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  • Writer's pictureGabe Powers

The Facts of Murder Blu-ray Review



Radiance Films

Blu-ray Release: January 2, 2024

Video: 1.37:1/1080p/Color

Audio: Italian LPCM 2.0 Mono

Subtitles: English

Run Time: 114:42

Directors: Pietro Germi


Inspector Ingravallo (Pietro Germi) has been called to a Roman apartment building to investigate a robbery. Once there, he questions the tenants, but soon realizes something is amiss. As the investigation progresses, a simple robbery leads to a murder case... (From Radiance’s official synopsis)


At this point, I’ve written at length about all the foreign media that inspired the giallo genre – from Alfred Hitchcock’s Hollywood hits to German krimi films and English novels, like Agatha Christie and Edgar Wallace – but I’ve neglected the impact of pre-giallo, Italian-made murder mysteries, in large part because I’m unfamiliar with the Italian crime movies from this period. Pietro Germi’s The Facts of Murder (Italian: Un maledetto imbroglio), which was released in 1959, less than four years before what many consider the first official giallo film, Mario Bava’s The Girl Who Knew Too Much (Italian: La ragazza che sapeva troppo; aka: The Evil Eye, 1963).



The Facts of Murder differentiates itself from what the giallo genre would become by avoiding baroque murder sequences in favor of post-murder procedural drama. It borrows more from hardboiled Hollywood noir and Italian neorealist dramas than it does from Gothic horror or Hitchcockian suspense spectacle. Screenwriter Ennio de Concini’s plot devices and twist ending – working from Carlo Emilio Gadda’s source novel, That Awful Mess on Via Merulana (pub: 1965) – also matches expectations for late ‘60s Italian thrillers, but the execution is almost entirely different, opting instead for a straightforward mystery approach that merely hints at the tawdry extremes that were yet to come. Knowing that The Facts of Murder was a critical and commercial hit, it seems to me that, had Bava’s films and Umberto Lenzi’s erotic thrillers not also been successful at the box office, gialli might have ended up following the French model of crime film during the 1960s, taking a more subtle approach, possibly even aping mid-’50s noir hits, like Jules Dassin’s Rififi (1955), and branching off into Jean-Pierre Melville’s neo-noir territory. 


Germi himself swerved into comedy, making award-winning international hits, like Divorce Italian Style (Italian: Divorzio all'italiana, 1961), and eventually spearheading the commedia all'italiana movement that developed alongside the gialli. While not a comedy, The Facts of Murder does have a handful of specifically character-driven laughs that end up tying it to gialli, specifically anticipating similar gags seen throughout Dario Argento’s earliest thrillers. The sandwich-eating Detective Saro (Saro Urzì) is a prototypical Argento type, for example, as is the joke that he seems to be already acquainted with everyone around town. Germi’s connections to early gialli didn’t end with The Facts of Murder. The year after, he appeared as an actor in Damiano Damiani’s feature-debut Lipstick (Italian: Il rossetto, 1960) – a film that helped pave the way for both the giallo and poliziottescho genres in the decades to come. I doubt that these connections were incidental, since Damiani hired The Facts of Murder actress Claudia Cardinale to appear in a very similar role in his groundbreaking, political-charged crime thriller, The Day of the Owl (Italian: Il giorno della civetta; aka: Mafia, 1968).



Video

The Facts of Murder didn’t have a large home video presence in North America (if any – I’m not clear if it was ever officially released on VHS or if it just appeared on TV). The only US DVD came from MYA Communications, who was, by some accounts, a grey market company. Radiance Films’ Blu-ray, which is debuting in the US and the UK (as part of World Noir Vol. 1), was created using a brand new 4K restoration conducted by the sometimes notorious L'Immagine Ritrovata at the Cineteca di Bologna. Typically, L’Immagine Ritrovata’s biggest problems are tied to color timing, which isn’t much of an issue for this black & white, 1.37:1, 1080p transfer. Dynamic range is impressive, including deep, rich blacks, clean whites, and smooth(ish) gradations. Grain and textures are maybe a touch fuzzy, but patterns are tight and I didn’t notice a whole lot of enhancement haloes, aside from some of the harshest black edges.


Audio

The Facts of Murder is presented in its original Italian mono and lossless LPCM audio. Being an older, single channel affair, it is, understandably, a little compressed and muffled, but, overall, the sound quality is clean. The dialogue, though dubbed in post (as was the Italian tradition) has a naturalistic and consistent quality, exhibiting only minor distortion when characters are shouting over each other. Composer Carlo Rustichelli’s score sits neatly beneath most scenes, despite, again, the cramped mono soundscape. It sounds particularly rich when not competing with the dialogue.



Extras

  • Interview with Pietro Germi expert and filmmaker Mario Sesti (46:31, HD) – In this exclusive interview, Sesti discusses Germi’s career as actor and filmmaker, the impact of the commedia all'italiana, his style of filmmaking and storytelling, The Facts of Murder’s transitional place in his filmography, the work of other cast & crew members, specific filmmakers and authors that likely inspired Setsi, Carlo Emilio Gadda’s original novel, the rich themes found in both the text and subtext of the film, its critical reception and legacy.

  • The Man With the Cigar In His Mouth (38:51, HD) – A 1997 documentary directed by Sesti about Germi featuring interviews with colleagues and collaborators, including screenwriters Furio Scarpelli, Tullio Pinelli, Luciano Vincenzoni, Leo Benvenuti, and Ennio De Concini, actors Aldo Puglisi, Stefania Sandrelli, Franca Bettoia, and Claudia Cardinale, continuity supervisor Mirta Guarnaschelli, production manager Mario Silvestri, press agent Enrico Lucherini, Germi’s first wife, Lidia Bancio, and contemporary directors Carlo Verdone, Mario Monicelli, Giuseppe Tornatore, and Damiano Damiani. 

  • What's Black and Yellow All Over? All Shades of Italian Film Noir (18:31, HD) – A new visual essay by critic, author, and co-host of the Kill it with Fire podcast Paul A. J. Lewis, who explores film noir, its many derivatives, differences between American and European noir, specific Italian crime film trends, the subgenre of Neorealism Nero (which The Facts of Murder falls under), and connections to gialli, poliziotteschi (following short histories of both gialli and poliziotteschi), neo-noir, and erotic thrillers. It’s basically a more efficient and researched version of my review here and I highly recommend it.





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

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