That’s why I leapt at the chance to take a gander at Arrow Films’ latest release, Giallo Essentials (Black Edition). This three-film set includes the titles Smile Before Death (1972), The Killer Reserved Nine Seats (1974), and The Weapon, The Hour, The Motive (1972). All of these come with Arrow’s typical high-end treatment, meaning viewers get a great handful of supplemental materials that help both round out as well as deepen the experience. I’ll be viewing them separately and responding to them in this space over the next few days.
Next up: writer/director Francesco De Masi’s The Weapon, The Hour, The Motive … a title that describes the deductive reasoning used by the film’s chief detective. In his pursuit to solving this somewhat lurid crime, he’ll risk even his heart if that means he can bring the elusive killer to justice … for all the marbles! (Trust me: that’ll make more sense once you’ve seen the picture.)
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last few paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the product packaging:
“A young priest, Don Giorgio, is secretly engaged in affairs with two women – Orchidea and Giulia. Not long after attempts to break things off with both women, he is found stabbed to death in his church. Police commissioner Franco Boito arrives to investigate, only to embark on an affair with Orchidea himself. As more victims meet their end at the hands of the killer, could the wide-eyed young boy who lives at the local convent hold the key to unlocking the mystery?”
Audiences have long lover the mystery surrounding any police procedural.
There’s usually a body, sometimes more. A motive is required, and the means with which to carry it all out is a bare necessity. So why not, simply, give a film such a title? That appears to be the chief saving grace to the easily dismissible The Weapon, The Hour, The Motive, a collaboration between director De Masi (shown as ‘Francesco Mazzei’ on IMDB.com) and the team of Marcello Aliprandi, Mario Bianchi, Bruno Di Geronimo, and Vinicio Marinucci … a pretty big assortment of writers for what ended up being an absurdly predictable but only occasionally gruesome romp. Given this one is billed as a giallo film, I expected even more blood than delivered.
Though The Weapon does muster a bit of heat in the arena of romance, it really does little else. The investigation is all conducted by-the-numbers, meaning there’s little room for shock or surprise except for the fact that there’s a bit of a ‘time change’ that factors into the equation once everyone remembers that the trains ground to a halt for an hour. But if that’s the best that be marshalled to give this lukewarm potboiler a simmer, one has to wonder what all of those scribes were doing in the writing room instead of cooking up more intrigue. There’s also a clever twist involving a restaurant apparently popular with the locals because it offers up a spare bedroom for lovers who want to take their midday delight to the next level, but even that comes off as fairly benign when it could’ve, should’ve and would’ve been a revelation.
Still, there’s an infrequent good use of the church settings, along with a pretty incredible belfry-style location for the flick’s orphaned boy to rummage around. It’s creepy in ways one wouldn’t expect from a house of God. Nice touch.
The Weapon, The Hour, The Motive (1972) was produced by Julia Film. DVD distribution (for this particular release) is being coordinated by the exceptional Arrow Films. As for the technical specifications? Though I’m no trained video expert, I found the sights and sounds to be very high quality from start-to-finish, though there are a few scenes with the customary grain associated to some of these older productions.
As for the special features? Well – as mentioned – this is Arrow Films we’re talking about, and they usually stop at nothing to put forth a quality package. For the record, this collection boasts:
- The aforementioned fact that this is an all-new 2K restoration;
- English subtitles paired to the original Italian soundtrack;
- An audio commentary from author and critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas;
- An interview with actor Salvatore Puntillo;
- An image gallery; and
- A collector’s booklet with production information and essay from Barry Forshaw.
Alas, there’s not all that much to crow about with The Weapon, The Hour, The Motive. It’s a rather routine police procedural set against the backdrop of a fallen priest, the ladies of a convent who may or may not be involved, and the church’s closet social circle. Though a few of the shooting locations have some great character, I found the central plot all-too-predictable despite some good work from leads Montagnani and Moratti. Disappointing … but not awful.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Arrow Video provided me with a complimentary Blu-ray set of Giallo Essentials: Black Edition (Smile Before Death; The Killer Reserved Nine Seats; and The Weapon, The Hour, The Motive) by request for the expressed purposes of creating this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.