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Case Number 15055: Small Claims Court

Buy Roberto Rossellini: 2-Disc Collector's Edition at Amazon

Roberto Rossellini: 2-Disc Collector's Edition

Dov'e La Liberta...?
1954 // 92 Minutes // Not Rated
Era Notte A Roma
1960 // 134 Minutes // Not Rated
Released by Lionsgate
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker // November 20th, 2008

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All Rise...

When he saw the name Toto, Appellate Judge Tom Becker was expecting a hard-hitting story about Rosanna Arquette.

The Charge

Two rare films from Italy's acclaimed cinematic master!

The Case

Two lesser-known films from director Roberto Rossellini:

Dov'è la Libertà…?, aka, Where Is Freedom? (1954)
Salvatore Loicano (Totò, Big Deal on Madonna Street) is released from prison after 22 years. The former barber had committed a crime of passion, killing a friend who'd offended his wife. Being released is every inmate's dream, but Salvatore learns almost immediately that freedom isn't all it's cracked up to be. His solution? Break back into prison.

Era Notte a Roma, aka, Escape by Night (1960)
Three escaped Allied POWs—an American, a Russian, and a Brit—are given shelter in Nazi-occupied Rome by Esperia, a woman who makes her living selling black-market goods. Although she is putting herself and everyone she knows in danger, Esperia grows to feel affection for these men, and along with her lover, a communist and anti-Fascist, they form a makeshift family. But as the Allied troops draw closer, so does the risk to all of them.

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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Genres

• Classic
• Comedy
• Drama
• Foreign
• War

Scales of Justice, Dov'e La Liberta...?

Judgment: 78

Perp Profile, Dov'e La Liberta...?

Studio: Lionsgate
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Italian)
Subtitles:
• English
• Spanish
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 1954
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Dov'e La Liberta...?

• None

Scales of Justice, Era Notte A Roma

Judgment: 72

Perp Profile, Era Notte A Roma

Studio: Lionsgate
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Italian)
Subtitles:
• English
• Spanish
Running Time: 134 Minutes
Release Year: 1960
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Era Notte A Roma

• None








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