Color, 1975, 101m.
Directed by Sergio Martino / Starring Luc Merenda, Dayle Haddon, Corrado Pani, Enrico Maria Salerno, Giovanni Javarone
NoShame (US R1 NTSC) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)
In the underground gambling world of Milan, maverick Luca Altieri (Torso's Merenda) earns his living conning his way through the world of card dealing and high stakes. His poker abilities catch the eye of the President (The Bird with the Crystal Plumage's Salerno), a crime boss willing to back him up. Unfortunately Luca winds up falling for Maria (Spermula's Dayle Haddon), the girlfriend of the President's hot-tempered son, Corrado (Pani), and soon the couple is on the run from men carrying lots of ammunition.
ostensibly an attempt to fuse the familiar Italian crime aesthetic to the successful Hollywood formula of The Sting, this engaging actioner works better than it should in the capable hands of genre-hopping maestro Sergio Martino. Featuring plenty of shootouts, chase sequences, and hard-boiled underworld activity, this is slick, brainless entertainment all the way, though an unexpectedly grim third act twist might give viewers a bit more than they bargained for. The cast also performs admirably, with Merenda (whose glamour boy career was always stymied by some of the lousiest haircuts in the industry) making a solid hero and a wheelchair-bound Salerno making the most of his limited time as the mob boss forced to choose between a golden goose and his own blood. Doing her best Gene Tierney impersonation, Haddon makes a decent romantic foil but doesn't have much to do until the dramatic final few minutes.
Originally released to theaters and home video most widely under the title The Cheaters, this much-needed reprieve from years of dull prints and shoddy cropped transfers comes in high style from NoShame under its original title (translated from the Italian original, La cittą gioca d'azzardo). The transfer looks simply smashing, with Martino's elegant color use coming through quite nicely (love those vivid greens!) and the scope framing restoring tension to such expert sequences as a shoot-out among a cluster of mannequins. The film can be played with its serviceable English dub or the Italian original with optional English subtitles; it works fine either way. The biggest extra is the lengthy "Chatting with the Cheaters," a 35-minute featurette comprised of interviews with Martino, Merenda, and cinematographer Giancarlo Ferrando. It's an excellent, informative, and lighthearted piece, though it's too bad Haddon didn't participate; her wild career ranging from Just Jaeckin erotica to North Dallas Forty to Cyborg would make for an interesting interview. Merenda also contributes an enjoyable English commentary track with critic Riccardo Trombella (whose thick accent produces a few unintentional chuckles). The disc is rounded out by the original Italian trailer, a photo gallery, and good liner notes by Richard Harland Smith and Matthew Weisman.