Monday, January 28, 2008

Far Out Films Of The Seventies: The Climber

The Original Version Of This Article Appeared Here At Moon In The Gutter.

Since the advent of DVD my days of obsessively collecting grey market dubs of unreleased films has calmed down considerable. It has been hard enough to keep with the number of European films released legitimately on DVD in the past decade but occasionally though I will come across an unreleased film that I have wanted to see and order it from any number of genre loving vendors.
I must admit there was a certain excitement in waiting for my copy of Pasquale Squitieri's 1975 film L'AMBIZIOSO otherwise known as AMBITIOUS or THE CLIMBER. This prime slice of seventies Eurotrash stars two of my favorites, Joe Dallesandro and Stefania Casini, so I couldn't pass up a copy when it appeared on Ebay. Receiving my package reminded me of the old days when getting boxes of unseen delights from the likes of European Trash Cinema, Midnight Video or Video Search Of Miami would make my week.
It is no surprise that the best thing about THE CLIMBER is its cast. Dallesandro and Casini are two of the most beautiful people I have ever seen and they are in their prime here. They were also a couple at the time and that lends their scenes together something a little special. Dallesandro is exceptional in this film, it's rumored to be one of his favorites, and he turns in a fine performance as a young thug on the rise in the Italian underworld. Little Joe was on a roll in this period as he was preparing to shoot two absolutely astonishing films, Louis Malle's BLACK MOON and Walerian Borowczyk's LA MARGE. Casini is good in everything she appears in and this film is no exception. She is completely believable as the woman who falls in love with and is ultimately destroyed by the criminal lifestyle.

Squitieri made a series of these Italian crime films in the early to mid seventies, including the Fabio Testi films GANG WAR IN NAPLES (1972) and BLOOD BROTHERS (1974), and his direction is pretty sharp here. This is by no means a great film but it's an enduring and entertaining one. Squitieri also turns in a few surprising moments including a brutal and prolonged stabbing scene and a very odd, and surprisingly moving, final five minutes.
The film doesn't skimp on the violence with lots of gunplay and squibs, and the excitement it generates throughout is palatable. A highlight is the work of Franco Campanino who turns in a varied and solid score that swings between hard rock and more lyrical orchestrated pieces. A soundtrack featuring the killer score was released and is highly collectible. Another high mark of the film is the work of Cinematographer Eugenio Bentivoglio who gives the film a suitably grimy palate and would work with Squitieri on several films before and after this. Bentivoglio would unfortunately shoot very few films in his career, but his work here is noteworthy.

The version of THE CLIMBER that I watched is the full uncut 102 minute print with all of the violence and nudity intact. It comes from a rare Greek full frame VHS and is dubbed in English. The print is faded and very dark in spots but as of right now it is the best and most complete version out there.
THE CLIMBER isn't among the best Italian crime films of the seventies but it is a solid entry and would make a fine selection for a DVD release from a company like No Shame or Severin. I would love to see a legitimate release of it with the involvement of Dallesandro and Casini, as they have both lent their help to some of their other key films.

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