1979, 98 mins. 23 secs.
Directed by Bruno Corbucci
Starring Tomas Milian, Marina Ripa di Meana, Angelo Pellegrino, Roberta Manfredi, Bambolo
Cinestrange Extreme (Blu-ray & DVD) (Germany R0 HD/PAL), RAI (DVD) (Italy R2 PAL) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
Starting during the height of the Euro crime boom and lasting way after the wave had crested, the popular Nico Giraldi action comedy series cemented star Tomas Milian's status in Italy (and several other European countries) after a string of other memorable roles as cops, villains, or criminal oddballs. Cranking out eleven movies from 1976 to 1984, the cycle became increasingly cartoonish with each entry after the relatively straightforward Cop in Blue Jeans, with the eyeliner-wearing Milian peppering occasional multiple roles to spice things up. Smack in the middle of the series is 1979's Assassinio sul Tevere, or Assassination on the Tiber, which was directed and co-written as usual by Bruno Corbucci and, in the most jaw-dropping sequence, embraces the disco craze in what has to rank as one of the most insane moments in Milian's career.
At a nocturnal meeting of crooked businessmen known as the Tiberina Family Association (since they gather on the river in a boat), death strikes during a sudden blackout when one of them gets knifed in the back. Enter Marshal Nico Giraldi, who catches known thief Venticello (regular comic relief Bambolo) in the act trying to pull a travelers check scam with a jeweler while posing as a German priest. Nico uses vehicular destruction to find one of the potential orchestrators known as "The Battery," but that habitual criminal turns out to be in jail-- and now the other Tiberina members are being bumped off one by one. Meanwhile as he uncovers various infidelities and double crosses, Giraldi indulges in the usual wacky shenanigans including a horseback chase (which earns him a new four-legged best buddy) and Venticello serving as a DJ while our hero slaps on a sequin-covered red bell-bottomed jumpsuit to perform the Rocky Roberts disco song "Get Down" backed by three chubby guys in drag wearing head scarves. You know, just like your typical Italian crime film.
Like the other Giraldi films, this one was targeted at the local market with a lot of local flavor and all the actors speaking Italian (with Milian's usual dialect-heavy performance dubbed by Ferruccio Amendola). On the action front the film offers plenty of fun including some fist fights, kicking, multiple vehicular trauma scenes, and the show-stopping spectacle of Milian on horseback through a metropolitan setting. The comedy's really the selling point here though; barely concerned with the murder mystery angle, it's a showcase for the actor to strut around in his deep blue tracksuit and devour every square inch of scenery in sight. The formula proved to be a success once again at the Italian box office, paving the way for more outlandish adventures like Delitto al ristorante cinese and Delitto in Formula Uno.
Like the other Giraldi films, this film was readily available in Italian-only home video releases for years including a DVD from RAI; it also popped up Netflix in a handful of European territories like many other Italian catalog titles. In 2023, Cinestrange Extreme added this to its very welcome line of English-friendly Milian dual-format Blu-ray and DVD releases in Germany with four mediabook options (entitled Der Superbulle jagt den Ripper and sporting an illustrated booklet) featuring German and Italian DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono tracks on the Blu-ray with English or German subtitles. The film looks appealing throughout with fine but natural film grain and a typical color scheme for the era. The English subtitles are good and capture the slangy nature of some of the dialogue, though it's worth noting that some of it corresponds to the German track more than the Italian one (thus an occasional stray ad-libbed line appearing when no one's speaking). The extras kick off with an interview with actor and voice dubber John P. Dulaney (21m49s) about his excursions in the Italian film industry starting with The Return of Sabata and Fellini's Roma including occasional other gigs like assistant directing. Of course, he gets to talk about his Milian collaborations a lot (including his recurring Ballarin character who made his swan song here) and the acting approach he took including avoiding improvisation. Then Giorgio Navarro appears for a quick 3m9s overview of the film's production including its filming during the summer of '79 and the backgrounds of some of the major players. Also included are the German VHS opening and closing credits (where Milian's character is changed to "Tony Marroni"), a 1m14s gallery of video art and frame grabs, and newly created trailers for this film and the label's other Milian titles like Destruction Force, Free Hand for a Tough Cop, Almost Human, and their three other Giraldi films. Alas, they don't include this insane cover version of "Get Down," but you can watch it for free any time.
Reviewed on March 5, 2023.