Cast & Crew
The bullet-ridden corpse of Salvatore Giuliano, a Sicilian Mafia leader, is found in a sunny courtyard on July 5, 1950. As his wake and funeral unfold, his career is traced in a series of flashbacks. Postwar Sicily had been the scene of numerous separationist guerrilla activities, one of which had been led by Giuliano. Although his group had been disbanded, Giuliano managed to retain many of his followers and carried on a constant war against the police. After the massacre by Giuliano's followers of peasants at a Communist rally at Portella della Ginestra, the authorities launched a fierce war against Giuliano and other outlaws like him. Eventually he was abandoned by most of his associates, including Gaspare Pisciotta, his second-in-command. The outlaws were ushered through a confusing trial at Viterbo, and subsequently Pisciotta was poisoned in jail by members of a Mafia organization he had recently joined. In a continuation of the vendetta, another Mafia member is murdered much later by anonymous gunmen.
Suso Cecchi D'amico
Pasquale De Santis
Gianni Di Venanzo
Salvatore Giuliano on DVD
An early and vital entry in the political outrage genre of film that eventually defined the 1960s from Z to Medium Cool, this revealing look at recent Italian history may be daunting to casual moviegoers expecting an easy-to-digest pasta crime epic in the tradition of Sergio Corbucci, et al. Instead the film strives for a realistic portrayal of the region and its astounding web of politics and deception, with amateur residents portraying most of the roles. The excellent Frank Wolf, a late Eurocult staple of such diverse films as Once Upon a Time in the West, The Great Silence, Cold Eyes of Fear,, and The Lickerish Quartet, excels as Guiliano's right hand man whose day in court provides the film with some of its best drama, but all of the performances feel genuine and lived-in.
As an aesthetic experiment, Salvatore Giuliano also bears comparison with Welles on more than a few fronts. The use of cinematic perspective (both literally and figuratively) results in a mercurial effect as the viewer is insinuated into the action without a traditional "good guy" protagonist to guide them along the way. This freedom allows director Francesco Rosi to focus on the region itself, exploring the landscapes and the inhabitants - faces and forms with great sensitivity and precision. It's a shame he wasn't more prolific, perhaps due to lack of attention outside Italy, as his future work continued this approach in surprising directions with the magnificent Christ Stopped at Eboli (which would make a great Criterion title in the future), the unorthodox "common people" fairy tale More than a Miracle, and a very different crime biopic, Lucky Luciano.
Criterion's two-disc set does what it can do bring the director's career and influence to the fore, though there's only so much you can do with the bit rate offered by a pair of digital discs. Fortunately what's here is a welcome salvo in a reappraisal of Rosi's work, with the director himself (at a spry 81 years of age) appearing in a 20-minute video interview, "Witness to the Times" (also featuring Italian film critic Tullio Kezich). Rosi's output is studied in a handy documentary, "Il Cineaste e il Labirinto," which even at an hour could have been even longer. Featuring testimonials from Martin Scorsese and other pertinent filmmakers, it's a nice ode to an unsung filmmaker that will hopefully lead to a more in-depth study down the road. Newsreel footage from the Salvatore Giuliano crime scene is presented both to reinforce Rosi's canny visual recreations and to expose the chilling suppression of truth sold to the public before the scandal broke. Long before The Thin Blue Line, here's an example of how a film can literally reshape history and the public's perception of justice.
Criterion can usually be counted on for excellent commentary tracks, and here they pull out one of their best. A film scholar who previously tackled Wild Strawberries, The Seventh Seal, Grand Illusion, Hiroshima Mon Amour, and Autumn Sonata, Peter Cowie manages to blow away his past work with this excellent, informative track that offers some much-needed historical context whenever the film's narration doesn't quite do the trick. He manages to convey the importance of the project both as historical document and artistic statement, reeling off informative facts throughout the film's two hour-plus running time. Other extras include the theatrical trailer and an eight-page booklet featuring an essay by Michael Ciment.
The transfer itself looks immaculate, at least considering the gritty nature of the black and white film, presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen with optional English subtitles. The mono audio sounds fine given the thin nature of the original audio track.
For more information about Salvatore Giuliano, visit Criterion Collection. To order Salvatore Giuliano, go to TCM Shopping.
by Nathaniel Thompson
Salvatore Giuliano on DVD
Filmed on location in Sicily. Opened in Rome in March 1962.
Winner of the Best Director Prize at the 1962 Berlin Film Festival.
Released in United States 1962
Released in United States 1994
Released in United States August 17, 1990
Released in United States August 1963
Released in United States August 1999
Released in United States February 1962
Released in United States September 17, 1964
Shown at Berlin Film Festival February 1962.
Shown at Locarno International Film Festival (Piazza Grande) August 4-14, 1999.
Shown at Montreal Film Festival August 1963.
Released in United States 1962
Released in United States September 17, 1964 (Shown at New York Film Festival September 17, 1964.)
Released in United States August 1999 (Shown at Locarno International Film Festival (Piazza Grande) August 4-14, 1999.)
Shown at New York Film Festival September 17, 1964.
Released in United States February 1962 (Shown at Berlin Film Festival February 1962.)
Released in United States August 17, 1990 (Shown in New York City (Lincoln Center) as part of series "A Roman Holiday" August 17, 1990.)
Released in United States August 1963 (Shown at Montreal Film Festival August 1963.)
Released in United States 1994 (Shown in New York City (Walter Reade) as part of program "Bravo Rosi: Francesco Rosi Retrospective" October 14 - November 3, 1994.)