Color, 1981, 96 mins 45 secs.
Directed by Bruno Corbucci
Starring Tomas Milian, Bombolo, Olimpia Di Nardo, John Chen, Enzo Cannavale, Massimo Vanni

Color, 1984, 97 mins. 26 secs. / 88 mins. 3 secs.
Directed by Bruno Corbucci
Starring Tomas Milian,Dagmar Lassander Pino Colizzi, Bombolo, Isabel Russinova, Sergio Di Pinto
Cinestrange Extreme (Blu-ray & DVD) (Germany R0 HD/PAL) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

With DELITTO AL RISTORANTE CINESEthe popularity of the poliziottechi DELITTO AL RISTORANTE CINESEwinding down in the 1980s, there were still a few variants that could be counted on to pull in Italian viewers even if they were becoming virtually impossible to market anywhere. One of the most popular of these revolved around the character of Nico Giraldi, a coarse Roman cop played by Tomas Milian in a total of eleven films starting with Cop in Blue Jeans (or Squadra antiscippo) in 1976 and winding down a mere eight years later with the completely insane Cop in Drag, or Delitto al Blue Gay. Often very politically incorrect by today's standards, the films were directed and co-written by Bruno Corbucci, brother of spaghetti western Sergio Corbucci, who generally drifted to lighter fare and later scored some action comedy hits with Bud Spencer and Terence Hill. (The two worlds also collided, sort of, when Spencer and Milian teamed up for the cartoonish Cats and Dogs in 1983.) Two of the Nico Giraldi action comedies, the eighth and tenth to be exact, have now been given the Blu-ray treatment from Cinestrange Extreme, finally giving them official English-subtitled editions that should hopefully pave the way for more in the series after the label's earlier introduction with Delitto sull'autostrada.

First up is one of the most popular entries, 1981's Delitto al ristorante cinese or Crime at the Chinese Restaurant, which finds Milian doing another one of his signature dual role comedy bits. Here he not only plays Giraldi but Ciu Ci Ciao, the very stereotyped Mongolian cook who's just flown to Rome to work as the assistant cook at a Chinese restaurant, Taitung. The owner, Chan (Chan), is headed the other way to China and entrusts the daily management to Vincenzo DELITTO AL RISTORANTE CINESE(Cannavale), the head waiter. The new cook, who specializes in a ridiculous dish made out of stuffed rice, is picked up DELITTO AL RISTORANTE CINESEat the airport by coworker Bombolo, who also puts him up temporarily at his apartment and has a day job helping Inspector Giraldi and his family build a makeshift house in the countryside nearby without a permit. Soon after at closing time, a man named Giovanni Papetti is found at his table dead, so to avoid trouble, the duo dump the body back at his apartment. As it turns out following an autopsy, the man was poisoned with arsenic in one of the Chinese dishes, so Ciu Ci Ciao and Bombolo help uncover the cause of the crime with Giraldi, whose leg is now in a cast and who's been forced into a vow not to curse. As it turns out, the restaurant is tied to an international crime syndicate that could put all three of their lives in great danger.

Milian's penchant for slapping on exaggerated makeup, wigs, and accents really goes into overdrive here with both roles allowing him to ham it up like crazy. Obviously this would basically be one big HR violation masquerading as a movie if it came out in the U.S., but as a time capsule of Italian comedy at the turn of the '80s it's pretty fascinating to behold. In keeping with the formula at the time, the first half is essentially all goofy comedy and story building before the action scenes kick in for the second half, the best being a fun car vs. dirt bike chase through a series of very tight Roman roads that takes a wild indoor detour through an explosives factory. As pretty much every Italian viewer knew right away, the Ciu Ci Ciao character is basically a slight variation of Milian's earlier quasi-Chinese role in Sergio Corbucci's 1975 western comedy Shoot First... Ask Questions Later, complete with one of the most ridiculous pieces of head-wear the actor ever wore. (And that's really saying something.) The end result somehow manages to make Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany's and DELITTO AL RISTORANTE CINESEPeter Sellers in Murder by Death look tasteful by comparison. The jokes fly fast and furious here inducing some verbal wordplay that just barely DELITTO AL RISTORANTE CINESEworks outside of its native Italian, and for good measure there's even a completely bizarre The Shining gag thrown in near the end.

