Blue Underground // 1974 // 111 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Chief Counsel Rob Lineberger (Retired) // April 14th, 2006
Why does one kill a magistrate?
Appellate Judge Rob Lineberger will be interred next Monday in a public ceremony. After years of faithful service to DVD Verdict, he passed at the hands of an unknown assailant. He'd been working on a review of Blue Underground's release of How to Kill a Judge, an Italian political thriller from 1974 starring Franco Nero.
When director Giacomo Solaris (Franco Nero, Django, Die Hard 2: Die Harder) makes a movie that accuses a high-ranking magistrate of being a mafia stooge, he earns the ire of the judge's wife, Antonia Traini (Françoise Fabian, Reunion). When real life mimics Giacomo's film, the two form an uneasy partnership and investigate the murder. Between backstabbing party members, the press, crooked cops, and mafia warfare, Giacomo has his hands full trying to uncover the truth.
Judge Rob's recorded notes on this DVD were succinct but telling. We recovered them from his home and transcribed them for this, his last review. They are the final testament to his high standards of professional criticism:
How to kill a judge? Holy shit, we gotta bury this thing but fast. Word got out, the staff of DVD Verdict would be dropping like flies. I've already got an army of Dane Cook fans waiting to catch me in a dark alley, plus those death threats from The Family Guy fans. My bad, Family Guy fans.
Let's open 'er up. Holy liner notes, Batman..."Blue Underground is a company that truly comprehends the DVD format -- DVDVerdict.com." That makes me smile every time I see it, and now it's the freaking cover blurb for their catalog. It's true, though. Revolver impressed me, and since then just about every Blue Underground title has lived up to its word. But I have a bad feeling about this one for some reason. It seems like it will be kinda dry.
Well, at least they got one thing right: Blue Underground included the Italian track this time. Good thing too, because their poorly dubbed Italian crime flicks were getting comical. At least the English actors are a decent match in the English dub for How to Kill a Judge (well, except for that dying gangster). Do I detect Nero dubbing his English lines?
This mono sound isn't exactly blowing my robes up, but it's clean enough to get the job done. Catchy soundtrack, though. Trust me, when Blue Underground has a reason to crank out some surround action, you get all six barrels. Just check out Q: The Winged Serpent if you don't believe me.
While we're polishing Blue Underground's reputation, might as well mention the transfer. Unlike most of their stuff, the colors in this one seem faded. The top left corner seems particularly washed out, but only in the opening reel. Colors get richer as the film progresses. Detail is superior and the transfer is crisp. Dirt and scratches have been excised with prejudice. The colors are stable and have been adjusted correctly, even if the print faded a little with age in some places. Blue Underground is always conscientious when it comes to transferring video.
Speaking of blue, this Franco Nero guy sure has blue eyes. I mean, he stares into your soul. He's like Paul Newman, only without the salad dressing. I'm not as impressed with Françoise Fabian, though; she isn't quite selling the "Italian dame with a steel backbone" shtick. I get it, she has a secret, get on with it already. The rest of the cast? Well, less said the better.
Yep, I was right, this is dry. You can count on Blue Underground for two things: sex and violence. Why'd they have to get all highbrow? I don't know jack about the Italian political situation in the '60s, much less the subtleties of political party solidarity and mafia ties. Aside from a little fondle or two and that judge draining blood all over the pavement, this thing feels like an actual drama. I wasn't prepared for this, and I can't exactly un-drink those beers and concentrate now. Why can't Giacomo accidentally walk into a strip bar that happens to be erupting into full-scale mafia warfare?
Oh well, best to muddle through. Giacomo and Antonia are driving around and talking to people. More talking. Ok, here are some mafia guys, this might spice things up...[long pause]...nope. Okay, now Giacomo's mafia friend is showing him some bulldozers. I guess there's a message about corruption in here somewhere. Hey, another mafia hit! A lame one, that is. So close.
Might as well check out the extras. They're still putting spoiler warnings in front of the interviews. Nice touch. These trailers are completely lame, but let's be honest here -- they didn't have much raw material to work with. The interview is pretty good, with a little back patting and some interesting stories about their working relationship. Damiani and Nero don't seem in the mood to discuss this movie, though.
Can't say I blame them. Political mystery-dramas are nice in theory, but not so gripping in practice. Let's talk about something else. I caught V for Vendetta last night. I think V might be Bill Gibron. They both have that alliteration thing going, and a penchant for quirky literary allusion. Hold on a sec, there's someone at the door.
Those were Judge Rob's final words. Well, he might have said "What the hell are you doing with that meat hook?" or "GaaaHHHHHHhhhhh..." or something, but as far as the historic record goes, we're gonna have to stick with "Hold on a sec, there's someone at the door."
On the count of killing a judge, we find How to Kill a Judge guilty as charged.
Review content copyright © 2006 Rob Lineberger; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Blue Underground
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Italian)
Running Time: 111 Minutes
Release Year: 1974
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* "The Damiani/Nero Connection" -- Interviews with Co-Writer/Director Damiano Damiani and Star Franco Nero