Color, 1967, 119 mins. / Directed by Giuliano Montaldo / Starring Janet Leigh, Robert Hoffman, Klaus Kinski / Blue Underground (US R0 NTSC) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)

An elderly schoolteacher hatches an elaborate plan (thirty years in the making!) to filch a precious diamond cache from a Rio de Janeiro vault during the yearly carnival. With the help of an old Mafioso chum he gathers four specialists -- an electronics expert, a womanizer, a safecracker and a militant chieftain -- to bring his long-gestating scheme into fruition. While at first everything goes exactly as scripted, matters are soon complicated by The Grand Slam 70 - an unbeatable, sound-sensitive super-alarm that threatens the entire operation. With the clock ticking and pressure building our Euro-centric A-Team quickly becomes susceptible to bickering and infighting, but can they still pull the job off?

Undoubtedly influenced by earlier caper flicks like Rififi and Topkapi as well as the then-popular Mission: Impossible television series, Grand Slam is a fun ride and a real surprise. Competently directed by Giuliano Montaldo, the plot does away with any irrelevant trivialities and concentrates solely on the intricate theft itself. Generally light in tone with a peppy score composed by Ennio Morricone, the film quickly moves down the expected route culminating with some very surprising twists, turns and old-fashioned detours in the final quarter. The international cast -- which includes Eurotrash standbys Georges Rigaud, Riccardo Cucciolla, Robert Hoffmann, Aldofo Celi and the always-psychotic Klaus Kinski, alongside American notables Janet Leigh and Edward G. Robinson -- is up to par and each actor pulls off their role with the appropriate verve. Eagle-eyed credit-hounds will also spot giallo-man Massimo Dallamano listed as "general administrator," whatever that means. Smartly filmed on location in New York, Rome, Spain, London and Rio, the wide array of local color and travelogue footage helps the production appear more expensive than it actually was. Heist film devotees need to seek this one out, and I'd even recommend it to fans of Eurospy pix and James Bond outings.

Originally titled Ad Ogni Costo (which translates to "At All Costs"), this Italian / German / Spanish co-production was distributed overseas as both Top Job and Diamonds a Go-Go. Stateside, Paramount Pictures snapped it up for a run as Grand Slam starting February 20, 1968, garnering favorable reviews from mainstream heavyweights like Leonard Maltin and Roger Ebert and reportedly performing quite nicely. Yet for such a well-received film, it strangely wasn't sold to television and was never afforded a domestic home video release - meaning Blue Underground's DVD is the first chance most folks will have to view Grand Slam in almost 35 years! (The more resourceful have gotten bootlegs from a rare Dutch VHS, but who buys tapes anymore?) Letterboxed at 2.35:1, BU's disc sports a nice, sharp transfer that especially comes to life during the colorful Rio de Janeiro festival segments. Some minor nicks and scratches show up on occasion, but I didn't find it particularly distracting. (It's worth noting that the optical FX shots do appear a bit grainy, though I assume this is due to the dated process used and not in any way a transfer issue.) The mono soundtrack presents no problems, remaining clear for the duration.

Extras are a bit sparse, but given the previous unavailability of the title and lack of a built-in audience they're more than acceptable. We first get a mediocre and semi-misleading trailer which, in my opinion, spells out a little too much of a plot that's centered around surprises. Next, and lastly, we're treated to a 41-image stills collection consisting of various promo photos, lobby cards and soundtrack sleeve art. A job well done by Blue Underground, hopefully it's successful enough to encourage similar companies to take more risks on relatively unknown titles.

- Bruce Holecheck

For further Grand Slam reading...

An essay regarding Ennio Morricone's GRAND SLAM score

Obsessed with K2? (That's Klaus Kinski to you nonbelievers.) Check out this fun tribute page.

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