Color, 1973, 121 mins. 5 secs.
Directed by Dario Argento
Starring Adriano Celentano, Enzo Ceruscio, Marilù Tolo
Severin Films (UHD & Blu-ray) (US R0/A 4K/HD), CDE (DVD) (Italy R2 PAL), e-m-s (DVD) (Germany R2 PAL) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)
With his name firmly established from cranking out three classic gialli in quick succession (The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, The Cat o' Nine Tails, and Four Flies on Grey Velvet), Dario Argento decided to try something different from the template that had labeled him the "Italian Hitchcock" at the time. The result was Le cinque giornate, or The Five Days (sometimes called The Five Days of Milan), a seriocomic historical epic drawing on Argento's screenwriting (and brief acting) background working on comedies for big names like Alberto Sordi. The first of only two Argento theatrical titles shot entirely in Italian (the second being Dark Glasses), it received virtually zero play outside of Italy and, at least for English-speaking fans, existed as a perplexing footnote in his filmography until home video editions arrived. However, an official English-friendly release of any kind didn't manifest until 2022 with a 4K UHD and Blu-ray combo from Severin Films.
Living in Milanese jail squalor during the 1848 revolution, young thief Cainazzo (comedy legend and singer Adriano Celentano) gets accidentally sprung when an errant cannonball blows a hole in the wall. He takes to the streets where he crosses paths with lowly baker Romolo (Cerusico), and the duo embark on an episodic string of picaresque encounters ranging from the silly to the violent and disturbing. Inspired by real accounts of the era by average citizens, the encounters range from a frantic childbirth to a jaunt in military service before ultimately coming to a dark and cynical realization about the nature of civil power.
Wedged in between the initial "Animal Trilogy" and Deep Red, this is a fascinating and often impressive transitional film for Argento with several key participants from this creative period. On the acting side, Cerusico and Argento's girlfriend at the time, Marilù Tolo, not only have major roles here but also starred in the same year's Argento-driven, four-part thriller TV series, Door into Darkness, which also shares this film's composer, Giorgio Gaslini. Argento had just had an acrimonious split with composer Ennio Morricone (though the two would reunite later), so Gaslini was really Argento's composer of choice at the time until his work ended up being somewhat sidelined by Goblin on Deep Red. In fact, Deep Red fans will also enjoy the work here of ace cinematographer Luigi Kuveiller (who somehow shot this back to back with Flesh for Frankenstein and Blood for Dracula) and regular Argento editor Franco Fraticelli, and the fact that this was shot at the height of August in Milan and Pavia gives the film a dusty, sweltering atmosphere unlike anything else in the director's canon.
Interestingly, this film has the distinction of being the only golden era Argento film to never be released pan and scanned on home video. Its initial VHS from Domovideo was full scope, as were the two DVD releases in Italy and Germany circa 2008; however, none of them had English subtitles, so fans had to scour the gray market for fan-subbed options. For what it's worth, the Italian disc featured the mono track, an okay fake 5.1 remix, two trailers, and bios. Never released on American DVD, the film looks wonderful on the Severin edition with the UHD offering a very vibrant upgrade in particular with its rich but earthy color scheme looking especially impressive. The DTS-HD MA Italian 2.0 mono track also sounds excellent, with optional English yellow subtitles provided. (The UHD is region free, by the way, while the Blu-ray is Region A.) A new audio commentary by this writer and Troy Howarth is present on both disc options (and can't be assessed here) along with an SD Italian trailer (the more common one featuring Gaslini's riff on Wendy Carlos' A Clockwork Orange / "The Thieving Magpie").
The Blu-ray houses all of the featurettes starting with "Talkin' 'Bout a Revolution" (35m20s) in which Argento warmly recalls the process of researching the film and creating the period atmosphere (which required working around the "billions" of TV antennas on all the buildings), as well as his collaborative process with his actors, including his fondness for Celentano and the "typically Roman" Carusico. He also mentions working with the eccentric Salvatore Baccaro, a.k.a. "Sal Boris," who achieved trash cinema immortality in Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks and The Beast in Heat, and his split with Gaslini after this. In "The Battle for Freedom" (29m44s), co-writer Luigi Cozzi goes more into the historical background of the Italian unification process, the Austrian tactics that led to the uprising, the collaborative process with Argento, the decision to cast Celentano, and the much higher budget than usual due to the costumes and locations. "For the First Time" (10m36s) features executive producer Claudio Argento explains how his longtime industry experience led to him starting to produce here with "production boot camp" with his brother as their father Salvatore was starting phase out. Actress Carla Tato shares her own experiences in "An Italian Story" (15m58s) including her familiarity with Argento's work and how her previous films got her hired for this one. In "Home Delivery" (17m48s), actress Luisa De Santis looks back at her very memorable turn as the frantic pregnant woman as well as her very positive impressions of the entire experience, even getting dragged up a stairwell. In "174 Years Ago" (27m41s), production manager Angelo Iacone goes through the casting and location scouting process, the initial approach to Ugo Tognazzi to star, and working with local homeowners to keep any anachronisms out of sight. Finally in "Between Flies and Profondo" (12m52s) with writer Alan Jones (erroneously listed as his book title, "Dario Argento: The Man, the Myths, the Magic," on the disc menu), you get a peek into Argento's early years with Cozzi, the ideas floating around between the giallo classics, the decision to temporarily dabble in TV, and the unusual place this period piece occupies in the director's larger body of work just as he was becoming a recognizable household name. The second trailer, listed here as a TV spot, is also included on the Blu-ray. A third disc in the set is a soundtrack CD, Giorgio Gaslini for Dario Argento, representing the full 18-track score for this film originally issued on CD by Lucertola Media plus two tracks from Door into Darkness and the seven Gaslini tracks for Deep Red.
Reviewed on November 24, 2022.