Color, 1973, 109 mins. / Directed by Sergio Sollima / Starring Oliver Reed, Fabio Testi / Blue Underground (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

After his wife is kidnapped, a hard-nosed warden (legendary lush Oliver Reed) is forced to help a petty thief (stuntman turned actor Fabio Testi) escape imprisonment as a hasty ransom exchange. Determined to not let this nefarious deed go unpunished and to retrieve his spouse unharmed, our superintendent begins playing a few cards of his own. Left with many unanswered questions, it's soon made clear that there's more going on than meets the eye. Forging an unlikely alliance, the two men are thrust into something much larger than themselves and the clear-cut line between good and bad quickly gets distorted as the pair assimilates each other's traits in a search for the final truth.

Emphasizing character interaction over car chases and gunfights, fans of standard poliziotteschi may at first be disappointed with the slower than usual pace of Revolver. However, those with some patience will be amply rewarded with fantastic performances from the two leads and several action set-pieces that showcase director Sergio Sollima's skills. A throwback to his earlier, politically-charged Oaters, Sollima once again creates a work with much more to say than the stereotypical outings being churned out by others at the time. Flawlessly cast, Oliver Reed and Fabio Testi are so good it's impossible to imagine anyone else in their roles (Lino Ventura and Terrence Hill were once considered) and their chemistry adds an extra dynamic to the proceedings. Stylish, dramatic and violent, Revolver is a top-notch flick that will hopefully win over some fresh fans with this new DVD edition.

Acquired from a third party by drive-in favorites Independent-International Pictures, Revolver was distributed theatrically in 1974 in the United States. Initially tested under the title In the Name of Love with an ad campaign that played up Ollie's Women in Love romantic turn, it soon received a down n' dirty exploitation makeover becoming the more widely-known Blood in the Streets. Unfortunately, the new Dirty Harry/Death Wish-inspired marketing still didn't attract customers. According to I-I head honcho Sam Sherman, "The film played a minimum of dates and nobody wanted to book it, I couldn't give it away. Revolver did basically nothing for us in the U.S. and was a big waste of time. It didn't play any TV and the home video sales were also very poor. I had to keep drumming it into my head that if I really liked a film I had to stay away, because it would do nothing." Regardless of numbers, with a little digging the more adventurous VHS collector could turn up copies on I-I's Super Video offshoot. Once a nice addition to the shelf, this 1984 tape has now been officially rendered useless by Blue Underground's sterling DVD release. Frankly, this is one gorgeous disc. The picture is crisp with realistically rendered colors, and there's nary a blemish or compression flaw in sight. The 1.85:1 framing looks perfect and adds an essential amount of visual information to the sides when compared to the previous P&S tape. (For compositions set up this carefully, you need to see them in the proper ratio.) The mono soundtrack is clear and concise, without any noticeable background hissing to drown out the dialogue or Ennio Morricone's wonderful score. Completests will also be happy to note this new digital version runs approximately 40 seconds longer than the old prerecord (109m31s / 108m51s). The main addition is another half-minute of footage at the very onset of the film, as Fabio Testi and his partner are running from a bungled robbery. The remainder of the difference is comprised of various frames previously lost to print damage, including a brief dialogue snippet. It ain't much, but it's there nonetheless.

Blue Underground doesn't disappoint when it comes to supplemental materials either. First we have a 14-minute featurette consisting of interviews with Sergio Sollima and Fabio Testi. Well-edited and informative, they mainly speak about the production of the film itself with a good bit of Oliver Reed reminiscences. Next up is a pair of trailers; one for the original European release and one for the domestic Blood in the Streets issue. Both efficiently sell the picture, and it's surprising it didn't pull in more money. Two U.S. radio spots are thrown in for good measure. A 58-image stills gallery then rears its head, displaying many promotional stills, posters, newspaper advertisements, and the soundtrack album sleeve - but no Super Video cover? Finally come several nicely written talent bios by Mark Wickum and Avie Hern, detailing the careers of Oliver Reed, Fabio Testi, Sergio Sollima and Ennio Morricone. (Is it my imagination, or is penning these things the most thankless job in the world? These writers put hard work into them time and time again, and it consistently goes unnoticed. Oh well.) For you remote control jockeys out there, a little fiddling can highlight an Easter Egg of director Sollima delivering a short anecdote concerning Big Ollie's sense of humor. Icing on the cake, says I.

- Bruce Holecheck

For more Revolver-related goodies, click on these...

A Blue Underground-conducted interview with director Sergio Sollima.

A copy of Mark Wickum's unpublished liner notes for Anchor Bay's DVD release of Sollima's Violent City; print 'em out and slip 'em in your case!

For an interview with the late, great Oliver Reed (along with an in-depth look at the making of The Curse of the Werewolf), buy issue #15 of Dick Klemensen's essential Hammer Bible, Little Shoppe of Horrors. (No website available, you'll actually have to get up off your butt for this one.)

For a guided tour of Big Ollie's fav drinkin' spots, keep an eye peeled for issue #6 of The Hungover Gourmet - The Journal of Food, Drink, Travel and Fun!

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