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  • Writer's pictureGabe Powers

The Cynic, the Rat and the Fist Blu-ray Review


Severin Films

Blu-ray Release: March 28, 2023 (as part of Violent Streets: The Umberto Lenzi/Tomas Milian Collection)

Video: 2.35:1/1080p/Color

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

Subtitles: English SDH, English

Run Time: 99:12

Director: Umberto Lenzi


Note: This Blu-ray is currently only available as part of Severin’s Violent Streets: The Umberto Lenzi/Tomas Milian Collection five-movie set, which also includes Almost Human (Italian: Milano odia: la polizia non può sparare; aka: The Death Dealer, 1974), Syndicate Sadists (Italian: Il giustiziere sfida la città, 1975), Free Hand for a Tough Cop (Italian: Il trucido e lo sbirro; aka: The Numbskull and the Cop, 1977), and Brothers Till We Die (Italian: La banda del gobbo; aka: The Band of the Hunchback,1978).


For a longer look at the careers of director Umberto Lenzi and actor Tomas Milián, please read my Almost Human review first.



Hot-headed rogue cop Leo Tanzi (Maurizio Merli) takes on a cold-blooded crime boss known as ‘The Chinaman’ (Tomas Milián) and a sadistic American mobster (John Saxon), looking for his own piece of the action. (From Severin’s official synopsis)


Sequels had been a common part of Italian popular filmmaking since the silent era, when a muscle-bound hero named Maciste appeared in 27 movies from 1915 to 1926, and crossovers have been popular since the ‘60s peplum era, when Maciste met Hercules. Actor Tomas Milián himself played a bandit named Cuchillo in two Sergio Sollima westerns, The Big Gundown (Italian: La Resa dei Conti, 1966) and Run, Man, Run (Italian: Corri uomo corri, 1968) and developed a veritable troupe of popular poliziottescho characters he’d portray again and again, well into the ‘80s. The first sequel of the Lenzi/Milián partnership was a follow-up to The Tough Ones, The Cynic, the Rat and the Fist. While Milián didn’t reprise the role of The Hunchback (yet), Maurizio Merli once again played the Dirty Harry-esque, fascist supercop Leo Tanzi. Milián plays a different villain and, to make matters more confusing, The Tough Ones was designed as a pseudo-sequel to Marino Girolami’s Violent Rome (Italian: Roma violenta, 1975), which was itself a false sequel to Enzo G. Castellari’s High Crime (Italian: La polizia incrimina la legge assolve, 1973). Merli plays a different, but very similar character (Commissioner Betti, who has his own trilogy) in Girolami’s film and got the job because he had a passing resemblance to High Crime star Franco Nero.



The Cynic, the Rat and the Fist is a proper sequel, too. It opens with a crime montage that feels like the titles of a Tanzi TV series. Then, in case we haven’t seen the previous movie, we get some quick, fumbly exposition telling us that our hero has retired from the cop life. But it’s not long (about five minutes) until they drag ‘um back in with an assassination attempt. Sacchetti and Gastaldi’s script benefits from the audience knowing the character and the downsizing of the scope of the criminal conspiracy. It really does feel like an Italian Dirty Harry adventure (with a dash of Mission: Impossible) and, even when the narrative is losing momentum by dividing its time between the three main characters (...I just now realized the title isn’t just a nebulous The Good, the Bad & the Ugly reference – it’s referring to Tanzi and the two villains), Lenzi manages to sustain an air of danger in which the threat of errant gunshots, grenades, and vehicular manslaughter lurk around every corner. Part of that is embracing the fascist politics that critics accused The Tough Ones of perpetrating, not only painting criminals as vaguely foreign sadists, the authorities as weak-willed, and the heroes as justifiably misogynistic, but sneaking in some extra touches, like one scene where we learn the cops can’t spare the manpower, because they’re too busy breaking up Communist protests. The part where Milián bribes a nun is one moment where Lenzi’s mask slips a bit and we can see the satire beneath.


Merli’s appeal was initially tied to that resemblance to Nero, but Nero’s lack of interest in typecasting kept Merli in work during those early years and eventually he grew into (arguably) an even bigger box office draw. He is not, however, a very dynamic performer and is definitely lacking Nero’s inherent charisma, so it’s vital to surround him with magnetic supporting casts, which is where Milián and Italy’s favorite American actor, John Saxon, come in. Neither is as over-the-top as we might expect from an Umberto Lenzi poliziottescho, but both have the sinister charm to prop up Merli.


Bibliography:

  • Blazing Magnums: Italian Crime Thrillers Vol. 1, edited by Tristan Thompson and Paul J. Brown (Midnight Media, 2006)

  • Italian Crime Filmography, 1968-1980 by Roberto Curti (MacFarland & Co., 2013)



Video

Once again, if, prior to this Blu-ray, you were a Lenzi fan and wanted to see this particular movie, you’d have to buy a bootleg VHS or import an English-friendly DVD from Germany (this time a limited edition). The first Blu-ray version was another limited edition from X-Rated in Germany. Like the other films in the Violent Streets set, The Cynic, the Rat and the Fist was remastered in 2K from the original negative and is presented in 1080p video and its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. A lot of the movie is actually shot in broad daylight and at rural locales, giving it a slightly different and more colorful look than the previous Federico Zani-shot movies in the collection. The sunniest sequences and a handful of neon club scenes exhibit the most dynamic range and the close-ups have the best textures. These cleaner scenes contrast well with the murky, grey cityscapes. This leaves the darker, middle/wide-shots comparatively flat, but, fortunately, not too washed-out.


Audio

The Cynic, the Rat and the Fist includes English and Italian dub options (as per usual, all tracks are dubbed and the film was shot without sound), each presented in uncompressed DTS-HD Master Audio mono. The English track is, again, sharper on this disc, compared to a slightly muffled Italian track. The English dub performances are solid and fit the characters, helped by the fact that it’s not a particularly talky movie and John Saxon dubbed his own performance (though the sound quality of his dub is less consistent than everyone else’s). This might be my favorite Micalizzi score or at least title theme is. The music is so relentless and driving, but also really catchy and just complicated enough to appeal to the jazz and prog rock crowds.



Extras

  • Merli vs. Milian (4:18, HD) – In this new interview clip, Lenzi talks about Milián and Merli’s combative relationship, keeping them apart for the entirety of The Cynic, the Rat and the Fist, stealing the title from Leone, and staging stunts.

  • A Man of Action (10:13, HD) – A second interview with Lenzi conducted in 2004, in which he discusses his preferred genres, influential American directors/films, his opinion on Quentin Tarantino, politics, and working on small budgets.

  • Me, Milian and Merli (19:33, HD) – In this continuation of the same 2004 interview, Lenzi reflects on choosing the title The Cynic, the Rat and the Fist, the film’s plot, staging stunts (again), and the characters.

  • The Writer, the Director and the Actor (32:00, HD) – Screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti recalls his work history with Lenzi, disagreements while making Free Hand for a Tough Cop, what Lenzi brought to their collaborations, changes made to The Cynic, the Rat and the Fist’s original script, which made it a The Tough Ones sequel, and the cast of the film.

  • Here Comes the Fist (8:37, HD) – An archive interview with actor John Saxon about his Italian cult movies, their retroactive success, and his fuzzy memories of The Cynic, the Rat and the Fist.

  • English export trailer

  • The Cynic, The Rat and The Fist soundtrack (separate CD)



The images on this page are taken from the BD and sized for the page. Larger versions can be seen by clicking the images. Note that there will be some JPG compression.


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