The Weapon, the Hour, the Motive Blu-ray Review
Blu-ray Release: August 30, 2022 (Giallo Essentials: Black Edition)
Audio: Italian LPCM 1.0 Mono
Subtitles: English, English SDH
Run Time: 103:49
Director: Francesco Mazzei
Note: As of this writing, this Blu-ray is only available as part of Arrow’s Giallo Essentials: Black Edition three-movie set along with Silvio Amadio’s Smile Before Death (Italian: Il sorriso della Jena, 1972) and Giuseppe Bennati's The Killer Reserved Nine Seats (Italian: L'assassino ha riservato nove poltrone, 1974).
Police commissioner Franco Boito (Renzo Montagnani) investigates the brutal murder of a young clergyman, only to find himself entering into an affair with the dead man’s lover (Bedy Moratti). (From Arrow’s official synopsis)
Given Catholicism's central place in everyday Italian culture, it comes as no surprise that many of the region’s most transgressive films regularly mocked the church’s traditions. Nunsploitation, for example, was not invented by the Italians, but they ran with it like few others, bypassing the bleak satire of Ken Russell’s The Devils (1971) and heightened drama of Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger’s Black Narcissus (1947, based on Rumer Godden’s 1939 novel) in favor of cramming as much vulgarity as they could into 90 minutes for as few lira as possible. Giallo was no exception to the rule and was heavily inspired by church doctrine, from the playful sacrilege of Giulio Berruti’s Killer Nun (Italian: Suor Omicidi, 1979) to the brutal anti-Catholic sentiment of Lucio Fulci’s Don’t Torture a Duckling (Italian: Non si Sevizia un Paperino, 1972), a film that makes a great rural double-feature with the subject of this review, Francesco Mazzei’s The Weapon, the Hour, the Motive (Italian: L'arma, l'ora, il movente, 1972).
Largely unseen outside of Italy, The Weapon, the Hour, the Motive is a cleverly balanced combination of nunsploitation antics, a genuine examination of church hypocrisy (though from a relatively sympathetic point-of-view), superstitious horror, and the giallo structure that was typical of the early ‘70s. It isn’t up to the pure trash approach of Gianfranco Mingozzi’s Flavia the Heretic (Italian: Flavia, la monaca musulmana; aka: Rebel Nun, 1974) or Bruno Mattei & Claudio Fragasso’s The Other Hell (Italian: L'altro inferno, 1980), but Mazzei makes plenty of room for extended scenes of nuns in communal showers and self-flagellation while topless. As a murder mystery, it can be a bit clunky, especially when it’s setting up a dozen suspects and red herrings during its opening act, but it works quite well when Mazzei takes his time, allows shots to linger, and leans into the idea of showing, rather than telling. He finds several creative workarounds to avoid boring exposition dumps, such as explaining character motivations via the eyes of a voyeuristic child or planting evidence via a tarot card reading. Most importantly, it has the naturalistic melancholy of other rural-set gialli, such as Fucli’s aforementioned Don’t Torture a Duckling and Aldo Lado’s Who Saw Her Die? (Italian: Chi l'ha vista morire?; aka: The Child, 1972).
In my review of Silvio Amadio’s Smile Before Death (Italian: Il sorriso della Jena, 1972) – which has been coupled with The Weapon, the Hour, the Motive and Giuseppe Bennati’s The Killer Reserved Nine Seats (Italian: L'assassino ha riservato nove poltrone, 1974) for Arrow’s third Giallo Essentials collection – I referenced the phenomenon of Italian workhorse directors who made one or two gialli among a large collection of other genre work. This film represents another side of the era in that it is Mazzei’s one and only film as director. He had previous produced the World by Night (Italian: Il mondo di notte) shockumentary trilogy (1960, ‘61, and ‘63), which predated Gualtiero Jacopetti & Angelo Rizzoli’s Mondo Carne (1962), making him one of the unsung godfathers of the Mondo genre. The Weapon, the Hour, the Motive is shameless enough to live up to that Mondo brand of sleaze. However, considering his lack of experience behind the camera and the fact that cinematographer Giovanni Ciarlo was also relatively untried in a lead DOP capacity*, the film’s cinematic ambitions are really impressive. It’s not quite up to Mario Bava’s standards, but the occasional surrealism, the creative compositions, and moody vibes are enough to wish that Mazzei might’ve taken a few more seats in the director’s chair, perhaps making a straight horror movie.
* Ciarlo had just shot Mario Caiano’s Eye of the Labyrinth (Italian: L'occhio nel labirinto, 1972), but was otherwise an assistant or operator up to that point.
The Weapon, the Hour, the Motive was never officially released on English-friendly videotape. German company Koch Media released a PAL anamorphic DVD as part of a three movie set, but that, too, had zero English language or subtitle options. If you were not bilingual and really wanted to see the movie, your only options were bootlegs or a double-feature disc from Frolic Pictures that paired the giallo with Terrence Young’s 1973 epic adventure War Goddesses for some reason. For this HD debut, Arrow utilized a 2K scan of the original 35mm film negative and presents the film in 1.85:1, 1080p. Clarity can be a bit inconsistent, due to the quality of some of the footage – some shots are scratchier, some have vertical lines, and others are simply fuzzy because the camera wasn’t entirely in focus. All of the artifacts are filmic in nature, not compression issues and the only time it’s really a problem is when we cut to a wide-angle shots of dark corridors and grain levels chunk up (this also happens during one of the most violent scenes, leading me to assume that footage was censored at some point). Otherwise, color timing and black levels seem natural, which is important, considering how much of the film takes place outdoors and in organic lighting.
The Weapon, the Hour, the Motive is presented with a single Italian audio option, in uncompressed LPCM 1.0 sound. As per usual, the film was shot without sound and dubbed in post. There was an English dub made at some point, but it is apparently no longer available (described as ‘lost’ in this disc’s special features). Much of the lead cast is speaking Italian on-set, so the lip-sync is solid throughout and the vocal performances match what’s happening on-screen (at the very least, Renzo Montagnani is dubbing himself). The sound quality is as expected – a little smushed and tinny, but free of major distortion and consistently discernible. Though used sparingly, Francesco De Masi’s music is a highlight, especially the dreamy church organ motifs.
Commentary with author and critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas – The author of The Giallo Canvas: Art, Excess and Horror Cinema (McFarland, 2021) takes a playful approach to discussing The Weapon, the Hour, the Motive’s place in the greater giallo canon, the careers/lives of the cast & crew (apparently, lead Bedy Moratti was from a mega-wealthy oil family), Catholic themes in this and other Italian genre films, and the state of political violence and other social issues in Italy during the ‘70s that fueled the popularity of gialli and poliziotteschi.
A Man in Giallo (13:32) – Actor Salvatore Puntillo, who plays a sort of comic-relief sidekick to lead Renzo Montagnani, chats about making the film, ongoing budgetary issues, acting alongside other members of the cast, and working with Dario Argento on Deep Red (Italian: Profondo Rosso, 1975) and the The Tram (Italian: Il Tram) episode of the Door into Darkness (Italian: La porta sul buio, 1973) TV series. I hadn’t noticed, but he plays basically the same character in The Weapon, the Hour, the Motive and Deep Red.
Opening and closing titles for the lost English-language dub (3:26, HD)
The images on this page are taken from the BD and sized for the page. Larger versions can be viewed by clicking the images. Note that there will be some JPG compression.