The Cinestrange Blu-ray/DVD combo (available in four different mediabook options, two with the Italian title on the cover and the others bearing the untranslatable German title Ein Schlitzohr ausser rand und band) features a pleasing presentation of the film that appears to be devoid of any aggressive noise reduction or other tinkering; if you've seen any other recent Italian film scans coming out of Germany or Austria, this is pretty comparable. German and Italian DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono tracks are offered with optional German or English subtitles; the latter are perfectly fine, though it's worth noting they're translated from and timed to the German track so, while it's accurate most of the time, there are some occasional moments when it plays to the Italian one where lines don't quite match up. (That includes fudging the Shining joke, so listen to the actual dialogue.) Among the extras, "Who Is Giorgio Navarro?" (6m33s) is a video interview with the author of Tomas Milian: A Cuban in Rome chatting about his long dedication to Milian's career and their real-life friendship as well as his work on the website A second Navarro interview (4m38s) done via video conferencing focuses on this film in particular, explaining what Milian was going for with his Chinese character here and where this fits in with the Giraldi series at large. Also included are a gallery of faux lobby cards and a newly created trailer, plus bonus ones for Free Hand for a Tough Cop, Crime at Formula 1, Delitto sull'autostrada, Almost Human, American Rikshaw, The Iron Commissioner, and Stunt Squad.DELITTO IN FORMULA UNO

DELITTO IN FORMULA UNOSkipping past Delitto sull'autostrada, we arrive next at Delitto in Formula Uno (or Crime at Formula 1), which brings Giraldi into the world of competitive racing and answers the eternal question, "What would Tomas Milian look like doing aerobics while bundled up in winter wear?" The actual racing footage is mostly confined to the opening and closing few minutes, but it's another fast-paced action comedy with Milian acting up a storm once again.

During an afternoon Monza Formula 1 race, top-ranked driver Paolo is killed when his car veers out of control. All signs point to a simple accident, but Giraldi is put on the case and uses his connection to recurring police informant and getaway car driver Venticello (Bombolo again) to see if anything strange is afoot. Meanwhile Giraldi's brother-in-law, Fabrizio (Di Pinto), seems to be involved in some shady business that's alarming Giraldi's wife, Angela (Di Nardo), who asks to have an eye on him. When Fabrizio tries to steal a Mercedes, he finds a corpse stashed in the trunk and goes to Giraldi for help concocting an absurd story if he gets accused. Unfortunately the whole thing looks terrible for our hero (bundled up in a knit cap, coat, and mittens for the entire running time a la some of his earlier entries), DELITTO IN FORMULA UNOwhose job is put in jeopardy as his investigation leads him through a world of deceit and leg DELITTO IN FORMULA UNOwarmers.

Arguably even goofier than its predecessor, this one also boasts higher cult cred thanks to the presence of the great Dagmar Lassander (House by the Cemetery, Forbidden Photos of a Lady above Suspicion) as the dead driver's wife and a lively score by the legendary Fabio Frizzi, who was probably coasting here but still comes up with a bouncy main theme that'll stick in your head for a while. Milian only has one role this time around, but he's still in practically ever shot and gets to show off some amusing physical comedy skills in that aforementioned Flashdance-inspired aerobics scene. Also noteworthy is the completely over-the-top finale with two race cars careening into and around Rome, complete with some crazy stunt work including an eye-popping motorcycle gag that might have you lunging for the rewind button. The comedy here is still as goofy and lowbrow as before though, with our hero seen early on at work dealing with a flatulent perpetrator who admits he's a "fartaholic." Also, this may hold the record for the heaviest amount of Smurf product placement in movie history. High art it ain't, but we wouldn't have it otherwise.

TDELITTO IN FORMULA UNOhe Blu-ray/DVD release again comes in four different mediabook options, half with the Italian title and the other two as Formel 1 und heiße Mädchen, or Formula 1 and Hot Girls (which would presumably refer to the aerobics sequence). Transfer-wise this looks very similar DELITTO IN FORMULA UNOas well, perfectly fine for what it is with some visual inconsistency given the stock racing footage involved. (That includes what appears to be some real accident footage and its aftermath which is, uh, questionable.) The film can be watched either in its complete Italian version or the German theatrical cut, the latter clocking in almost ten minutes shorter; that means if you watch the full cut with the German dub, it occasional defaults to Italian where necessary. Optional English and German subtitles are provided as usual (with one errant German line slipping into the English one, just to keep you on your toes!). The "Who Is Giorgio Navarro?" short is ported over here along with the same trailers, while Navarro also provides a new interview (5m12s) about the latter days of the Giraldi cycle and why Milian decided to bring it to an end after one more film, as well as the reason he was almost always dubbed in his Italian films.

Reviewed on May 28, 2021.