• Mad Dog Killer



    Released by: 88 Films
    Released on: November 7th, 2016.
    Director: Sergio Grieco
    Cast: Helmut Berger, Richard Harrison, Marisa Mell, Marina Giordana, Luigi Bonos
    Year: 1977

    The Movie:

    Also known as Ferocious (which is the title card used on this release) as well as Beast With A Gun, Sergio Grieco’s 1977 picture Beast With A Gun starts out with a criminal named Nanni Vitali (Helmut Berger) and a few of his fellow convicts on the run. They’ve just busted out of prison and a cop named Santini (Richard Harrison) is in hot pursuit. They manage to ditch him (he rolls out of his car just before it explodes!), carjack another vehicle, ditch one of their crew killed in the escape and boom, they’re free men. More or less.

    After knocking over a gas station Vitali and his men attack a couple, a man who turned on them and his foxy girlfriend Giulianna Caroli (Marissa Mel). Before you know it he’s dead, buried in a pit and covered with quick lime, and poor Giulianna is brutally raped by Vitali and then taken as his hostage. From there, he and his men plan to knock over a company where her father, who she hasn’t seen in two years, work as a security guard. It’s imperative to Vitali that he get Giulianna’s help with this, they’re going to use her to get into the place before killing her old man and making off with the loot. Understandably, she’s not too keen on this plan and doesn’t want to see her father killed.

    When she’s able, Giulianna talks to Santini, who is still out prowling the streets in search of the hoods. He comes up with a plan in which he’ll use her to get to him, but of course in order to do that he’ll need to keep her alive and make sure that Santini doesn’t get to her first…

    Inspired by the story of notorious Italian mobster Renato Vallanzasca without actually serving as an actual biopic in anyway, Mad Dog Killer is definitely on the nasty, sleazy edge of the poliziotteschi wave that was popular in Italian cinemas and abroad in the seventies. The picture builds quite well, starting off with a bang with the high speed chase, then slowing down a bit to build some character on Vitali’s part and introduce Giulianna into the mix. As the story plays out and she finds herself under his thumb, we see her used and abused and can’t help but feel sorry for her. Vitali, on the other hand, keeps scheming – not only does he intend to use her to help with the heist but he plans to use his own sister, Rosa, go throw Santini off his scent. If the men that escaped with him get hurt in the process, he doesn’t care. He’s clearly out for himself. As you’d guess right from the opening scene, the movie climaxes with the final battel between Santini and Vitali. It’s a pretty great sequence in which we get to see Berger and Harrison basically beat the shit out of each other in an old, seemingly abandoned factory. A few shots look to use stunt doubles but otherwise it’s a satisfying brawl, the kind that delivers the sort of predictable but satisfying comeuppance we the audience want for a degenerate like Vitali.

    Performance wise the films holds up. Harrison is solid here as the noble cop, out to stop the criminal menace at any cost. He handles himself well in the action scenes and he just looks genuinely cool throughout. It’s easy to mock the guy in this post Godfrey Ho movie world we call home, but he had some pretty great screen presence in his younger years and Grieco exploits that here. Marissa Mel, probably best known for her turn in Mario Bava’s Danger! Diabolik, is also quite good here. She’s sympathetic enough despite the fact that her involvement with her now dead beau is what got her into this mess – she doesn’t deserve the treatment that she gets at the hands of Vitali, we feel for her. Really though, this is Berger’s show. He’s in full on psychopath mode here, chewing through the scenery and frothing at the mouth. He plays his character with a ridiculous amount of vitriolic energy and makes quite an impression as he does. It’s hard to imagine anyone else doing a better job in the part than he.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    88 Films presents Mad Dog Killer on Blu-ray in a ‘New 4K Transfer from the Original Technicsope Negative’ framed at 2.35.1 widescreen and in AVC encoded 1080p high definition on a 50GB disc. According to the restoration featurette included on the disc, the elements were in pretty rough shape, so some deficiencies are understandably present in the transfer, but overall the picture is generally a good one. Color fluctuations do occur and there is some mild print damage here and there, but it’s mild and never particularly distracting. Detail is pretty strong and there’s good texture and depth to the image. Skin tones look lifelike and natural and black levels are solid throughout. Grain is present from start to finish, and sometimes it is more noticeable than others, but that only serves to remind us that this is a film sourced transfer, it’s never to the detriment of the image. There are no noticeable issues with edge enhancement or obvious digital noise reduction and any compression artifacts that do appear are minor and inconsequential. This is quite a nice upgrade over the previous North American DVD release that came out via Anchor Bay back in 2002.

    Included on the disc are the ‘Restored English Soundtrack’ and ‘Restored Italian soundtrack’ both presented in LPCM Mono format, the Italian track with English subtitles. Both tracks sound just fine, there are no problems with any hiss or distortion and the levels are nicely balanced. The score in particular sounds quite good here with nice depth to it. Obviously which version is preferable will come down to individual choice, so it’s nice to have options here.

    Extras are limited to a static menu screen and a twelve minute restoration demo that explains what went into getting the film into the condition it is on this Blu-ray release (it also makes some of the video issues more understandable – it seems to have been quite a complex procedure). 88 Films has also included some keen reversible cover art with this release. The theatrical trailer that was included on the aforementioned Anchor Bay DVD release has not been included here, sadly.

    The Final Word:

    Mad Dog Killer might be light on extras but the presentation here is a good one. As to the film itself, it’s a genuinely vicious crime film that benefits from a solid cast and a remarkably intense performance from Helmut Berger. It is both well-made and quite gripping.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!