Color, 1973, 126 mins.
Directed by Elio Petri
Starring Ugo Tognazzi, Flavio Bucci, Daria Nicolodi, Mario Scaccia, Orazio Orlando
Arrow Video (Blu-ray & DVD) (US/UK RA/RB/R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
It’s safe to say that there’s no Italian director quite like Elio Petri, who started off with a bang with L’Assassino and proceeded to twist viewer’s brains into pretzels with surreal, satirical films like The 10th Victim, the Oscar-winning Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion, and We Still Kill the Old Way, not to mention his one excursion into full-blooded horror, the wonderful A Quiet Place in the Country. Tucked near the end of his life and career is Property Is No Longer a Theft, a dark, challenging, and amusing take on modern materialism, excess, and financial greed with a number of strong draws for Eurocult fans.
During a wild bank robbery that involves the screen’s most startling use of surprise security dogs, a teller named Total (Bucci) has an epiphany as he watches one of the culprits being stopped and beaten by one of the bank customers, an unnamed butcher and property owner (Tognazzi). Allergic to the very touch of cash, Total realizes his current lifestyle and occupation aren’t fulfilling at all as he observes unscrupulous, backstabbing people around him enjoying the high life without earning it. Total decides that the best thing to do would be a form of social terrorism, removing everything these people care about to realign their world view. The butcher receives the brunt of the Total’s little experiment, which also encompasses the butcher’s girlfriend, the overheated Anita (Nicolodi).
This film marked a reunion of sorts for Petri, Bucci (who went on to play the blind Daniel in Suspiria and also appeared in The Night Train Murders and La Orca), composer Ennio Morricone (who goes nuts with the harpsichord here in one of the dozen scores he composed in ‘73), and cinematographer Luigi Kuveiller (Deep Red, Blood for Dracula) after 1971’s The Working Class Goes to Heaven, which is still screaming out for a really good home video edition. Everyone is operating at full throttle here, but the real wild card is Nicolodi, a newcomer at the time who would soon go on to Deep Red and Italian horror immortality in other Argento films and Mario Bava’s Shock. She’s a smoldering revelation here, sporting blood-red lipstick and commanding the screen like a pro even during one of the creepiest nude scenes ever committed to celluloid.
Perhaps because it's just so utterly weird, Petri's film never earned a full English-language theatrical release anywhere, a fate that would befall his next two films as well before his death in 1982. At least it's finally been given the red carpet treatment by Arrow Video for its simultaneous dual-format American and British releases with a new restored transfer that looks really wonderful throughout. You may want to crank down the black level a few notches to get the inky look the film seems to be going for, but otherwise it's pristine with vivid colors and a nice sense of depth even in the many sequences with characters in near darkness addressing the camera. The Italian LPCM mono audio sounds great as well (optional English subtitles included in both standard and SDH iterations), with Morricone's aggressive music benefiting the most. Three new featurettes have been included -- “My Name Is Total” (19m46s) with Bucci, “The Middle-Class Communist” (23m33s) with producer Claudio Mancini, and “The Best Man” (23m4s) with makeup artist Pierantonio Mecacci -- focusing on everything from the jittery Italian political and financial climate of the time and Petri's socially aware cinema to the stylized look of the film with heavy dashes of surreal visuals and dialogue throughout in the filmmaker's typical style. The packaging features reversible cover options (the original poster design or a new one by Nathanael Marsh) and an insert booklet with liner notes by Camilla Zamboni.
Reviewed on May 4, 2017