When he saw the name Toto, Appellate Judge Tom Becker was expecting a hard-hitting story about Rosanna Arquette.
Two rare films from Italy's acclaimed cinematic master!
Two lesser-known films from director Roberto Rossellini:
Dov'è la Libertà…?, aka, Where Is Freedom?
Era Notte a Roma, aka, Escape by Night (1960)
Dov'è la Libertà…? starts out with a silly sitcom premise—Salvatore is caught breaking into prison, and the story is told in flashbacks—but quickly establishes itself as a sharp, dark comedy. Much of the film's success can be attributed to the beloved comic actor Totò, whose performance is both poignant and funny.
I had heard of Totò, but I was not really familiar with his work until I went to review this set and did a little research. It turns out, he was wildly popular in his home country, and many of his films featured his name not just above the title, but in the title: Totò and the Women, Whatever Happened to Baby Totò, Totò, Peppino and La Dolce Vita, and Totò and Cleopatra. I don't know that many of Totò's films are available in the U.S. in any format, so for this alone, Dov'è la Libertà…? is worth checking out.
Beyond the charms of Totò, Dov'è la Libertà…? is pretty entertaining, with authentic, "salt of the Earth"-looking actors and a neatly cynical view of humankind.
In Era Notte a Roma, Rossellini returns to the ground that made him internationally famous with Open City and Paisan, Rome during the Second World War. Unfortunately, Era Notte a Roma lacks the passion and immediacy of those earlier films, coming off as more of a melodramatic potboiler. Overlong at 134 minutes, Rossellini keeps the focus on the three soldiers (well, one soldier, mainly), but introduces a steady stream of new characters and new hiding places, making the film episodic and a bit confusing. The film certainly has its strengths, not the least of which is a strong international cast headed by British actor Leo Genn (Quo Vadis) and Italian actress Giovanna Ralli as Esperia.
A big problem is the presentation. It seems that Lionsgate made no effort to restore these films, and it shows big time in Era Notte a Roma. The tech here is miserable. The print is in awful shape, and the transfer is soft, streaked, and has lots of damage. Dark scenes—and there are many—just become a gray mass. Audio is creaky mono track.
Dov'è la Libertà…? looks far better by comparison and pretty good for a film that's over 50 years old, wasn't shot with much of a budget, and apparently hasn't had much work done to it. The print is fairly clear and there's minimal damage. The sound is something else, however, a truly lousy track that pops, hisses, and jumps all over the place.
If you'd like some help putting these in context with the rest of Rossellini's work, you'll have to Google them; Lionsgate gives us nothing in the way of extras. These discs are as bare-bones as possible. We don't even get set-up options for subtitles or audio choices.
A note on the packaging: When I saw this, my first thought was that it was part of Warner Bros. Signature Collection, which has featured Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant, Alfred Hitchcock, and James Stewart, among others. I was shocked to find out this was a Lionsgate release. The cover art on the cardboard slipcase is identical to the Warner Bros. line: shadowy black and white photo of Rossellini, with his name in white print, and his signature. The cover of the disc also features Rossellini's printed and signed name, but instead of his photo there are stills from the films. It's a nice looking package, and promises far more than the rather carelessly put together discs it houses, but it's a ringer for the Warner Bros. collection. Odd…
These films are not among Rossellini's best, and Lionsgate's shoddy work leaves little chance that they'll be "rediscovered" by a new generation.
Guilty of neglect.
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What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice, Dov'e La Liberta...?
Perp Profile, Dov'e La Liberta...?
Distinguishing Marks, Dov'e La Liberta...?
Scales of Justice, Era Notte A Roma
Perp Profile, Era Notte A Roma
Distinguishing Marks, Era Notte A Roma
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