. 


Despite its reputation (or lack of one), Goodbye & Amen is beautifully shot and tightly plotted with a clever third act twist and stunning climax. While definitely a weaker representation of Damiani’s brand of filmmaking than I Am Afraid or his Franco Nero poliziotteschi, it isn’t the watered-down impersonation of his work that A Genius, Two Partners and a Dupe is. It carries over several of his favorite themes, corrupted authority figures, and subverts the expectations of the espionage and hostage stand-off genres in ways that match his cop thrillers and gangland dramas. It’s also another blatantly political film made in the shadow of the 1972 Munich Olympic tragedy and Sidney Lumet’s Dog Day Afternoon (itself based on a real-life hostage event, 1975) and, like Bullet for the General and How to Kill a Judge, it refuses to hand its audience definitive answers to its moral questions.



It was reportedly a difficult production and the final product skewed away from Damiani’s intentions, as well as what originally attracted him and co-screenwriter Nicola Badalucco to Francis Clifford’s novel, The Grosvenor Square Goodbye (pub. 1976), in the first place (for the record, the film is an adaptation of a single section of the book, not the entire story). According to an interview in Alberto Pezzotta’s Regia Damiano Damiani (pub. 2004; recounted in Roberto Curti’s Italian Crime Filmography, 1968-1980), Damiani wanted to build a movie around a loathsome spy type – the opposite of James Bond – based on the director’s dislike of the “collective absolution (of) such characters” (“Whoever enters the secret service, to me, is a despicable person.”). It seems that vision was not shared by star Tony Musante, who used his clout and aggressive personality to steer the film back towards mainstream territory.


Musante actually had a history of clashing with Italian directors, beginning with Sergio Corbucci, who found his method acting obnoxious while shooting The Mercenary (Italian: Il Mercenario; aka: A Professional Gun, 1968)*. Dario Argento had similar complaints about the Actor’s Studio training while directing Musante on The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (Italian: L'uccello dalle piume di cristallo, 1970), resulting in, according to Argento, an episode where Musante came to his home, demanding a fight. According to assistant director Enrico Bergier, Damiani regularly reworked the script, rather than argue with Musante, though I’m not sure if I’d call it a win for the actor, who doesn’t have a lot of screen time and still (rightfully) comes across as a slimy loser. Perhaps they tried to correct his interference in the edit? Musante is joined and overshadowed by frequent Damiani collaborator Claudia Cardinale, John Forsyth in I believe his only Italian-made feature, the always reliable John Steiner, Fulci favorite Fabrizio Jovine, and Gianrico Tondinelli as a parody himbo B-actor/gender-flipped damsel.



* Corbucci essentially remade The Mercenary as Compañeros (Italian: Vamos a Matar Compañeros) in 1970, but with Tomás Milián in the Musante role.


Bibliography:

  • 10,000 Ways to Die: A Director's Take on the Spaghetti Western by Alex Cox (Kamera Books, 2009)

  • Italian Crime Filmography, 1968-1980 by Roberto Curti (McFarland & Company, 2013)



Video

Goodbye & Amen has never been released on North American home video and, from what I can tell, Cinekult’s German DVD didn’t have English dialogue or subtitles. French company Artus Films beat Radiance to the punch with their 2023 Blu-ray (as part of a three movie Damiani collection), but that disc also wasn’t English-friendly, so Radiance’s new Blu-ray is the first chance most of us have had to watch the film. I assume that the Artus disc uses the same 2023 original camera negative restoration (though the official description doesn’t specify if it was a 2K or 4K scan). Radiance has also included both the English export cut and the original Italian cut, which is about seven minutes longer.


Luigi Kuveiller’s cinematography features some heavily stylized, crisp and cooly-tinted shots during darker sequences, but is largely a softened and naturalistic affair. The palette combines a lot of neutral browns and tans alongside various blues (there’s actually a lot of blue clothing in this movie). A few daytime, outdoor sequences have pulsing color/brightness issues, but these are brief. Edges aren’t oversharpened and, while textures appear a tad fuzzy, there’s a nice fidelity to the detail, especially in close-ups. 



Audio

Goodbye & Amen is presented in English and Italian DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono, though each track is connected to a corresponding cut of the film – i.e. you can’t switch to the English dub while watching the Italian cut and vice versa. It seems that the lack of English dub on the French BD wasn’t merely an oversight. According to the pre-credit warning:


The English soundtrack was severely damaged and exhibits some challenging moments. Restoration was attempted but the quality of the materials proved too difficult in some places. It is presented as a Curio, in its first and only distribution of this track on home media as of this release.


The major issue is audio drop-out, muffled background sound, and inconsistent volume/clarity. The Italian track, on the other hand, is well-balanced, but, like most dubs from the era, not particularly naturalistic. Dialogue lacks dynamic range and is light on effects work. I’d personally prefer the option to watch the longer cut in English with Italian inserts, despite the problem, because Musante, Steiner, Forsythe, Cardinale, and Jovine all seem to actually be dubbing their own performances. The English track also accounts for the different nationalities, by having most of the Italian characters speak in Italian accents or just in Italian when not interacting with English speakers. The funky, driving score was supplied by Guido & Maurizio De Angelis working under their pseudonym Oliver Onions and sounds great on the Italian track, despite the single-channel mix and lack of real bass support.



Extras

  • Commentary with Nathaniel Thompson and Howard S. Berger (Italian cut) – Mondo Digital owner/critic Thompson and Eurocrime expert Berger (not the make-up effects guy) explore Damiani’s body of work and Goodbye & Amen’s place in it, themes throughout his filmography, larger poliziotteschi trends, the careers of the cast and composers Oliver Onions, the idea that Goodbye & Amen might have been intended as a dark satire, Musante diva behavior, Damiani’s disappointment with the film (however, Thompson & Berger are much less concerned by the effect these things might have had on the final product than author Roberto Curti), and the film’s relative obscurity.

  • Antonio Siciliano on Goodbye & Amen (38:49, HD) – In this 2023 interview, the film’s editor discusses his early career and on-the-job training, collaborating with Damiani on multiple pictures (including trailer clips), Damiani’s filmmaking processes and legacy, technical aspects of editing, and correcting an eyeline mistake at the end of Goodbye & Amen.

  • Wolf’s Instinct (23:49. SD) – A 2013 archival interview with actor Wolfango Soldati, who chats about auditioning, his character, shooting on set at the Hilton, learning all of his lines in English, being confused with Tondaneli by his friends who saw the movie in theaters, wanting Steiner’s role, and working with the cast & crew.



The images on this page are taken from the Blu-ray and sized for the page. Larger versions can be viewed by clicking the images.

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