• Gambling City (No Shame Films) DVD Review

    Released by: No Shame Films
    Released on: July 26th, 2005.
    Director: Sergio Martino
    Cast: Luc Merenda, Dayle Haddon, Corrado Pani, Enrico Maria Salerno, Lino Troisi
    Year: 1975
    Purchase From Amazon

    Gambling City – Movie Review:

    Luc Merenda (the handsome French star of Sergio Martino's earlier The Violent Professionals and Joe D'Amato's Tough To Kill) stars in this thriller from Sergio Martino that walks the line between an Italian crime film, a drama, a comedy, and a thriller.

    Merenda plays Luca Altieri. When we first meet Luca, he's decked out in jeans and a sweatshirt but still manages to work his way into a fancy, posh, underground casino operating in Milan unbeknownst to the local authorities. Luca is a cheat, but he's a good cheat, as we soon find out when he swindles his way into a high stakes card game and comes out on top with the cool sum of ten million lira as his prize.

    When he's escorted out of the casino, the elevator that the security guards put him on doesn't take him to the street level but to the basement of the building where he's roughed up a bit before being introduced to a man in a wheelchair who goes by the anonymous pseudonym of 'The President' (played by Enrico Maria Salerno of The Night Train Murders). He's the man who calls all the shots at this casino and he knows Luca's cheated… but rather than punish him, he offers him a job. He wants Luca to work for him because with his skills as a cardshark, he knows that he'll never lose and, obviously, make a lot more money for him than if he were to operate his casino based strictly on legitimate games of chance.

    Luca takes the job, and things get off to a great start. They're making loads of money together and their relationship seems to be fairly solid. But there's a kink in the plan that neither one of them really gambled on. 'The President' has a son named Corrado (Corrado Pani of Watch Me When I Kill) who has a mistress named Maria Luisa (Dayle Haddon). She's a kept woman in the sense that she lets Corrado sleep with her in exchange for his ability to provide her with 'the good life.' She doesn't really love Corrado though, she just loves his money, and once she's introduced to the suave and charming Luca, it doesn't take long for the two of them to fall for one another.

    Unfortunately for the two lovebirds, Corrada is very much the jealous type and he isn't about to take this type of thing lying down. He doesn't like Luca, and he's going to pull as many strings as he can to make sure that what he feels is rightfully his is returned to him. Luca and Maria Luisa will have to use every trick up Luca's sleeve to get out of there while they can before Corrada brings the whole house of cards down on them.

    Gambling City is, as the back of the DVD box states, lighter fare than most Martino fans will probably associate with the director who is best known for his slick giallos and hard hitting police films of the seventies. Casting Merenda in the lead makes it work though, as he's able to handle the comedic scenes just as well as the more romantic scenes and the action scenes. He's quite a good actor and this film gives him ample opportunity to strut his stuff for the camera. When he walks into the casino in the opening scene, in amongst the high society types and the gratuitous J&B bottles, he has presence and it's precisely that presence that allows him to make the role his own. Of course, it doesn't hurt to have a beautiful leading lady to work with, or to be surrounded by great genre supporting actors either.

    Martino's direction is quite solid, as usual, and the cinematography is top notch especially the scenes where the card playing is happening. The camera captures the tension of the game quite nicely, ensuring to get plenty of shots of people's faces as the stakes get higher.

    If the film has one flaw, it's that it can't really decide what genre it wants to stick to. While some might argue that the end result provides something for everyone, in reality it ends up feeling a little disjointed and a little unfocused. Even with that in mind though, Gambling City is a fun film with some gorgeous visuals and a very good lead performance which makes it plenty entertaining and lots of fun to watch, even if it isn't a classic.

    Gambling City – DVD Review:

    No Shame continues gives Gambling City a very solid 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that was remastered from the original negative and which boasts excellent color reproduction and almost no print damage whatsoever, at least by fifteen-year-old DVD standards. Some of the darker scenes exhibit a bit of film grain but other than that, everything looks very clean and very clear on this DVD. Black levels stay solid and dark and flesh tones look lifelike and natural. Colors are balanced properly and don't bleed into one another, they stay strong and distinct. I did notice one or two mild instances of blurring during a couple of the action scenes but edge enhancement is kept to a minimum and there are no problems at all with mpeg compression artifacts.

    You've got your choice of watching the film in either a Dolby Digital Italian 2.0 Mono mix or a Dolby Digital English 2.0 Mono mix. Optional English subtitles are included. Regardless of which option you go with, you should be pretty pleased with the results as the dialogue is crisp and clear and there are no noticeable problems with hiss or distortion audible at all throughout the film.

    The first extra feature you'll notice is a full length audio commentary with the star of the film, Luc Merenda. Conducted in English, Luc talks at quite a bit of length about his involvement in this film and about his career in the European film industry of the sixties and seventies. He talks about his character, his thoughts on the film and the role specifically, as well as how he enjoyed working with Sergio Martino. There are a few fun anecdotes about some of what went on behind the camera and little touches of humor here and there but for the most part Merenda keeps it pretty straight and the result is a reasonably informative track that, although it has a few spots of dead air, remains pretty interesting.

    After that is a twenty minute documentary featurette entitled Chatting With The Cheaters that features brand new interview footage with Sergio Martino, director of photography Giancarlo Ferrando, and Luc Merenda. This one is constructed in a similar manner to the other documentaries that have shown up on the Martino releases from No Shame and there are mild spoilers contained therein (thankfully they've had the good sense to post a spoiler warning that appears on screen before the documentary starts). All three men have got some interesting stories to tell about their work on Gambling City and this informative little segment covers some pre-production information as well as basic memories and anecdotes about the film.

    Rounding out the extra features are the film's original Italian theatrical trailer, a generous still gallery of promotional artwork, and a liner note/booklet insert with biographies on Martino, Merenda, and Gastaldi.

    Gambling City – The Final Word:

    Another excellent release from No Shame, who continue to impress with great audio and video, and plenty of well-constructed extra features. The supplements on this release are excellent and add to one's appreciation of Gambling City. The feature attraction itself isn't Martino's best film but it's a fun and entertaining movie with a great performance from the always enjoyable Luc Merenda. Recommended!