The Climber Review
The Hollywood crime movies that were hugely successful in the late sixties and early seventies (The Godfather, Dirty Harry, French Connection et al) heavily influenced Italian film makers at that time, inspiring a deluge of what become known as "Poliziotteschi" - the Italian sub-genre of crime cinema. Directors such as Enzo Castellari, Fernando Di Leo and Sergio Sollima started to busily churn out tough crime capers about feuding gangsters and the cops doggedly pursuing them. These movies were often more excessive than their American counterparts, packed full of bloody shootouts and frenetic chases. Frequently starring the likes of Franco Nero or Fabio Testi, there would often be an American actor too, like Jack Palance or Henry Silva - just to make the film even more commercial overseas.
Released in 1975, The Climber (aka L'ambizioso), is written and directed by Pasquale Squitieri. Joe Dallesandro - best known for his roles in several cult Andy Warhol films - takes the lead, as young thug Aldo, who has big ambitions in the criminal underworld. We soon learn that he is ruthless and not afraid to step on the toes of a local crime boss who runs various rackets across Naples. Caught skimming profits from a cigarette smuggling operation, Aldo is dealt a vicious beating and his beloved motorcycle is unceremoniously dumped into the ocean. Having struggled to a local filling station, Aldo meets the beautiful and kind-hearted Luciana (Stefania Casini). She recognises that he needs help and offers him a lift to Rome and a safe place to stay overnight. Once in the City, Aldo seeks new ways to make fast money. This leads to him being double crossed by a heinous local racketeer named Corrado, who brutally murders one of Aldo's old acquaintances. He also finds himself unwittingly in possession of a suitcase full of drugs belonging to fearsome mob kingpin Don Enrico - a menacing performance from French actor Raymond Pellegrin. It's not long before Aldo is seeking Luciana's assistance once again and the pair become lovers. They head back to Aldo's familiar home turf where he assembles a gang, consisting of some local misfit bikers. With this newly formed group of heavies, he goes into the "collection business" extorting money from local clubs and restaurants. As Aldo's wealth grows, Enrico becomes more determined to put him out of business. This leads to an inevitable confrontation.
Although The Climber follows a familiar path, full of the usual gangster movie tropes, Squitieri directs with style and keeps the narrative moving along briskly. Dallesandro has an undeniable screen presence and is well supported by a strong cast, including an impressive Casini - best known for her later starring role in Argento's classic Suspiria. It might not be quite up there with Fernando Di Leo's masterpiece, Milano Calibro 9 (also available from Arrow video), but it's still entertaining and firmly recommended to fans of the genre.
The Climber has been given a new 4K restoration from the original negative. Disregarding a brief opening shot at a dockside, which appears excessively grainy, the image for the rest of the film is bright and clean throughout with no signs of damage. For such an obscure movie from the early seventies, Arrow has done a fantastic job - definitely up to their usual high standards. Skin tones look very natural, blacks are deep and there is a very satisfying level of detail.
There is a choice of the original Italian or English soundtrack, in uncompressed PCM mono. Neither have any issues in terms of quality. It's worth noting that Italian movies of that era were often shot in English with the dialogue dubbed later in post production - sometimes by different voice artists. The same is true for The Climber - much to the annoyance of Dallesandro, who was dubbed by another performer. They've done a decent job with the post-synching here though and, just as importantly, voices seem to suit the onscreen characters. Composer Franco Campanino's energetic score serves the film well.
Little Joe's Adventures in Europe (28 mins approx.). An interesting brand new interview with Joe Dallesandro, who discusses his early career, which was divided between low budget Italian genre fare and arthouse French cinema. Dallesandro also has fond memories of working with his co-star on The Climber, Stefania Casini, whom he describes as "super cool".
There is a reversible sleeve with original and stylish newly commissioned artwork by Chris Malbon.
The first pressing includes a collector's booklet (not available for review). This features new writing on the film by Roberto Curti, author of Italian Crime Filmography, 1968-1980.
The Climber is a rarely seen but entertaining 1970s Italian crime drama, highly recommended to fans of the genre. It looks terrific too in this 4K restoration thanks to Arrow video.